He was the son of a wealthy lawyer and a poor peasant woman, born out of wedlock in a small town in Italy. He had no formal schooling and no clear career path. He was fascinated by the natural world and loved to draw and paint. He grew up to become one of the greatest artists and inventors of all time, whose works still captivate and challenge us today.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is one of history’s most influential illegitimate children, who defied the odds and the prejudices of his society to achieve fame and glory. His paintings, such as the enigmatic Mona Lisa and the majestic Last Supper, are among the most revered and reproduced works of art in history. His inventions and designs, such as the helicopter and the tank, were visionary and revolutionary, anticipating modern technology by centuries.
Leonardo’s status as an illegitimate child shaped his personality and his choices. As a bastard, he was excluded from higher education and respectable professions. He also felt abandoned by his parents, who had their own families and responsibilities. He spent most of his childhood with his uncle Francesco, who introduced him to nature and farming. He developed a curiosity and a passion for learning that never left him.
He started his artistic training at the age of 14 with Andrea del Verrocchio, a famous painter and sculptor in Florence. There he learned various skills, such as painting, sculpting, metalworking, and anatomy. He also met other artists, such as Botticelli and Ghirlandaio, who influenced his style and technique. He became an independent master in 1478 and began to receive commissions from powerful patrons such as Lorenzo de’ Medici and Ludovico Sforza.
Leonardo was not just an artist, but also a scientist and an inventor. He studied a wide range of subjects, such as mathematics, physics, optics, geology, botany, and astronomy. He filled thousands of pages of notebooks with his observations, sketches, and ideas. He devised machines for war, flight, water management, and entertainment. He dissected human corpses to understand anatomy and physiology. He experimented with different materials and methods to create his paintings.
Leonardo was also a man of mystery and contradictions. He was gay, but he never married or had children. He was deeply religious, but he questioned some of the doctrines of the Church. He was popular and admired, but he also faced criticism and accusations of heresy. He was loyal to his patrons, but he also abandoned some of his projects or left them unfinished. He was secretive about his work, but he also sought recognition and fame.
Leonardo da Vinci was a genius who left behind a legacy of work that still astonishes and inspires us today. He was a bastard who rose above his humble origins to become one of the greatest figures of the Renaissance.