Leonardo da Vinci Short Biography for Schools – Life, Story, Death

Who was Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452, in Vinci, in the valley of the Arno River, Tuscany, the territory of the Medici and the Republic of Florence.

Considered the paradigm of homo universalis, of the Renaissance sage versed in all areas of human knowledge.Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci ventured into fields as varied as aerodynamics, hydraulics, anatomy, botany, painting, sculpture and architecture, among others.

His scientific investigations were, to a large extent, forgotten and undervalued by his contemporaries.

His pictorial production, however, was immediately recognized as that of a master capable of materializing the ideal of beauty in works of disturbing suggestion and delicate poetry.

The beginning

Illegitimate son and firstborn of the notary Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, and Caterina, a peasant.

His baptism took place in the nearby parish church of Santa Croce, but both the father and the mother did not attend because they were not married.

Leonardo did not have a surname in the current sense, and “da Vinci” simply means “de Vinci”: his full birth name was “Lionardo di Piero da Vinci”. The inclusion of the title of “being” indicates that his father was a gentleman. Her mother found a husband who accepted her “compromised” situation.

He spent his first five years in the village of Anchiano at his mother’s house, and since 1457, at his father’s and grandparents’ house. In 1452, his father Piero had married Albiera Giovanni Amadori, of whom he had no children.

In 1460 he moved to Florence, where he was formed. His stepmother died in 1464 when the family was already living in Florence and was buried in San Biagio.

Ser Piero was married three more times: in 1464, with Francesca di Ser Giuliano Lanfredini, who also died without offspring; with Margherita di Francesco di Jacopo di Guglielmo, in 1475, who finally gave her six children.

Likewise, another six had their fourth and last marriage. Leonardo had 12 half brothers, all much younger than him (the last one was born when Leonardo was forty years old), and with whom he did not have many relationships but a lot of problems due to his father’s inheritance.

Beginnings in Florence

Around 1466 he attended the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, where he began in various activities. From the painting of altarpieces and tables to the elaboration of large sculptural projects in marble and bronze.

In 1472 he was admitted to the guild of painters in Florence, and in 1476 he is still mentioned as an assistant to Verrocchio, in whose work The Baptism of Christ (c.1470, Uffizi, Florence).

He also painted the kneeling angel on the left and the landscape of misty shades. His first order was an altarpiece for the chapel of the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine town hall, although it was not executed.

A great inventor

Sublime painter, sculptor, avant-garde engineer, original inventor, musician, innovative architect, daring strategist, eccentric writer, demanding master.

He is considered one of the greatest geniuses of mankind. His first great work, The Adoration of the Magi (Uffizi), which he left unfinished, was commissioned by the monks of San Donato de Scopeto, near Florence, around 1481.

Other works of this period are the Madonna Benois (c.1478, Hermitage, St. Petersburg), the portrait of Geneva by Benci (c.1744, National Gallery, Washington) and the unfinished St. Jerome (c.1481, Pinacoteca Vaticana).

The engineer

In 1482 he placed himself in the service of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, after having written him a letter in which the artist offered himself as a painter, sculptor, architect, as well as an engineer, inventor, and hydraulic engineer.

Where he claimed that he could build portable bridges, that he knew the techniques for a bombing.

In addition to the cannon, which could make ships, as well as armored vehicles, catapults, and other war machines. He could even make sculptures in marble, bronze, and terracotta.

He helped the Italian mathematician Luca Pacioli in his famous work The Divine Proportion (1509). The most important work of the period in Milan are the two versions of the Virgin of the rocks (1483-1485, Louvre, Paris, 1490-1506-1508, National Gallery, London).

Where it applies the triangular compositional scheme that encloses the Virgin, the Child, Saint John and the angel, and where he applies for the first time the technique of sfumato.

The Last Supper

From 1495 to 1497 he works on his masterpiece The Last Supper, mural painting for the refectory of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

In addition, he made other paintings, drawings, and models for the dome of the Cathedral of Milan.

His biggest order was the colossal bronze equestrian monument of Francesco Sforza, father of Ludovico, for its location in the courtyard of the Sforzesco castle.

However, in December 1499, the Sforza family was expelled from Milan by French troops. The statue was left unfinished and was destroyed by French archers who used it as a target.

The great Italy

In 1500 he returned to Florence. In 1502 he began to serve Cesare Borgia, Duke of Romagna, son of Pope Alexander VI.

