The Life, Work and Secret of Leonardo Da Vinci
“Leonardo,” wrote an English critic as far back as 1721, “was a Man so happy in his genius, so consummate in his Profession, so accomplished in the Arts, so knowing in the Sciences, and withal, so much esteemed by the Age wherein he lived, his Works so highly applauded by the Ages which have succeeded, and his Name and Memory still preserved with so much Veneration by the present Age—that, if anything could equal the Merit of the Man, it must be the Success he met with. Moreover, ‘this not in Painting alone, but in Philosophy, too, that Leonardo surpassed all his Brethren of the ‘Pencil.’”
This admirable summary of the great Florentine painter’s life’s work still holds good to-day.
Leonardo Da Vinci, the many-sided genius of the Italian Renaissance, was born, as his name implies, at the little town of Vinci, which is about six miles from Empoli and twenty miles west of Florence. Vinci is still very inaccessible, and the only means of conveyance is the cart of a general carrier and postman, who sets out on his journey from Empoli at sunrise and sunset. Outside a house in the middle of the main street of Vinci to-day a modern and white-washed bust of the great artist is pointed to with much pride by the inhabitants. Leonardo’s traditional birthplace on the outskirts of the town still exists, and serves now as the headquarters of a farmer and small wine exporter.
Leonardo di Ser Piero d’Antonio di Ser Piero di Ser Guido da Vinci—for that was his full legal name—was the natural and first-born son of Ser Piero, a country notary, who, like his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, followed that honorable vocation with distinction and success, and who subsequently—when Leonardo was a youth—was appointed notary to the Signoria of Florence. Leonardo’s mother was one Caterina, who after wards married Accabriga di Piero del Vaccha of Vinci.
Plate II.—Annunciation In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. No. 1288. 3 ft 3 ins. By 6 ft 11 ins. (0.99 x 2.18)] Although this panel is included in the Uffizi Catalogue as being by Leonardo, it is in all probability by his master, Verrocchio.]
The date of Leonardo’s birth is not known with any certainty. His age is given as five in a taxation return made in 1457 by his grandfather Antonio, in whose house he was educated; it is therefore concluded that he was born in 1452. Leonardo’s father Ser Piero, who afterward married four times, had eleven children by his third and fourth wives. Is it unreasonable to suggest that Leonardo may have had these numbers in mind in 1496-1498 when he was painting in his famous “Last Supper” the figures of eleven Apostles and one outcast?
However, Ser Piero seems to have legitimized his “love child” who very early showed promise of extraordinary talent and untiring energy.
Source:The Project Gutenberg: Leonardo da Vinci, by Maurice W. Brockwell