8 Influential Figures and Locations in the Life of Leonardo da Vinci

Discover the people and places behind the archetypical Renaissance man with the help of modern technology

By Google Arts & Culture

With content from Casa Buonarroti, the Palazzo Vecchio Museum, and more

1. Vinci, Leonardo da Vinci's Birthplace

Leonardo da Vinci, now one of history's most illustrious figures, was born to a Florentine notary father and a peasant mother in Vinci, Italy in 1452. He spent the first years of his life here at his mother’s Tuscan home. Click to explore using Street View.

Mary with the Child (15th cent.) by Andrea del VerrocchioGemäldegalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

2. Andrea del Verrocchio

In the 1460s, Leonardo moved to Florence with his family. It was here, at age fourteen, that Leonardo began his career at Andrea del Verrocchio’s workshop. During the seven years he spent under Verrocchio's tutelage, he was taught a wide range of artistic and scientific skills.

Verrocchio, who in turn was taught by famed sculptor Donatello, was instrumental in training many other well-known artists, including Lorenzo di Credi and Pietro Perugino.

This painting of the Madonna is one of the few works unanimously attributed to Verrocchio. Because of his close association with so many of his contemporary artists, it’s difficult to establish whether many works were uniquely Verrocchio’s.

3. Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Leonardo began to distinguish himself as an artist in the following years, receiving a commission to paint an altarpiece for the Palazzo Vecchio in 1478.

Veduta del Salone dei Cinquecento verso la parete nord (1563 - 1571) by Giorgio Vasari e collaboratoriPalazzo Vecchio Museum

In 1504, Leonardo was commissioned to decorate the Salone dei Cinquecento in the Palazzo Vecchio. Here he created the “Lost Leonardo,” a depiction of the Battle of Anghiari, but it was never finished. Some believe it still exists behind Vasari’s frescoes, currently in the hall.

Leonardo started 'The Battle of Anghiari' on the walls using oil-based paints, which may have led to its quick deterioration, and in 1563, Vasari renovated the hall and the work was lost. Do you think Leonardo's lost masterpiece is hidden somewhere behind these walls?

Bust of Michelangelo (1564/1570) by Daniele da Volterra e GiambolognaCasa Buonarroti

4. Michelangelo

To this day, Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni is considered the primary rival of Leonardo da Vinci. While their careers often took different courses, they both vied for artistic glory in the same place and time.

In fact, the two masters were commissioned to decorate the Hall of the Five Hundred at the same time. Like Leonardo’s work, Michelangelo’s ‘Battle of Casina’ was never finished, and Vasari's frescoes now occupy the space.

5. Monte Rosa, between Italy and Switzerland

In 1482, Leonardo was sent as an ambassador to Milan, where he did some of his best-known work, including ‘The Last Supper.’ Leonardo loved nature and he explored the Alps near Milan, describing the peak of Monte Rosa in his journal as “above almost all the clouds.”

Portrait of Fra Luca Pacioli (ca. 1500) by Jacopo de’ Barbari (attr.)Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte

6. Fra Luca Pacioli

While in Milan, Leonardo met and befriended Italian friar and mathematician Luca Pacioli, pictured here, who instructed him in mathematics. Pacioli was a prolific writer whose works spanned fields from accounting to chess.

This painting of the friar is attributed to Jacopo de' Barbari, but the geometric details lead some to question whether Leonardo himself may have had a hand in its creation.

Madonna and Child in a Jasmine Bower (circa 1520 - circa 1520) by Francesco MelziThe Frick Pittsburgh

7. Francesco Melzi

Francesco Melzi, the artist behind this painting, was a beloved pupil of Leonardo’s, who worked with him from 1505 until his death. In fact, Melzi was Leonardo's primary heir, and is responsible for preserving many of his works and manuscripts for posterity.

Melzi created this masterful work circa 1520, and it's easy to see the influence of both his master and those who instructed Leonardo.

8. Château du Clos Lucé, Amboise France

In 1516, da Vinci was given a pension and the use of the Castle of Clos Lucé by King Francis I. Da Vinci remained in service to the king here until the end of his life in 1519. Click to stroll around the château’s grounds.

The aerial screw (2004 - 2016) by Château du Clos Lucé / Alain Bentejac according to Leonardo da VinciCastle of Clos Lucé

To learn more about the many disciplines studied by the multifaceted polymath, check out some of da Vinci's engineering feats at Château du Clos Lucé.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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