His capacity as the architect and senior engineer of the duke, he supervised the works in the fortresses of the papal territories of central Italy.

In 1503 he was a member of the commission of artists responsible for deciding on the proper location of Michelangelo’s David (1501-1504, Academy, Florence), and also served as the engineer in the war against Pisa.

At the end of this year, he began to plan the decoration for the great hall of the Signoria Palace with the theme of the Battle of Anghiari.

He made numerous drawings and completed a cardboard in 1505, but he never made the painting on the wall. The cardboard was destroyed in the seventeenth century.

The Florentine Period

During his second Florentine period, he made several portraits, of which only the one from La Gioconda (1503-1506, Louvre, Paris), also known as Monna Lisa, is conserved.

It seems that he felt a great predilection for this work since he took it with him on his trips. La Gioconda, with an enigmatic face.

It was Lisa Gherardini, second wife of Francesco del Giocondo, a wealthy Florentine silk merchant. According to the Florentine historian Giuseppe Pallanti, who came to the conclusion that the figure painted by Leonardo between 1503 and 1506 was real.

In 1506 he returned to Milan at the service of the French governor Charles II Chaumont, marshal of Amboise.

A year later he was appointed painter of the court of Louis XII of France, who was residing at that time in the Italian city.

For the next six years, he spent his time between Milan and Florence. Of this same time, it seems to be the second version of the Virgin of the rocks and Santa Ana, the Virgin, and the Child


From 1514 to 1516 Leonardo lived in Rome under the patronage of Giuliano de ‘Medici, brother of Pope Leo X. He stayed at the Belvedere Palace in the Vatican, mainly dealing with scientific and technical experiments.

In the scientific part, you can see his interest in the anatomical studies of the human body, based on the autopsies of corpses that he carried out, even though this practice was prohibited in the fifteenth century.

It is believed that he was able to dissect about thirty corpses with which he drew with detail and clarity much of the organs of the body.


Leonardo da Vinci was a strictly vegetarian, called the omnivores “corpse devourers”.
It seems that he never had any relationship with women except for his friendship with Cecilia Gallerani. He kept his private life a secret.

In Florence, when Leonardo was apprenticed to Verrochio, a complaint was filed against the painter accusing him of being a pedophile. His protectors got him to avoid a public trial.

His sexuality has been the subject of controversy and it seems that he had intimate relations with his disciples Salai and Melzi.

In 1476, Leonardo and three other young men were accused of sodomy, although the charges were dismissed for lack of evidence. In any case, Leonardo remained single and without children.

The great France

In 1516 he moved to France, to the court of Francis I, where he spent his last years in the castle of Cloux, near Amboise.

On April 23, 1519, he wrote a will before the notary Guglielmo Boreau, declaring his desire to be buried in the church of Saint-Florentin. With a funeral ceremony accompanied by chaplains and Friars Minor.

As well as 60 poor people, each with a torch. Leonardo died on May 2 of the same year in Amboise, Kingdom of France.

He was buried in the cloister of the Saint-Florentin church in Amboise. Fifty years later the tomb was violated and its remains were scattered during the religious struggle between Catholics and Huguenots.

What were your Works by Leonardo da Vinci?

  1. Dreyfus Madonna (Madonna of the pomegranate), 1469-1470, oil on panel, 15.7×12.8 cm
  2. Tobias and the angel, about 1470-1475, a temple on panel, 84×66 cm
  3. Annunciation, about 1472-1475, tempera and oil on canvas, 98×217 cm
  4. Landscape with River, in 1473, drawing on paper, 19×28.5 cm
  5. Madonna of the carnation, about 1473, oil on wood, 62×47,5 cm
  6. Study of hands, around 1474, tip of white silver on pink paper, 21.4 x15 cm
  7. Portrait of Ginevra de ‘Benci, about 1474, oil and tempera on wood, 38.8 x36.7 cm
  8. Profile of the former captain, 1475, silver tip on prepared paper, 28.5 x20.7 cm
  9. Baptism of Christ, 1475-1478, oil and tempera on panel, 177x151cm
  10. Annunciation, about 1475-1478, tempera on board, 16×60 cm
  11. The body of Bernardo Baroncelli, hanged in 1478
  12. Madonna Benois, 1478-1482, oil on board transferred to canvas, 48×31 cm
  13. St. Jerome, 1480, oil on canvas, 103×75 cm
  14. 1480 Defense Device Studies
  15. Studies of hydraulic tools 1480
  16. Study of flowers, 1480-1481
  17. Sketch for the Virgin of the Gatto, 1480-1481
  18. The prospective study of the Adoration of the Magi, 1481
  19. Study for the Adoration of the Magi, 1481
  20. Adoration of the Magi, 1481-1482
  21. Equestrian monument of Francesco Sforza, 1482-1493
  22. Study of the angel of the Virgin of the Rocks, 1483-1485
  23. Studies for the Virgin of the Rocks, 1483
  24. Virgin of the Rocks, 1483-1486, oil on board transferred to canvas, 199×122 cm
  25. Portrait of a musician, circa 1485, oil on canvas, 44.7×32 cm
  26. Study for the monument to Francesco Sforza, 1485

