Artist Leonardo da Vinci – 53 Interesting Facts

by Sherry Riter in Art  

Leonardo da Vinci and his work is totally fascinating. Not only was he a genius, but Leonardo da Vinci was also a painter, scientist, musician, sculptor, mathematician, engineer, anatomist, architect, inventor, botanist, geologist, cartographer and writer. He is the definition of a Renaissance man.
Leonardo_da_Vinci Self-Portrait

Self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci


“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt,
and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci ~


Leonardo da Vinci, The Genius

  • Leonardo da Vinci was born on April 15, 1452.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s full name at birth was Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci. The “ser” part of his name identified his father as a gentleman.

Tuscany Italy Leonardo da Vinci

  • Leonardo da Vinci was born in the town of Vinci which was located in the territory of Florence. Today that area is called Tuscany, Italy.
  • Leonardo was the son of a wealthy man named Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci who was a legal notary. In contrast, his mother, Caterina, was a peasant.
  • Leonardo’s parents were not married when he was born.
  • Leonardo’s surname,“da Vinci”, means “of Vinci” which is the town where he was born.


“Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci ~


  • Little is known about Leonardo’s early life which, of course, makes us all even more curious.
  • Leonardo’s father married a sixteen-year-old girl named Albiera who died young.
  • Leonardo was an apprentice to the artist Andrea di Cione in 1466. Andrea di Cione was known as Verrocchio and he had one of the best workshops in Florence.
  • After Leonardo turned sixteen, his father married Francesca Lanfredini who was only twenty years old.

The Baptism of Christ Verrocchio

The Baptism of Chirst

  • Verrocchio never painted again after collaborating with Leonardo da Vinci on The Baptism of Chirst painting. Da Vinci painted the young angel who held the robe of Jesus and his painting proved to be far superior to Verrocchio, the master.
  • Da Vinci, under the tutelage of masters, learned in an environment that was both theoretical and technical. It included such things as drafting, drawing, plaster, sculpting, modelling, metallurgy, carpentry and painting.

David and Tobias and the Angel

David (left) and Tobias and the Angel (right)

  • Leonardo is thought to have been the model for the bronze statue of David in the Bargello and the Archangel Raphael in Tobias and the Angel.
  • In 1472, Leonardo qualified as a master in the prestigious guild of artists and doctors of medicine known as the Guild of St Luke. Even though his father provided him with a workshop of his own, he continued his collaboration with Verrocchio.
  • Leonardo’s earliest known work dated August 5, 1473, is a drawing of the Arno valley in pen and ink.
  • In 1478, Leonardo da Vinci left Verrocchio’s studio.
  • Da Vinci’s first independent commission was to paint an altarpiece for the Chapel of St. Bernard in the Palazzo Vecchio in January 1478. This commission was not completed.
  • Leonardo’s second independent commission was The Adoration of the Magi for the Monks of San Donato a Scopeto in March 1481. This commission was also not completed.
  • By 1482, Leonardo da Vinci was a talented musician. He created a silver lyre in the shape of a horse’s head and took this lyre to Ludovico il Moro, Duke of Milan, as a gift to ensure peace.
  • Leonardo worked in Milan, Italy, from 1482 until 1499.

Virgin of the Rocks Leonardo_da_Vinci

The Virgin of the Rocks

Face closeup of The Virgin of the Rocks


  • The Virgin of the Rocks was a painting commission for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception.

Last Supper Chirst Leonardo da Vinci

Last Supper Chirst


  • Da Vinci was commissioned to paint The Last Supper for the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan.

Last Supper Chirst closeup flaking

Closeup showing flaking and cracking on the Last Supper Chirst

  • Because Leonardo da Vinci used tempera over a ground that was mostly gesso, the surface of The Last Supper had molded and flaked to the point where many believed it was ruined forever.
  • Caterina, Leonardo da Vinci’s mother, lived with him between 1493 and 1495 according to his taxation documents. She died in 1495.
  • In 1499, Leonardo da Vinci fled to Venice where he created a system of moveable barricades to protect the city from attack.
  • In 1500, Leonardo was provided a workshop by the Servite monks at the monastery of Santissima Annunziata in Florence.

