Dozens of epithets emerge when it comes to Leonardo da Vinci. A genius, a great and eccentric superman, outstanding in all aspects. But what were the traits of the most famous artist in the world? Was he indulgent and patient with his loved ones? Was he daring and indomitable in achieving his goals? Was he the least educated naturalist of his time? Let's see what the impartial language of figures tells us about the artist's personality.

The first recollection of the little Leo was either a dream or a fantasy of a kite, "... while I was in my cradle a kite came to me and opened my mouth with its tail, and struck me several times with its tail inside my lips." Dr. Freud interpreted it as an evidence of the traumatic contrast between the tenderness and comfort that the boy received from his mother, and the threat from the second parent.

Da Vinci closely studied the anatomy both of humans and birds. His idea fixe was to create a device letting a man to break away from the ground.

Leonardo's father had 12 children. The respected Florentine notary Messer Piero da Vinci lived for 77 years and got married 4 times, but never married the mother of the future artist, a young poor peasant woman, Caterina. When it got clear that there would be no children in his first marriage, Ser Piero took the 3-year-old illegitimate son into his care.

Zero inheritance went to Da Vinci from his father, who never recognized him as his legitimate son, although he took an active part in his upbringing. However, the artist inherited the whole bequest of his uncle Francesco, the childless brother of Ser Piero. His last will and testament was the object of discontent and legal action from the deceased's legitimate nephews.

One of the most powerful minds of the era took zero classes of education. Leonardo was not embarrassed at all. On the contrary, he flaunted with his "illiteracy" and was proud of having obtained knowledge through personal observations and experience, unlike those who were "tellers and trumpeters of other people's accomplishments."

About 50 areas of exact and natural sciences composed the field of interests of the restless seeker of truth. It seems that there was not a single sphere in life to which Leonardo has not poked his curious nose: botany, zoology, anatomy, optics, chemistry, aerodynamics, religious studies, art theory ...

Da Vinci left about 20 thousand pages of notes and sketches. It was difficult for him to master Latin, the language of scientists. He had problems with his native Italian as well. There are plenty of misspelled words and mistakes in grammar in his notes. His style is not of a refined one either.
Approximately 7.2 meters long is the base of the "flying pyramid", the prototype of the modern parachute, invented by Da Vinci. "If a man had a tent made of linen of which the apertures have all been stopped up, and if it were twelve braccia across and twelve in depth, he would be able to throw himself down from any great height without sustaining any injury."

Photographs of the devices constructed on Da Vinci's sketches: a parachute, a tank, an automobile (Wikimedia Commons).

20 skills and capabilities in the military engineering were listed in a "resume" made by the tireless adventurer to apply to the Milanese Duke Lodovico Sforza in the early 1480s. Among them, he mentioned the constructing of the light portable bridges, the destructing of the enemy positions by mining, the creating of "an infinite number of different engines of attack and defence," and many others, which in fact, Leonardo has never accomplished. He just wanted to try himself in a new position.

Considering the number of his sketches and drawings, Leonardo had serious ambitions of a military engineer.

40 years was an average life span of Da Vinci's contemporaries. Although, he himself at that age was just an author of several canvases, a creator of an intricate musical instrument, a stage designer, and an inventor of hundreds of mechanisms that were never implemented.

Leonardo was 43 years old when he was commissioned a fresco "The Last Supper". It took him 3 years and and 140 square meters of paints and plaster to complete it. And in less than 20 years, the painted surface showed deterioration. 

A cloak of silvery fabric, with green velvet for the trimming and a ribbon for a front, costed Leonardo 26.5 liras to please his beloved rogue Salai. This guy was an apprentice and a model to Da Vinci (at least his Saint John the Baptist is much alike him, and probably, Mona Lisa). First, Leonardo rashly gave the sum to Salai, which in those days was equal a builder's earnings per week, so that he could himself paid for the gift. "Salai stole the soldi," Leonardo wrote later on in his notes. And he would pay the bill again, by his own hands.

Two thousand ducats seemed too much for his "Last Supper" according to the Cardinal Raymond Peraud, Bishop of Gurck. He examined the piece and, apparently, has been envied: the bishop himself earned 3,000 ducats a year.

220 meters long and 55 meters wide was a land plot near the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which was donated to the artist by Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, in August 1497. "His garden which is outside the walls of Milan," Leonardo would share in his last will between Salai (he would build a house there) and another assistant.

700 thousand dollars is the approximate amount in modern equivalent that Leonardo received for his work on "The Last Supper," if you add the donated land plot to his official payment. Da Vinci was extremely pleased of becoming a landowner and meticulously calculated the value of his land: 1,931.25 ducats.

Only 15 paintings (4 of which are unfinished) have survived to this day, where Leonardo's brush is more or less unanimously recognized by scientists and art historians.
Leonardo da Vinci. Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World)
Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World)
Leonardo da Vinci
1500, 65.7×45.7 cm

Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World)
 is one of the art works having a complicated destiny.
Not all scholars authenticate it as the painting by Da Vinci.

It was bought by the Russian collector Dmitry Rybolovlev for $127.5 million in 2013. In 2017, «Salvator Mundi», the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in private hands, changed its owner for $450.3 million, setting a new world record in the list of the artworks sold at auction.

9 days passed from the moment the painter had written his last will, "duly considering the certainty of death and the uncertainty of its time", and the actual moment when he left to his forefathers. Besides Salai, Leonardo divided his bequest among the apprentices and servants.

Leonardo has lived for 67 years. His body was buried within the inner garden of church of Saint Florentin at Amboise, according to his last will. At his funeral sixty tapers were carried by sixty poor men who followed Leonardo da Vinci on hist last way.
Jean Alo. The death of Leonardo da Vinci (Detail of stained glass "scenes from the life of Francis I.")
The death of Leonardo da Vinci (Detail of stained glass "scenes from the life of Francis I.")
Jean Alo

Title illustration: Leonardo da Vinci. Study Of The Effect Of Light (detail).

Written by: Natalia Azarenko

Archive: follow us in  Instagram