Others more

  1. Air screw, 1487
  2. Project for coverage for the cruise of the Cathedral of Milan, 1487-1488
  3. Study for the machinery of war, 1487-1490
  4. The lady of the ermine, 1488-1490, oil on panel, 54,8×40,3 cm
  5. Ideas for the figure of Saint Peter at the Last Supper, 1488-1490
  6. Study for the Last Supper, 1488-1490
  7. Skull section, 1489
  8. Vitruvian man, 1490, pencil and ink on paper, 34×24 cm
  9. Study of the front legs of a horse, 1490
  10. Geometric figures and botanical design 1490
  11. Rays of light through a small opening angle, 1490-1491
  12. Ferronnière, 1490-1495, oil on panel, 63×45 cm
  13. Project for strengthening the fusion of the horse’s head, 1491-1493
  14. Emblem of the Sforza, 1492-1494
  15. Virgin of the Rocks, 1494-1508, oil on canvas, 189.5 x 120 cm
  16. Head of Christ, 1494, chalk and pastel on paper, 40×32 cm
  17. Hair, ribbons, masking objects, 1494
  18. Male head, 1494 or 1499 Project for a device, 1494-1496
  19. Last Supper, 1494-1498, oil on wall, 460×880 cm
  20. Portrait Sforza, 1495, chalk and ink on parchment, 33×23 cm
  21. Sketch of three figures in profile, 1495
  22. Old and young approached, 1495
  23. Portraits of the Dukes of Milan with their children, 1497, tempera and oil on the wall, 90 cm
  24. Sketch of the lady’s bag of 1497
  25. Intertwining the plants with fruits and monochromes of roots and rocks, 1498
  26. Study for the Portrait of Isabel de Este 1499
  27. Portrait of Isabel de Este, 1500, 63×46 cm
  28. Madonna dei Fusi, 1501, oil on board transferred to canvas and glued on wood, 50.2×36.4 cm

Other works

  1. Madonna dei Fusi, 1501, oil on panel, 48.3×36.9 cm
  2. Study for the Virgin and Santa Ana, 1501
  3. Cardboard Santa Ana, 1501-1505, black pencil, lead white and spots on paper, 141.5×104.6
  4. Embrasures that face a circular atrium, 1502-1503
  5. Polygonal fortress, 1502-1503
  6. Mona Lisa, 1503-1514, oil on canvas, 77X53 cm
  7. Study of the proportions of the battle of Anghiari: infantry and cavalry, 1503-1504
  8. Study of the head of a warrior of the Battle of Anghiari, 1504
  9. Battle of Anghiari, 1505
  10. Head of Leda, about 1505-1510, red chalk in red prepared paper, 20×15.7 cm
  11. Leda and the swan, 1505-1510
  12. Cranberries, 1506
  13. Study for the monument to marshal Trivulzio, 1507
  14. Scapigliata, 1508, on wood, 24,7×21 cm
  15. Looking through a human eye, 1508-1509
  16. San Juan Bautista, 1508-1513, oil on panel, 69×57 cm
  17. Santa Ana, the Virgin and the Child with the lamb, 1510-1513, oil on canvas, 168×112 cm
  18. Bacchus, 1510-1515, oil on board transferred to canvas, 177×115 cm
  19. Reflection, 1510-1515
  20. Canal between the lake of Lecco and the Lambro, 1513
  21. Geometry studies, 1513
  22. Studies on Civitavecchia 1514
  23. Study of three dancing figures, 1515
  24. Self-portrait, 1515, sanguine on paper, 33.5×21.3 cm

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