About the Artist
Although only ten paintings by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) exist in the world today, among them are the best-known and most highly revered paintings in the Western tradition: the Mona Lisa (Musée du Louvre, Paris) and The Last Supper (Sante Maria della Grazie, Milan). Despite these high achievements in painting, Leonardo would likely still be known to us today for his extraordinarily versatile intellect and creative mind. Equally skilled as a sculptor, architect, urban planner, inventor, anatomist, military strategist, and visionary who anticipated the invention of aircraft, submarines, and other technologies centuries before their invention, he was among the most influential figures of the Renaissance in Europe.
Leonardo was born in 1452 in the Italian village of Anchiano, near Vinci, his namesake. His parents never married—his mother, Caterina, was spurned by his father, Ser Piero da Vinci, as she was from a lower social class. Leonardo was raised by his father's well-to-do family of landowners and notaries and lived in his grandfather's home. In 1469 Leonardo accompanied his father to Florence to become apprenticed in the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading sculptor there. By 1472, he was an accredited painter and member of Compagnia di San Luca, or St. Luke's Guild, a professional society to which artists belonged. Around 1482, Leonardo left Florence for Milan where he created The Last Supper and became the most celebrated painter of the day. In 1499 he returned to Florence by necessity, as Milan had fallen to the invading armies of the French king Louis XII. There, he painted his Mona Lisa and Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (both in the Musée du Louvre). Leonardo was sought after and worked for a number of patrons around Italy including Ludovico Sforza, ruler of Milan; the French governor of Milan, Charles II d’Amboise; as architect and engineer for the Borgias in Urbino; and for Giuliano de'Medici in Rome. Leonardo may have met the French king Francis I, who was visiting Italy in 1515, saw Leonardo's work, and invited him to serve as painter and architect in his court. Leonardo da Vinci died in France on May 2, 1519.
This poster is a reproduction of Leonardo da Vinci's Ginevra de' Benci (1474-1478).
Ginevra de' Benci was the daughter of a wealthy Florentine banker, and her portrait—the only painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the Americas—was probably commissioned about the time of her marriage at age 16. Leonardo himself was only about six years older. The portrait is among his earliest experiments with the new medium of oil paint; some wrinkling of the surface shows he was still learning to control it. Still, the careful observation of nature and subtle three-dimensionality of Ginevra's face point unmistakably to the new naturalism with which Leonardo would transform Renaissance painting. Ginevra is modeled with gradually deepening veils of smoky shadow—not by line, not by abrupt transitions of color or light.
- 25 x 22 inches