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Life story

la cittą ideale


Leonardo is born on 15 April 1452 at Anchiano, a small village near Vinci, not far from Florence. He is the illegitimate son of a notary, Ser Piero.


Leonardo and his step-mother move to Florence with his father, who wants the boy to commence his studies and then take up the career of a notary.


He is introduced to one of Florence's best known artistic workshops, that of Andrea del Verrocchio


He is introduced to one of Florence's best known artistic workshops, that of Andrea del Verrocchio: young Leonardo begins his apprenticeship and gradually becomes more and more familiar with the many secrets of the workshop. He meets such young painters like Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino and Lorenzo di Credi.


His name appears in the account book of the painters' confraternity, the Company of St. Luke: this means that he is working as painter in his own right. He attends academies, workshops and, above all, the Medici household, where he makes the acquaintance of many intellectuals, including the philosopher Marsilio Ficino.


Verrocchio gives Leonardo the assignment of completing the face of an angel on the large altarpiece depicting The baptism of Christ.. This first painting assignment was to be followed by others; meanwhile, Leonardo continues taking notes in his unmistakable hand-writing.


Leonardo moves to Milan probably on the advice of Lorenzo de' Medici. He carries to the court of Ludovico il Moro, "the Moor" a letter in which he offers his services as engineer, architect, sculptor, painter and even musician. He will also work as organizer of the most important court feasts.


Together with the brothers Evangelista and Giovan Ambrogio de' Predis, he signs a contract to decorate the altarpiece for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception in the church of S. Francesco Grande. The central painting will be the Virgin of the Rocks, synthesis between artistic research and observation of nature.


For Ludovico il Moro he starts his studies on the making of a great equestrian bronze monument representing Francesco Sforza, but he still needs "a master or two capable of doing such work".


As ducal engineer, he collects additional payment for the project of the tiburio ("crossing tower") of Milan Cathedral


As ducal engineer, he collects additional payment for the project of the tiburio ("crossing tower") of Milan Cathedral, though he is not commissioned to build it. The project will be carried out by Giovanni Antonio Amadeo and Giovanni Dolcebuono.


He visits the cities of Vigevano and Pavia, where ho meets the senese engineer Francesco di Giorgio Martini. He describes irrigation works of the countryside and projects the Sforzesca, a model farm for the Duke.


He is working to one of his masterpieces: the Last Supper, in the refectory of the Dominican Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie.


He is working to one of his masterpieces: the Last Supper, in the refectory of the Dominican Monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie.


He paints the Sala delle Asse in the Milano Castle with a fresco depicting densely flowered branches of 16 trees entwined with a long golden string, joining dynastic celebration with the representing of nature in all its details.


The Sforza duchy falls under the control of the French armies, whereupon Leonardo abandons Milan, leaving undone the casting of the big bronze horse: his clay model remains in the main court of the Castle. He visits Mantua and Venice.


He returns to Florence, where he draws the cartoon depicting St. Anne, which is exposed in the church of Annunziata.


He enters the service of Cesare Borgia as a military engineer, moving frequently from Tuscany to Romagna and Marche between the cities of Piombino, Siena, Imola, Senigallia and Cesena, where he designs a large navigable canal up to the Porto Cesenatico.


He is again in Florence, where he is working together with the young Michelangelo in the decoration of the Salone dei Cinquecento at Palazzo Vecchio: he attends a mural painting, never completed, depicting the Battle of Anghiari.


He probably begins two of his most famous paintings: the Mona Lisa and the lost Leda


He probably begins two of his most famous paintings, the Mona Lisa, portrait that will remain in Leonardo's workshop until his death, and the lost Leda, homage to the power of nature, preceded by numerous preparatory drawings.


Leonardo is called back to Milan by Charles of Amboise, the new city governor, and the next year by the king of France Louis XII in person. For the next two years he divides his time between Milan and Florence.


He often visits the Adda river; he projects new canals and investigates the forces of nature, particularly water, for him among the sources of life.


Leonardo moves to Rome on the invitation of Giuliano de Medici. He devotes himself to geometry and hydraulic engineering, projecting the drain of the Pontine marsches and surveying the port of Civitavecchia.


He visits the Sistine Chapel as soon as completed by Michelangelo. Some time later he finds himself in Bologna with Giuliano de' Medici and pope Leo X, to meet the new king of France, Francis I, who invites him to France to work for him.


He is first painter, engineer and architect to the King, moving to the Castle of Cloux, near Amboise, with his pupil and friend Francesco Melzi. He designs some irrigation channels and a new and impressive royal residence at Romarantin.


Leonardo dies on 2 May at Cloux, and is buried after his will in the cloister of St. Florentin Church in Amboise. In his will, dated 23 April of the same year, Leonardo bequeaths all his manuscripts, drawings and various instruments to his favourite disciple, Francesco Melzi.

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