Leonardo: Renaissance Man Essay

999 words - 4 pages


Leonardo da Vinci is the personification of the achievements of the Renaissance. A man of great intellect and artistic creativity, he remains a symbol of learning and culture today, maintaining a role in even pop culture. People continue to be intrigued by the man who not only painted gorgeous and delicate portraits but also composed sketches of the world around him that reveal an understanding above most of his time. Leonardo was deeply interested in the scientific processes of nature and had a strong desire to illuminate the inner workings of the world. It was this natural curiosity and appreciation for the intricate secrets of the physical world that allowed him to paint so beautifully. In his brilliant mind, art and science culminated to form a deep understanding of the secret interior of objects that allowed him to represent his subjects in the most accurate and breath taking of ways. Da Vinci understood that to truly portray anything’s surface, one has to have an intimate knowledge of everything that lies underneath. He made sketches of men hanged for treason and extensively studied human anatomy, performing dissections even though the Church forbade them, so that he could understand how the human body operated under all conditions. He studied the way that water flows, and discovered that the spiral was an integral shape to nature. Da Vinci was a great inventor and designed things never attempted before, such as a flying machine. He is known as saying that he was a scientist and not an artist, but really it was his genius in one subject that flowed over to the other. “Leonardo made the faculty of vision—or more precisely, the gift and patience for intensive observation—the foundation of both his scientific investigations and his work as a figural artist” (Ackerman, 207). The qualities that made him a brilliant scientist also served to make him a brilliant artist.

In the Renaissance, the subjects were not seen as wholly separate as they are now. An artist had to also be an intellectual in order to create truly inspirational works of art, and a scientist had to have an eye for beauty in order to appreciate his studies and apply them to everyday life. When da Vinci claimed that he was a scientist rather than an artist, he was also trying to elevate the role of artist in society. Unlike the Middle Ages, when artists were seen as skilled craftsman, the Renaissance ushered in an era when artists became intellectuals equal in status to those who commissioned their work. Da Vinci was a scholarly scientist first, striving to understand the natural order of things around him, and this influenced his art in marvelous ways. Leonardo da Vinci was a master at both sides of the spectrum, and his melding of science and art can be clearly seen in all of his works, especially in sketches such as Embryo in the Womb and the Vitruvian Man, as well as his paintings Saint Jerome and Lady with an...

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