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Leonardo Da Vinci: Personal And Professional Life And Main Achievements

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Leonardo da Vinci was born into a time and place extraordinarily supportive of his wondrous talent. The mid-1400s saw the flowering of the Renaissance in Italy, supported by the art-loving Medici family currently in power. People were coming to appreciate Greek and Roman art in new ways and great advances in scientific instruments and mathematics led to an interest in perspective in painting. Painters like Leonardo were interested in achieving a beauty on par with the ancients, and at the same time they were trying to surpass them in accuracy and realism. During Leonardo’s time artists still worked under the guild system: a young boy would serve as an apprentice to an accomplished artist, and would eventually take on his own apprentices. When Leonardo became an apprentice in Verrocchio’s workshop, his experience was similar to that of an experience in any other trade, from tailoring to carpentry. Paintings were not the passionate expression of a single artist’s mind. They were collaborations, painted according to the specifications of a patron. Paintings were the product of a studio, not of an artist. However, Leonardo helped to change the role of the artist: he himself became famous as an individual painter, a celebrity in his own right. He made being an artist a profession, and not just a trade. Art was not the only aspect of culture that saw increased activity during the Italian Renaissance. Politics also buzzed with energy, both negative and positive. The Italian states were all independent, and were constantly involved in shifting alliances, allowing for little stability but much intrigue. Many of the Roman Catholic Church’s most vile popes date from this period; Florence, where Leonardo lived, was the capital of the state of Tuscany, which was sometimes allied with the pope and sometimes not. Milan, another city where Leonardo spent a great deal of time, was the capital of Lombardy, which was repeatedly invaded by the French. As the various Italian states vied for power, so, too, did the Church. As far as art is concerned, the Church funded a great deal of work, and there was a clear distinction between art that was ‘pious’ and art that was ‘profane’; thus it dictated much of what art portrayed and didn’t portray. Leonardo often received commissions to do work for monks, and if his work did not meet the exact pedagogical specifications of the monks, he was asked to change it. The Inquisition, which was a program to seek out and execute non-believers, was initiated during Leonardo’s lifetime.

Introduction to personal life

Leonardo was born on 15th of April, 1452, around 3am of the night in the hill town of Vinci, in the valleylower of the river Arno in the territory of the Republic of Florence. He father was the wealthy Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci. His full birth name was “Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci”, meaning “Leonardo, (son) of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci”. The inclusion of the title “ser”indicated that Leonardo’s father was a gentleman.

Leonardo became known in Milan not only for his talents but also for his good looks, muscular build, and gentle personal style. “He was a man of outstanding beauty and infinite grace,” Vasari said of him. “He was striking and handsome, and his great presence brought comfort to the most troubled soul.”

Even discounting for the effusiveness of sixteenth-century biographers, it is clear that Leonardo was charming and attractive and had many friends. “His disposition was so lovable that he commanded everyone’s affection,” according to Vasari. “He was so pleasing in conversation that he attracted to himself the hearts of men.” Paolo Giovio, a near contemporary who met Leonardo in Milan, similarly remembered his pleasant nature. “He was friendly, precise, and generous, with a radiant, graceful expression,” Giovio wrote. “His genius for invention was astounding, and he was the arbiter of all questions relating to beauty and elegance, especially in pageantry.”1 All of this made him a man with many close friends. In the letters and writings of dozens of other prominent intellectuals in Milan and Florence, ranging from the mathematician Luca Pacioli to the architect Donato Bramante and the poet Piattino Piatti, there are references to Leonardo as a valued and beloved companion.

Leonardo dressed colorfully, sometimes sporting, according to the Anonimo, “a rose-colored cloak, which came only to his knees, though at the time long vestments were the custom.” As he grew older, he grew a long beard, which “came to the middle of his breast and was well-dressed and curled.”

Most notably, he was known for his willingness to share his blessings. “He was so generous that he sheltered and fed all his friends, rich or poor,” according to Vasari. He was not motivated by wealth or material possessions. In his notebooks, he decried “men who desire nothing but material riches and are absolutely devoid of the desire for wisdom, which is the sustenance and truly dependable wealth of the mind.” As a result, he spent more time pursuing wisdom than working on jobs that would make him money beyond what he needed to support his growing household retinue. “He possessed nothing and worked little, but he always kept servants and horses,” Vasari wrote. The horses brought him “much delight,” Vasari wrote, as did all animals. “Often when passing the places where birds were sold, he would take them with his own hand out of their cages, and having paid to those who sold them the price that was asked, he let them fly away into the air, restoring to them their lost liberty.”

Because of his love for animals, Leonardo was a vegetarian for much of his life, although his shopping lists show that he often bought meat for others in his household. “He would not kill a flea for any reason whatsoever,” a friend wrote. “He preferred to dress in linen, so as not to wear something dead.” A Florentine traveler to India recorded that the people there “do not feed on anything that has blood, nor will they allow anyone to hurt any living thing, like our Leonardo da Vinci.”