Virgin Child St Anne John the Baptist

The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist

  • The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist, a cartoon by Leonardo da Vinci, was greatly admired.
  • In 1502, as a military architect and engineer in the service of Cesare Borgia, the son of Pope Alexander VI, Leonardo traveled all over Italy.

Town plan of Imola da Vinci

Map of Imola

  • After he had drawn an impressive map of Imola, Leonardo was hired as his chief military engineer and architect by Cesare.
  • Leonardo also drew a map of Chiana Valley, Tuscany so that Cesare would be better prepared with the knowledge of the overlay of the land.

Battle of Anghiari Leonardo_da_Vinci

The Battle of Anghiari

  • On October 18, 1503, Leonardo da Vinci rejoined the Guild of St Luke. For the next two years he designed and painted a mural of The Battle of Anghiari.
  • Against Michelangelo’s will, a committee was formed to relocate the statue of David. In 1504, Leonardo da Vinci became part of that committee.

Mona Lisa Leonardo da Vinci

Mona Lisa

  • The Mona Lisa was painted from 1503–1505/1507. It is the most famous painting in the world. Not only do the eyes “follow” you, but the elusive smile on her face lends an air of mystery. The shadows at the corners of the mouth and eyes is the reason that they are both so intriguing. This shadowing is called “sfumato” which means Leonardo’s smoke.
  • From September 1513 to 1516, Leonardo lived in the Belvedere located in the Vatican in Rome.
  • In 1515, Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to make a mechanical lion which could walk forward and open its chest to reveal a cluster of lilies.
  • The last three years of Leonardo da Vinci’s life was spent at the royal Château d’Amboise wih his friend and apprentice, Count Francesco Melzi.


“There are three classes of people: those who see.
Those who see when they are shown.
Those who do not see.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci ~


  • After Leonardo’s death, Melzi inherited the artistic and scientific works, manuscripts, and collections, as well as administering the estate of Leonardo Da Vinci.
  • Leonardo’s work was unique. Because of his extensive knowledge of the human form and the way humans show emotions, he was able to paint expressions and gestures that other artists had never successfully conveyed. His method and technique of laying on the paint and gradation of tone were innovative.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous painted works are the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and the Virgin of the Rocks.
  • Leonardo was a vegetarian.
  • Because of his vegetarianism, Leonardo had a habit of purchasing caged birds and then releasing them into the wild.

Leonardo_da_Vinci_drawing helicopter

Drawing of a rudimentary Helicopter

  • Leonardo was a technological genius. He drew designs for a helicopter, calculator, tank, solar power, double hull and the beginnings of the theory of plate tectonics. Although his designs, except for a few, were not constructed during his lifetime, some of them, like the automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, were huge successes.


“Once you have tasted flight,
you will forever walk the earth
with your eyes turned skyward,
for there you have been,
and there you will always long to return.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci ~

Leonardo da Vinci drawing tank
Drawing of a Tank

  • On 13,000 pages of journal drawings and notes, Leonard recorded all the things that sparked his interest.

Vitruvian Man Leonardo da Vinci

Vitruvian Man

  • The Vitruvian Man is one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous drawings. It is a study of the proportions of the human body.
  • Leonardo’s drawings and notes range grocery lists and people who owed him money to designs for winged shoes to walk on water.
  • Leonardo was given permission to dissect human corpses at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence and at hospitals in Milan and Rome. From these studies he created over 200 pages of drawings.
  • Leonardo da Vinci died on May 2, 1519, at Clos Lucé.
  • It is believed the account that King Francis I held Leonardo’s head in his arms as he died was fiction instead of fact.
  • Sixty beggars followed his casket as requested in Leonardo da Vinci’s will.

