Hitchcock Directing (1959) by Gjon MiliLIFE Photo Collection
Leonardo travelled throughout his life, moving between the city-states of Florence, Milan, Venice, and Rome, before dying in France - supposedly in the arms of King Francis I. But you don't need to travel to Italy to see his art, his masterpieces are found all around the world…
Portrait of Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, known as "Monna Lisa, la Gioconda" or "Mona Lisa", 1503-1519 (1503/1519) by Leonardo di ser Piero DA VINCI, dit Léonard de Vinci (1452 - 1519), Paris, musée du LouvreOriginal Source: Paris, Louvre Museum
Leonardo seems to have been working on this painting almost until his death in 1519. It was then sold by his assistant Salaì to Francis I, King of France, where it entered into the royal collection. Following the French Revolution of 1797, it was put on permanent public display.
The Nude Mona Lisa (1514-1516) by Leonardo Da Vinci or his workshopChâteau de Chantilly
Condé Museum, Chantily
You may not know about this work, but it looks very recognisable. This drawing, held in Leonardo's deathplace, Chantilly, France, is one of the most controversial and intriguing of his many sketches. Some art historians have claimed that this is a nude version of the Mona Lisa.
It's certainly a nude, and certainly in a similar pose to the Mona Lisa. But whether this was made before or after the Mona Lisa, and whether it was even made by Leonardo, is a question yet to be resolved.
Madonna mit der Nelke (um 1475) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Object in the Online-Collection of the Pinakotheken
As an early work, it is a conventional composition, with the Virgin Mary dressed in rich, contemporary clothes, holding the infant Christ and a carnation. She looks down, He looks up, and reaches towards the flower, whose red petals symbolise the blood of the crucifixion.
Lady with an Ermine (circa. 1489) by Leonardo da VinciThe National Museum in Krakow
The portrait embodies the Renaissance idea of an image as an illusion of natural vitality. Leonardo managed to achieve this thanks to his knowledge of anatomy and his lighting skills, which enabled him to create a three-dimensional human figure on the wooden panel.
Study of Two Warriors' Heads for the Battle of Anghiari (ca. 1504–1505) by Leonardo da VinciMuseum of Fine Arts, Budapest
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
Leonardo produced many paintings, but historians know him best through the enormous quantity of sketches, drawings, notes, and writings that he made covering all areas of knowledge. His detailed anatomical drawings and skeletal studies are particularly interesting works.
These characterful faces are studies for Leonardo's great, lost mural, The Battle of Anghiari. This vicious battle in 1440 saw the Florentines defeat the hated Milanese. The dramatic subject allowed Leonardo to explore the full range of human horror and anger.
Leonardo was commissioned to paint one wall of Florence's council chamber, the Hall of Five Hundred. Unfortunately, he failed to properly prepare the undercoat and the paint began to drip. He tried to dry the paint by lighting fires, but this only ruined the mural.
Compositional Sketches for the Virgin Adoring the Christ Child, with and without the Infant St. John the Baptist; Diagram of a Perspectival Projection (recto); Slight Doodles (verso) Compositional Sketches for the Virgin Adoring the Christ Child, with and without the Infant St. John the Baptist; Diagram of a Perspectival Projection (recto); Slight Doodles (verso) (1480–85) by Leonardo da VinciThe Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Leonardo's works are just as popular across the Atlantic. In New York, you can see his sketches for The Virgin Adoring the Christ Child. In these quick sketches, you can see him trying out each composition before producing his final masterpiece.
These sketches also demonstrate Leonardo's keen interest in single-point perspective - a feature of later Renaissance art, and one that marked it out from earlier styles. In Leonardo's mind, it isn't enough to depict Christ, you have to do so with mathematical precision.
Sheet of Studies [recto] (probably 1470/1480) by Leonardo da VinciNational Gallery of Art, Washington DC
National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Sometimes it's hard to find a purpose to Leonardo's drawings, other than simple practice, random doodling, or for the sheer enjoyment of it. The motivation behind this sheet of various studies, held at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., could have been any of them.
Was this woman someone he knew? Or just a stranger he saw on the street? It's fascinating to think of Leonardo not just as an untouchable historical figure, but as a man who was watching, observing, and sketching the world he knew.
Thanks for joining this world tour of Leonardo's masterpieces. Of course, Leonardo left a lot of artworks, so there's much more to see. Why not start in his home village of Vinci, and see where you end up?