Leonardo was a man of mystery and even today, we know less about him than we do about Lady Gaga. However, through his art and the remaining notebooks that have been discovered and rediscover we get a picture of a man with a protean genius and an insatiable curiosity about the world. Today you are about to learn 10 little know facts about this man who was called the “Universal Man” and the “Renaissance Man” that you might not be aware of.
It is with the hope your curiosity will be aroused and you will seek out more information about the man, the artist, and the thinker to help you look at the world with new eyes and a child’s curiosity once more.
1) Leonardo was raised by his father.
Leonardo’s father never married his mother and though Leonardo lived with her until he was 5 years old, he was never really that close with her. After 5 years, he went to live with his father who raised him and got him his apprenticeship to Andrea Del Verrocchio in 1467. Verrocchio was the official sculpture to the Medici family and this would allow Leonardo his first taste of what an artist’s life was like. Apprenticeship was a common way to teach a trade to an illegitimate child who could never hope to inherit and it allowed one to earn a living and perhaps gain station in life though barred from the aristocracy of the time because of paternity.
2) Leonardo received no formal schooling.
Much has been made of the fact Leonardo had no formal education. However, it should be remembered at this time home education often trumped formal education as the rich hired tutors of the best quality. Leonardo’s talents in art allowed him also to be apprenticed to one of the best artists in Italy at the time.
Yet the apprentice system was probably one of the finest ways to hone one’s skills as you lived and breathed the work often 24 hours a day as compared to our multi-topical system of today where scant hours are Spent covering a range of topics and only to the extent of passing an exam. Then the knowledge is conveniently forgotten to make room for the next test.
In Leonardo’s time, mastery was the only criteria and you stayed with a lesson until it was done to the master’s often-grudging approval.
3) Leonardo’s writings were never published during his lifetime.
The thousands of pages of Leonardo’s documents, sketches, and writings were never for public consumption. He wrote mostly for himself rather than posterity. After his death, they were sold off and scattered to the four winds and only later was an effort made to recover them and put them in some kind of order.
A large amount of Leonardo’s work is lost still and is perhaps still to be found in some forgotten cubbyhole in a dusty Libra somewhere in Europe or in a private family collection.
Who knows what treasures and secrets are still waiting to be discovered?
4) None of his amazing inventions were ever built
For all Leonardo’s understanding and creativity, almost all of his inventions were never built or displayed.
One recorded instance of a mechanical garden created by Leonardo for his patrons amusement is one of the only recorded instances where his ingenuity was made into reality. However recently it has come to light through a newly discovered codex of drawings and notes that Leonardo may have created some of the first robots. This was in the form of a knight in armor and could stand and move its arms. This was all done to amuse another patron in 1495. Discovered in the 1950s these plans and drawings were used to build a replica and it worked exactly as described. Leonardo’s inventions were conceptually far ahead of his time and if he had a power source the world would be much different from what it is today.
5) Leonardo gained notoriety as a musician first instead of an artist.
Most people do not know that Leonardo was also a gifted artist and his first exposure to court life in Renaissance Italy was not for his paintings, sculpture, and mechanical acumen, but for his ability with the lyre of which it is said he could play like an angel. This is high praise indeed, as the Church controlled much of the wealth in Europe and getting commissions for art, music, and sculpture from the clergy was how many of the great artists survived to ply their art.
6) Bill Gates shelled out big bucks for the only non-European codex of his papers.
In 1994, Microsoft Billionaire Bill Gates purchased Leonardo’s Codex Leicester for over $30 million dollars. This book has the distinction of being the highest priced book every sold. It is probably the most important of the 30 Leonardo collections as it details much of his scientific observations and writings, written shortly after finishing the Mona Lisa when Leonardo was in his 50s it shows his genius at the peak of his career and artistic ability around 1508.
7) Leonardo left Florence after he was accused of sodomy.
Leonardo was brought up on sodomy charges in 1476 by anonymous sources. While many believe, it was done by jealous artist angered at Leonardo’s sudden rise to fame. Others believe it was an attempt to discredit the Medici family who were Leonardo’s patrons at the time. Machiavelli himself was a close personal friend of Leonardo.
This is reminiscent of the current Bill Cosby scandal where women have come forth to accuse Mr. Cosby of sexual impropriety. In Mr. Cosby’s case, much of his good works are being forgotten and even the Cosby show, which has been a hallmark in Black Entertainment, has now been tarnished and is being pulled from Public viewing.
However, in Renaissance Florence charges of sexual proclivity if proven true resulted in the death penalty. Something Mr. Cosby does not have to fear.
Though nothing was proven against Leonard, it was enough of a traumatic experience to haunt him and he left Florence for Milan to start his life over there.
8) Some believe one of the Apostils in the Last supper is Leonardo himself.
A news story broke in the Daily Mail from Oct 18 poses the theory that the Renaissance Master used himself as the model for not one but two of the apostles seated with Jesus in his masterpiece the “Last Supper.”
As reported in the Daily Mail gleaned from the original source is that Dr. Ross King a noted Art Historian believes that Leonardo’s face is that of Thomas and James the lesser based on his long study of Leonardo’s art and eccentricities. One of which is the raised finger pointing skyward which is thought to be a hidden signature of Leonardo’s. The other is that the face of Thomas bears a striking resemblance to a red Chalk drawing of the master himself.
9) Leonardo was a procrastinator and many of his works were never finished.
Many of Leonardo’s famous works were in fact never finished. His famous Bronze Horse and Rider were never completed due to war and Leonardo’s cost over-runs. St. Jerome in the Wilderness was also never completed.
However one of the greatest of his achievements the “Virgin on The Rocks” was never completed and like the Mona Lisa the artist keep it with him until he died.
However, while many accuse Leonardo of being slow and a procrastinator, this writer believes he was much smarter than that. In the Renaissance, you live on the patronage of others. So, it behooved you to keep your client happy and yet stretch out the time to complete a project as you had money, room, and board and lived well as long as you were doing the patron’s bidding.
This today is being duplicated by many an independent contractor or consultant.
10) Leonardo was secretly a Heretic.
You only have to look through his writings and drawing to see that much of what Leonardo believed ran contra to the religious Tennant’s of the time. If his books were to have been made public, he might well have been burned at the stake along with all his papers and artwork.
This has also raised questions about his possible membership in the Rosicrucian Order and some even suggest he was a driving force behind it.
Today it is known that the order embraces Leonardo as one of its luminaries. Leonardo was also linked with the Illuminati and that has even been portrayed in books and movies as well.
But he did get away with a lot. He performed human dissections when it was a crime to do so and very harshly punished one at that. So, he was able to advance our knowledge in spite of the times and that in itself is the mark of one who embraces the Rosicrucian ideals and Illuminati creed.
You be the judge and see for yourself.
Leonardo Da Vinci was one of the greatest geniuses ever and his fertile mind was only con trained by the technology of the time. It is hoped by reading about this fascinating man you will be insured to look at the world as he did and who know you too might have your notebooks sold at Christie’s for $30 million dollars some day.