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Masters in Art, Vol. 14

Masters in Art, Vol. 14

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Excerpt from Masters in Art, Vol. 14: Leonardo Da Vinci

The place which Leonardo da Vinci holds in the history of art must always be unique. He stands alone among the painters of the Renaissance, by reason not only of the rare perfection of the high intellectual qualities of his art, but of the extraordinary influence which he exerted upon his contemporaries, and the universal character of his genius. Never before or since in the annals of the human race has the same passionate desire for knowledge been combined with the same ardent love of beauty, never have artistic and scientific powers been united in the same degree as in this wonderful man. Painting was only one of the varied forms in which his activity was displayed. As sculptor, architect, and engineer Leonardo was alike illustrious in his day; as a philosopher and man of Science he has been justly hailed as the precursor of Galileo, of Bacon, and of Descartes. Alexander von Humboldt proclaimed him to be the greatest physicist of the fifteenth century, the one man of his age who "united a remarkable knowledge of mathematics with the most admirable intuition of nature;" and scholars of our day have recognized in him - to use the words of Hallam - "a thinker who anticipated the grander discoveries of modern science."

Leonardo da Vinci was born in the year 1452, at Vinci, a fortified town half-way between Florence and Pisa. He was the natural son of Ser Piero Antonio da Vinci, a notary who soon acquired a connection in Florence, where he held important offices, and occupied a house on the Piazza San Firenze. There Leonardo lived until he was twenty-four years of age. As he grew up he attracted attention not only by his personal beauty and great strength, but also by his passion for learning. Music and mathematics were among his favorite studies, but he was still fonder of drawing and modelling. At fifteen he entered the studio of Andrea Verocchio, who, as the representative of the scientific school of Florentine artists, was well fitted to develop Leonardo's peculiar genius. Here the brilliant youth became a great favorite, both with his master and comrades, among whom were Perugino and Lorenzo di Credi.

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