5 Surprising Facts About Leonardo Da Vinci

Did you know these facts about one of the most famous painters of the Renaissance?

By Google Arts & Culture

Military Machines (1485) by Leonardo da VinciBritish Museum

1. He didn’t go to school

Although Leonardo is responsible for some of the most innovative inventions and ideas of all time, he never actually went to school. The young Leonardo was taught to read, write, and do elementary mathematics, but beyond that, he was free to roam around the Tuscan countryside.

It was during this time spent outdoors that Leonardo began to observe the natural world. His journals show he was especially interested in the properties of water and in how birds of prey stalked and caught their food. 

Superficial anatomy of the shoulder and neck (recto) (c.1510) by Leonardo da VinciRoyal Collection Trust, UK

2. He liked to dissect corpses

If you’ve ever taken an up-close look at any of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings, you’ll know that he had an in-depth knowledge of the human body. This expertise was gained by dissecting both animals and humans in order to learn exactly how our systems worked.  

Most of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings were made in the 1480s. These images of sinews, muscles, and the vascular systems were incredibly detailed and incredibly accurate. In many cases, these were the very first illustrations of their kind in circulation. 

Study for an equestrian monument (recto) (c.1485 - c.1490) by Leonardo da VinciRoyal Collection Trust, UK

3. His masterpiece was destroyed

A lot of people consider the Mona Lisa to be Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece. However, if history had gone a little differently, there may well be another, much larger work at the heart of the Louvre. In the late 1400s, Leonardo was commissioned to create a 20-ft sculpture of the Duke of Milan’s father on horseback. 

Leonardo worked on the sketches and model of the sculpture for an incredible 17 years. However, in 1499, Milan was invaded by the French army and the sculpture was destroyed. 

Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook (16th century)Original Source: Arundel MS 263

4. He wrote in reverse

When he died, Leonardo left around 6,000 pages of journals behind him. These were filled with his ideas, inventions and even his grocery lists. Strangely, many of these journal pages were written in reverse. This meant they could only be read by holding them up to a mirror.

It’s thought that, rather than being a method of coding or encrypting his work, Leonardo actually wrote in reverse in order to avoid smudges. This is because da Vinci was left-handed. If he had written from left to right, he may well have smudged his writing and ruined his journals. 

Military Machines (1485) by Leonardo da VinciBritish Museum

5. Bill Gates bought Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook

Way back in 1994, Microsoft founder and rare book collector Bill Gates bought one of Leonardo’s notebooks, the Codex Leicester, for a whopping $30.8 million. The gargantuan price tag made it the most expensive book ever sold. 

The 72-page notebook was written between 1506 and 1510. It contains a wealth of sketches, diagrams and ideas - many relating to the relationship between the Earth, Moon, and Sun - and offers a glimpse into one of the most famous minds of all time. 

Annunciation (Around 1472) by Leonardo da VinciUffizi Gallery

Learn more about legendary renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci here

Credits: All media
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