7 Facts About Leonardo da Vinci

He was born a peasant and died in the arms of the King of France. There's a lot to learn about Leonardo da Vinci!

By Google Arts & Culture

His name isn't Da Vinci!

Leonardo didn't have a surname in the modern sense. He was an illegitimate son of Piero Fruosino and a peasant named Caterina. His full name was 'Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci' meaning 'son of Piero from Vinci' - the Tuscan village in which he was born.

Bib Old T David MichaelangeloLIFE Photo Collection

He Hated Michelangelo

Leonardo was a rival of Michelangelo, whose muscled figures he said looked like "bags of walnuts or bunches of radishes". When Leonardo took a place on the committee to decide where to place Michelangelo's masterpiece David, he criticised the poor quality of the marble.

The Last Supper (c.1515-20) by Attributed to Giampietrino and Giovanni Antonio BoltraffioRoyal Academy of Arts

There's a figure hidden in this painting…

It's not who you think it is though. Leonardo liked to base his figures on real people, and spent a long time wandering the streets looking for a criminal to model for Judas. When his patron complained that he was wasting time, Leonardo said he would base Judas on his patron.

Military Machines (1485) by Leonardo da VinciBritish Museum

An Art-Lover and a Fighter

While he's Florence's most famous son, he spent a fair amount of time in the nearby city of Milan, putting his accurate drawing and measuring skills to work as a military engineer and geographer for Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan.

Plan of Imola (1502) by Leonardo da VinciRoyal Collection Trust, UK

It might seem unusual, but he travelled between many other cities offering his designs for fortifications and siege weapons to their rulers. Unfortunately, many of his most inventive designs were never built.

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

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Leonardo wrote many of his most famous texts backwards. This so-called 'mirror writing' has intrigued art historians for years. Was he left handed and trying to avoid smudging his ink? Or was it to stop prying eyes stealing his ideas?

He Lived in the Vatican

In his later years, he lived here, in the Cortile del Belvedere of the Vatican City, alongside Raphael and his old rival Michelangelo. Leonardo was given an allowance and free reign over his studies, but he became frustrated as he failed to make a great impression on the Pope.

He's Buried at Château d’Amboise, St Florentine

In 1516 he started working under Francis I of France. He found great favour and worked closely with the king on designing a new fortified city. Leonardo died here, at Clos Lucé, in 1519 at the age of 67. According to legend, King Francis held the old man in his arms and wept.

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