Leonardo da Vinci is known for a whole number of awe-inspiring things. For centuries, he has been celebrated and his genius has been passed down to generations. All of these have made him as immortal as some of his predecessors who left their marks on the sands of time forever. Without a doubt, Leonardo da Vinci was no average Leo. He is attributed to some of the greatest paintings of all time like the ‘Mona Lisa’ and the famous painting of ‘The Last Supper.’ He is also known to have invented the helicopter, the parachute, the submarine, the armored tank, the flying machine, and an array of so many things that were clearly ahead of his time. One thing I have held on to from all of my curious research into his life and his works was that most of these things would not have been discovered or remembered, if he didn’t write and paint them down in his many notes. The Da vinci code would never have come to life and neither would the entire genius of Leonardo Da Vinci be known worldwide.
What was most instructive about Leonardo’s background was the circumstance of his birth that shaped his entire life. He was born the illegitimate son – a bastard – of the wealthy Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a Florentine legal notary, and Caterina, a peasant in 1452. Even though his father was indeed notable, the fact that he was regarded as an illegitimate offspring denied him the opportunities and education that was available to him. However, at the age of fourteen, he was made an apprentice to Andrea di Cione, known as Verrocchio since he loved to paint. It was there that he perfected his skills of painting even to the point where he became better than his teacher Verrocchio. It is said that Verrocchio never wanted to paint again after he saw Leonardo’s painting of the two angels on the “Baptism of Christ.”
Beyond painting, Leonardo da Vinci is known for his work in military engineering. He was curious about weaponry and how various pieces came together to create one controllable structure. The years he didn’t spend painting or sculpting, he spent conceptualizing the idea for great inventions – much of which he didn’t see come to light. The reason he is largely regarded as the archetype of the “Renaissance man” is because of his curiosity and his ability to create connection between seemingly different worlds. Since his curiosity crossed different areas, his theories and potential inventions also crossed many. His many notebooks revealed that he also took interest in architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology, optics, and hydrodynamics, however since he didn’t officially publish his findings, they had no direct influence on later science.
Most of his discoveries and inventions didn’t come to be until centuries later. Sigmund Freud regarded him as a man who awoke too early in the darkness, while the others were all still sleeping. Still, he was human. He was great at painting and it caused so much envy that he was even accused of sodomy at twenty-four years old, just to tarnish his image. He failed to complete his first major painting deal, as well as a number of others. Some say he was satisfied with the idea of the end of the painting in his head; psychologists just think he had ADD or OCD. In terms of making weapons, he tried pitching his ideas so a number of people and only a very little few were actually created. He even detested Michelangelo because of what we can really just regard of jealousy.
Basically, Leonardo da Vinci was regarded as a genius because of his power to reason and not necessarily because of his actual accomplishments. His love and curiosity as to the power of human emotions, led him to create depth in his paintings. Using body positions and gestures, he made his paintings come to life. His desire to learn, made him not one thing but many things. He explains that an artist must develop all of his skills. There’s no point being good at one part and terrible at the other. To this end, he sculpted as well and ensured that he covered the different art forms that could come to play. His love for experimentation made him think beyond loving something, to truly knowing about it – even if it was the human anatomy. “Only through experimentation can we truly know anything.” His creativity, even as little as writing his many notes backwards (mirror writing) so that he could code his writings, made him more of an enigma than he actually was.
Thus, to tap into the immortality of genius, we all need to leave our ordinary states and peek into the world around us. We need to think of the possibilities of the unknown and be as many things as we can be instead of getting constrained in the box that is a career path. If Leonardo da Vinci was given the opportunity to get educated as basic as it might have been and if he had his life cut out for him, then he just might not have pushed the limitation of his mind and gotten the level of immortality he has today.