In addition to his prophecy tales that include dire descriptions of the practice of slaying animals for food, Leonardo’s notebooks contain other literary passages assailing meat eating. “If you are, as you have described yourself, the king of the animals,” he wrote of humans, “why do you help other animals only so that they may be able to give you their young in order to gratify your palate?” He referred to a vegetable diet as “simple” food and urged its adoption. “Does not nature bring forth enough simple food things to satisfy your hunger? Or if you cannot content yourself with simple things can you not do so by blending these simple foods together to make an infinite number of compounds?”

His rationale for avoiding meat derived from a morality based on science. Unlike plants, animals could feel pain, Leonardo realized. His studies led him to believe that this was because animals had the ability to move their bodies. “Nature has given sensibility to pain to living organisms that have the power of movement, in order to preserve those parts which might be destroyed by movement,” he surmised. “Pain is not necessary in plants.”

Introduction to professional life

Leonardo da Vinci professional life began in 1476 when he stopped working for his master and became fully independent. It was during this period that Leonardo da Vinci most famous painting was created. Leonardo began his professional career with a job that was offered to him in Florence where he worked in a school of artists, poets, and thinkers that was created by the powerful banding and political dynasty of the Medici. He got his first assignment to paint the altarpiece for the chapel of St. Bernard. This was followed by another assignment in 1481 which was a completely independent order. This order was for the creation of the adoration of the magi which was for the monastery in San Donato. However, both assignments were not finalized as the great Leonardo was soon bound for Milan.

Soon, Leonardo began handling many projects in Milan where he worked for a period spanning from 1482 to 1499. During this period of eleven years, Leonardo handled many paintings like the Virgin of the Rocks which was for the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception. In a similar manner, he handled was is regarded as one of his most revered painting and artworks, the last supper. It is worth mentioning that this painting is amongst Leonardo’s top five most celebrated artworks and its last location is the Santa Maria Delle Grazie. While it may not be up for sale, the worth of this painting is currently set at an estimated 150 million dollars. This painting was originally created for the monastery of Santa Maria Delle Grazie.

The expertise, artistry, and skill of Leonardo were hired for many diverse undertakings for Ludovico. Some of the many jobs he worked on include the designing of floats and parades for special events, plans for a ceiling for Milan Cathedral as well as a prototype for a gigantic equestrian monument to Francesco Sforza. Gran Cavallo which is otherwise known as Leonardo’s horse was initiated to in 1492 was intended to be significantly bigger than two of the biggest riding horses sculptures of the Renaissance. Various preliminary steps were taken by Leonardo towards the creation of this spectacle however, the undertaking was aborted due to the invasion of Milan by French forces in 1499. This major political event forced Leonardo to flee from Milan thus abandoning this work.

The story of the Gran Cavallo ended with it being used for training by the French troops who fired projectiles at it as training. Soon, Leonardo’s professional journey took soon took an unlikely turn following the invasion of France and ousting of Ludovico Sforza. Leonardo and his acquaintance ran to Venice where they worked in the capacity of military architect and engineer with the duty of creating techniques to protect the city from marine attack. His work in the capacity for a while before heading back to Florence in 1500. He was offered workspace in the Santissima Annunziata where he designed The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist. This painting was a spectacle that became one of the most admired Leonardo da Vinci artworks. Owing to his military experience and extensive insight, Leonardo soon began working for Cesare Borgia in the same capacity with which he served in the Venice, as a military architect and engineer. His service under Ceaser Borgia was ended when he rejoined the guilds in 1503. During this period, Leonardo da Vinci began handling a project in conjunction with the legendary Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni. The project was a gigantic wall painting of The Battle of Anghiari for the Signoria. This magnificent painting is one of Leonardo da Vinci artworks that has not been found to date. Popularly referred to as ‘The Lost Leonardo,’ it remains the subject of many speculations by experts who largely agree that the painting is concealed in the hall of five hundred.

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Subsequently, Leonardo went back to Milan where he jointly worked with many of his students. Some of the big names he partnered with encompass Bernardino Luini, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, and Marco D’Oggione. Nonetheless, he sojourned in Milan briefly owing to the demise of his father. A year later, he had returned to Florence to face a family feud over his father’s properties and lands. Which he attempted to resolve. The following year, he went back to Milan again and by 1508 he was residing in his personal home in Porta Orientale which is located in the neighborhood of Santa Babila.

After spending most of his golden years in the Vatican, Leonardo died at Clos Lucé, France of a stroke. He was believed to have breathed his last in the arms of the King. His romantic involvement with the French as reported in the accounts of Vasari remains largely unverified and possibly imaginary.

Major Achievements

Leonardo da vinci was the leading figure of the Italian Renaissance, who more than anyone else in history, represents an ideal polymath or a person with expertise in a wide variety of areas. In science, he is credited with several inventions and discoveries, and designed many things which were much ahead of his time; in art, he is considered one of the greatest painters ever and created the most famous painting of all time; and in anatomy, he did the most detailed study of the human body before the twentieth century. Da Vinci also had interests in other fields including architecture, botany, geology, music and literature but it wouldn’t be possible to cover all his contributions in a single article. Know about the main works of Leonardo da Vinci by studying his 10 major accomplishments and achievements.