Chapel Saint-Hubert Château d'Amboise

Chapel of Saint-Hubert in Château d’Amboise

  • Leonardo da Vinci was buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert in Château d’Amboise.
  • Upon his death, Melzi became the principal heir and executor of Leonardo da Vinci’s estate. He received his money, tools, library, personal effects and all his paintings. Salai and his servant Battista di Vilussis each received half of Leonardo’s vineyards. His brothers received land and his serving woman received a black cloak “of good stuff” with a fur edge.
  • King Francis I, twenty years after the death of Leonardo da Vinci, was reported as saying, “There had never been another man born in the world who knew as much as Leonardo, not so much about painting, sculpture and architecture, as that he was a very great philosopher.”
  • In 2003, Channel 4, a British television station, created a documentary called, “Leonardo’s Dream Machines.” Leonardo’s machines were built and tested according to his original drawn designs. Some were successful and others proved to be impractical after being tested.

In 1967 in The Life and Times of Leonardo, Liana Bortolon said, “Because of the multiplicity of interests that spurred him to pursue every field of knowledge…Leonardo can be considered, quite rightly, to have been the universal genius par excellence, and with all the disquieting overtones inherent in that term. Man is as uncomfortable today, faced with a genius, as he was in the 16th century. Five centuries have passed, yet we still view Leonardo with awe.”

“One can have no smaller or greater mastery
than mastery of oneself.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci ~

Obviously Leonardo da Vinci is one of my favorite artists. Are you blown away with his genius?

This post was written by...

Sherry Riter is also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jennifer Chow May 28, 2012 at 11:43 am

What beautiful artwork! Loved Florence when I visited it. By the way, I’ve nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award:


2 The Redhead Riter May 28, 2012 at 1:53 pm

Thanks Jennifer! <3


3 mom May 28, 2012 at 2:14 pm

He is your mother’s favorite of all artists, now and forever. He was truly inspired and given many gifts from the God of all the worlds. He never let go of the Mona Lisa and never told anyone why. Thanks Sherry


4 The Redhead Riter May 29, 2012 at 7:28 am

I’m glad you enjoyed it, Mom.


5 Skip_D May 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm

No doubt you understand that I have always been in awe of Leonardo. One thing you might not realize is how comforting I find it that he had so many uncompleted works – even commissions! If he could get away with & get past it, then maybe there’s hope for me too!

This is a wonderful collection of fascinating facts about & great works of art from the original Renaissance Man. Thanks!


6 The Redhead Riter May 29, 2012 at 7:25 am

Yeah, really! If Leonardo didn’t do it, then obviously it is okay to be human! I was surprised how many things he didn’t finish. LOL


7 Chris Hill May 29, 2012 at 4:30 pm

For a while Da Vinci was also thought to have invented the bicycle – but it turned out to be a hoax cycle drawn on one of his manuscripts by a restorer. Almost a 54th fact!


8 The Redhead Riter May 29, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Wow Chris! I hadn’t heard about the bicycle thing. Yep! Almost another fact! LOL


9 Joan May 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm

Redhead Riter, you chose 53 very interesting facts about Leonardo da Vinci. Who cares that his parents never married? The only thing that mattered was that he was born. Look at all that he accomplished in his life!

You did a remarkable job on the facts that you chose to write about and the artwork you chose to show. This was an incredible amount of work and research on your part and you should be congratulated on a job well done! 🙂


10 The Redhead Riter May 30, 2012 at 1:36 pm

Thanks Joan!!!

(reaching over my shoulder to pat myself on the back) LOL


11 kim joe October 29, 2012 at 3:18 am

more than FASCINATING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1


12 Sherry Riter October 29, 2012 at 8:19 am

Thank you very much Kim!


13 lewdogman November 26, 2012 at 4:58 am

i was using this for an assignment and i thought it had some really good information…thanx to you i got an A+ so i am really happy. You have made my day xoxoxo 🙂


14 Sherry Riter November 26, 2012 at 6:36 am

Congratulations! 🙂


15 madison December 7, 2012 at 9:43 am

this is amazing. thank you so much for this website <3


16 Sherry Riter December 10, 2012 at 12:14 am

I’m glad you like it Madison. 🙂


17 zeinab December 12, 2012 at 4:43 am

Hi. THankS a milion for this information and pictures.


18 Sherry Riter December 12, 2012 at 8:18 am

You’re welcome!


19 Sitara February 5, 2013 at 2:42 pm

Thanks a million! I had to do a presentation about Leonardo and I had the best one!!!(the best presentation)
P.s I dont know if you know this but, it took Leonardo 24 years to complete the painting of the Mona Lisa!


