Practically nothing is known about Leonardo’s boyhood, but Vasari informs us that Ser Piero, impressed with the remarkable character of his son’s genius, took some of his drawings to Andrea del Verrocchio, an intimate friend, and begged him earnestly to express an opinion on them. Verrocchio was so astonished at the power they revealed that he advised Ser Piero to send Leonardo to study under him. Leonardo thus entered the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio about 1469-1470. In the workshop of that great Florentine sculptor, goldsmith, and artist he met other craftsmen, metal workers, and youthful painters, among whom was Botticelli, at that moment of his development a jovial _habitué_ of the Poetical Supper Club, who had not yet given any premonitions of becoming the poet, mystic, and visionary of later times. There also Leonardo came into contact with that unoriginal painter Lorenzo di Credi, his junior by seven years. He also, no doubt, met Perugino, whom Michelangelo called “that blockhead in art.” The genius and versatility of the Vincian painter was, however, in no way dulled by intercourse with lesser artists than himself; on the contrary he vied with each in turn, and readily outstripped his fellow pupils.
In 1472, at the age of twenty, he was admitted into the Guild of Florentine Painters.
Unfortunately very few of Leonardo’s paintings have come down to us. Indeed there do not exist a sufficient number of finished and absolutely authentic oil pictures from his own hand to afford illustrations for this short chronological sketch of his life’s work. The few that do remain, however, are of so exquisite a quality—or were until they were “comforted” by the uninspired restorer—that we can unreservedly accept the enthusiastic records of tradition in respect of all his works. To rightly understand the essential characteristics of Leonardo’s achievements it is necessary to regard him as a scientist quite as much as an artist, as a philosopher no less than a painter, and as a draughtsman rather than a colourist. There is hardly a branch of human learning to which he did not at one time or another give his eager attention, and he was engrossed in turn by the study of architecture—the foundation-stone of all true art—sculpture, mathematics, engineering and music. His versatility was unbounded, and we are apt to regret that this many-sided genius did not realise that it is by developing his power within certain limits that the great master is revealed. Leonardo may be described as the most Universal Genius of Christian times-perhaps of all time.
[ THE VIRGIN OF THE ROCKS In the National Gallery. No. 1093. 6 ft. ½ in. h. by 3 ft 9 ½ in. w. (1.83 x 1.15)] This picture was painted in Milan about 1495 by Ambrogio da Predis under the supervision and guidance of Leonardo da Vinci, the essential features of the composition being borrowed from the earlier “Vierge aux Rochers,” now in the Louvre.]
Source:The Project Gutenberg: Leonardo da Vinci, by Maurice W. Brockwell