Leonardo was a prolific inventor

As an engineer, Da Vinci conceived ideas much ahead of his time. Among other things, he conceptualized the use of concentrated solar power, a calculator, a rudimentary theory of plate tectonicsand the double hull. Also, his scientific studies remained unpublished during his time and many of his inventions were passed into general and practical use without Da Vinci being given credit. Among those inventions are the strut bridge, the automated bobbin winder, the rolling mill, the machine for testing the tensile strength of wire andthe lens-grinding machine

He designed a tank more than 400 years before it became a reality

In 1487, Da Vinci designed a war machine which is today known as Leonardo’s fighting vehicle or Leonardo’s tank. The design required eight men to operate the machine, which had 36 guns poking out from its sides and a conical cover inspired by a turtle’s shell. The system would be operated by a system of gears propelled by cranks that turned a sequence of wheels. In a BBC documentary, a military team built a workable machine from Leonardo’s tank design by changing one of the gears, an error supposedly done intentionally to prevent it from being used by unauthorized people. Da Vinci thus conceptualized the tank 400 years before it was actually used during the First World War.

He designed a Mechanical knight known as Leonardo’s Robot

Around the year 1495, Leonardo da Vinci designed and possibly constructed, what today is known asLeonardo’s robot or Leonardo’s mechanical knight. According to Da Vinci’s sketches of the key components, the knight was to be powered by an external mechanical crank and use cables and pullies to sit, stand, turn its head, cross its arms and even lift up its metal visor. Though no complete drawing of the automation exist, NASA roboticist Mark Rosheim used Da Vinci’s scattered notes and sketches to build a fully functional knightin 2002, suggesting that Leonardo may have been a pioneer in the field of robotics.

He designed a workable precursor to the moden diving suit

While working in Venice, around the year 1500, Da Vinci thought of a way to protect the city from invading ships by sending men underwater in diving suits to cut holes in them. This led to his design of the diving suit. Though never made during his time, Leonardo’s diving suit was constructed using pigskin treated with fish oil to repel water for a BBC documentary. When the scuba divers tested the suit, they found it to be a workable precursor to a modern diving suit.

He conceptualized the Parachute, Glider, Helicopter and Landing Gear

Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated by the flight of birds and pursued his dream of building a flying machine throughout his life. He made the design of the earliest known modern parachute whose feasibility was successfully tested in 2000 by Briton Adrian Nicholas. Da Vinci conceptualized the helicopter making the first known drawing of any helicopter-like machine, four and a half centuries before it became a reality. However his human powered aerial screw wouldn’t have worked in practice. Da Vinci also made designs for the gliderand landing gear.

He described the process governing Friction before Guillaume Amontons

Other achievements of Da Vinci in science and technology include – designing a self-propelled cart, the first self-propelled machine in history and considered an ancestor of the modern automobile; inventing the miter lock, used on thousands of canals all over the world; designing a multi-barrel machine gun; being the first to incorporate ball bearings in an aerospace design; and describing the processes governing friction, which predated the introduction of Amontons’ Laws of Friction by 150 years.


Leonardo first studied anatomy under Verrocchio, his master who believed that it was necessary to have its knowledge to be a good painter. Later, as a successful artist, Da Vinci was allowed to dissect human corpses. He wrote a treatise on anatomy in which he made more than 200 drawings. Leonardo’s sketches and diagrams indicate that he perhaps did the most detailed study of the human body before the twentieth century. However his studies were published more than a century after his death, that too under the name Treatise on Painting. Apart from human anatomy, Da Vinci also studied the anatomy of many other animals including cows, birds, monkeys and frogs.


Da Vinci was the first to describe the double S form of the backbone. He dissected and drew the human skull and cross-sections of the brain, transversal, sagittal, and frontal. He also studied internal organs, being the first to draw the human appendix and the lungs, mesentery, urinary tract, reproductive organs, the muscles of the cervix and a detailed cross-section of coitus. Da Vinci was one of the first to draw a scientific representation of the fetus in the intra-utero. He also correctly worked out how heart valves ebb the flow of blood.


Leonardo’s impressive studies in science and engineering have only been recognized in the last 150 years. For four centuries before that his fame rested on the masterpieces he created as a painter. Among the qualities that make Leonardo’s work unique are: his detailed knowledge of anatomy, light, botany and geology; his keen interest in capturing how humans register emotion in expression and gesture; his subtle gradation of tone and theinnovative techniques he used in laying on the paint. Da Vinci was not only one of the leading painters of his time but is also widely regarded as one of the greatest ever.


Between 1503 and 1507, Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa though he kept working on it till the end of his life and never delivered it to its commissioner. The Mona Lisa has been acclaimed as “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about and the most parodied work of art in the world”. Guinness World Records lists it as having the highest insurance value for a painting in history. It was assessed at US$100 million in 1962, which after adjusting inflation, would be around US$782 millionin 2016. Other famous works in art by Da Vinci include The Last Supper, the most reproduced religious painting of all time; and Vitruvian Man, one of the most reproduced artistic images in the world also appearing on Italian 1 Euro coins.

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