20 Sherry Riter February 5, 2013 at 7:09 pm

LOL Sitara! I wonder if schools are going to start coming after me for everyone using my post in their homework! LOL


21 MIHAIL February 23, 2013 at 8:45 am

When was in Paris in 2005, I couldn’t but visit Louvre. But to Louvre came with sound recording equipment which was provided kindly by French. I found “Mona Lisa” and I began to write down the sound background created by numerous visitors, come to look at a masterpiece. The logic was simple. I will dare to note that any masterpiece possesses property of the high-structured information field. The person is too, in the basis, field structure. There is a contact of two field structures – the person and a masterpiece. In it probably art force. Those sounds, which people published, being in a masterpiece field (conversations, a shuffling of feet, etc.), were very valuable to me, they korrelyativno were connected with it. Having subjected these records to the most difficult transformational processing, I managed to receive absolutely improbable soundings. They brought many into shock, – in these sounds accurate identification with “Mona Lisa’s” portrait was observed. I made similar records and at the well-known sculpture of Venus. As a result, on to basis of these records, at me three works – “Knowledge”, “Stream” and “Communication” were born.

Structure of presented video: sound background at Mona Lisa – result of transformational processing of a background, a sound background at Venus – result of transformational processing of a background, a work “Knowledge” fragment (the transformed sounds are used only).


22 Sherry Riter February 23, 2013 at 9:26 am



23 Renard Moreau February 24, 2013 at 11:50 am

[ Smiles ] Leonardo da Vinci was a brilliant thinker who was way ahead of his time.


24 Sherry Riter February 24, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Yes and one of my very favorite people in history! 😀


25 sarah April 3, 2013 at 3:06 pm

Umm, I got a B for this:( wonder how all of you got a pluses… I think I could’ve done better… but it’s okay anyways


26 Sherry Riter April 4, 2013 at 7:14 am



27 Ruby May 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm

This helps


28 Sherry Riter May 15, 2013 at 7:53 am

I’m glad it helps!


29 Joan Marie December 1, 2013 at 3:06 am

WOW!! You did all this research yourself, Sherry? ! ! What a FABULOUS gathering of AWESOME facts!!! He is TRULY my ALL TIME FAVORITE..I have always called him my Artist GOD! I used to say he was my God..I quickly realized that was wrong.. HA! Thank you so much for all of this!! You are AMAZING!!!


30 Sherry Riter December 6, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Thank you Joan Marie! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I really enjoyed writing it!


31 Uma Maheswar Nakka February 27, 2015 at 11:59 am

Good evening My child, dear Sherry,

Just extraordinar write up.
You deserve all the appreciation from all of us.
You didn’t miss anything and it is simple and laconic.
Thanks for sharing this valuable artcle.
Blessings to you.
Uma Maheswar


32 Sherry Riter March 5, 2015 at 4:22 pm



33 Caroline February 28, 2015 at 3:10 pm

This is an absolutely amazing website, and was really helpful to many. (as you can obviously see:) Anyway, I have a suggestion. What if you did a comparison of a couple of artists? Take Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. SO MANY PEOPLE WANT TO COMPARE THE 2! Just a consideration. Also, no need to comment back, if you don’t want to! I respect that you are busy! :):):)


34 Sherry Riter March 5, 2015 at 4:21 pm

LOL Is that your next assignment?


35 Gabe May 5, 2015 at 5:54 pm

I needed this for a project and it was super helpful.


36 Ally June 16, 2015 at 4:08 pm

Leonardo da Vinci was also left-handed. No wonder he was a genius!


37 Sherry Riter June 25, 2015 at 9:55 am

LOL Cute! 😉


38 skyler November 10, 2015 at 3:08 pm

Wow this was very helpful


39 vicky July 28, 2016 at 7:16 pm

Great information!!


40 sallycolon December 5, 2016 at 9:02 pm

Thanks redhead. your column is just what i need! It is very informative and a product of good research! Leonardo da Vinci is beyond description of genius! To think that he did all his work alone, by himself! I wonder if you could find out about his IQ?

Thank you so much!


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