We’ve assembled our Top Ten Favourite Fascinating Facts about the man behind the Mona Lisa’s smile. Can you identify which of these ‘facts’ might be fiction…
1.) As well as being an accomplished artist, Leonardo can also be described as an architect, engineer, mathematician and philosopher. Leonardo left fewer than 30 paintings, several of which are incomplete, along with hundreds of drawings, sketches, and thousands of pages of notes. His reputation isn’t just based on his paintings. We have no idea what percentage the remains of his output represents from his total body of work.
2.) Leonardo the inventor was as prolific as Leonardo the artist. His inventions and discoveries are said to include the following: machine guns, an armoured tank, cluster bombs, a submarine, the first mechanical calculator, solar power, the cannon, a machine gun, gliders, turnspit for roasting meat, a canal system to irrigate fields, scissors, hydraulic pumps and the parachute. Some of these we have to take with a pinch of salt…Leonardo didn’t invent the telescope, gears, ratchets, pulley systems, or screws; these already existed.
3.) The illegitimate child of Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio Da Vinci, a Florentine notary, and Caterina, a peasant, Leonardo was raised by his father in a single-parent family. If he hadn’t been born ‘out of wedlock’, he might not have been apprenticed to the artist Andrea del Verrocchio, more occupations would have been open to him. As it was, being illegitimate, his options were limited.
4.) Leonardo mastered the art of cartography. Leonardo created this map of a Tuscan valley for his patron Cesare Borgia to hand him an advantage of having an overlay of the land. Leonardo took special care to record all the rivers to give his patron the greatest strategic tool possible. Leonardo also would have created this map in conjunction with his other project, which was to construct a dam from the sea to Florence.
5.) Leonardo established modern techniques of scientific illustration with highly accurate renderings such as ‘Embryo in the Womb’
6.) Apparently it took Leonardo Da Vinci about ten years to paint Mona Lisa’s lips. He was a left-handed dyslexic and procrastinating perfectionist who left many paintings unfinished and destroyed most of his work.
7.) One of the most unusual hypotheses regarding the subject of the Mona Lisa is that it is a self-portrait of Leonardo as a woman.
8.) A builder of bridges. Leonardo designed a movable bridge for the Duke of Milan.
9.) Leonardo apparently liked wearing pink to make his complexion look fresh.
10.) Despite popular conjecture, Leonardo was not gay and lived with the same woman, Lucia, from the age of 29 until his death in 1519. This was merely a rumour put about by his rival Michelangelo to discredit Leonardo socially