Fun Facts About Leonardo da Vinci

When learning facts about Leonardo da Vinci, it's easy to focus on his renown as a painter. With "Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper" as two of the most recognizable paintings of all time, da Vinci earned his place in history as a brilliant artist. However, a closer look at his life reveals that he was equally a genius inventor, engineer, architect, anatomist, scientist and philosopher. These facts are just a glimpse of his accomplishments and characteristics:

  • Leonardo da Vinci was born before modern naming styles emerged in Europe. What appears to be his surname, "da Vinci" actually just means "from Vinci."
  • Da Vinci was an illegitimate child of an Italian notary, and he was raised in his father's house. He eventually had 17 half-siblings between his parents, who had married other people.
  • The artistic talent he displayed at an early age is said to have driven his painting master, Andrea del Verrocchio, to throw down his brush and vow never to paint again.
  • Many of da Vinci's contemporaries wrote that he was an incredibly handsome man with great musical skills, both in playing instruments and singing.
  • Leonardo da Vinci was a strict vegetarian, and he would not even drink cow's milk, as he felt it was stealing from them.
  • He spent many years as a military engineer for Milan's Duke Ludovico Sforza, designing such progressive combat instruments as armored cars, fortresses, machine guns and parachutes.
  • Da Vinci wrote thousands of pages of notes on science, engineering and anatomy, as well as sketches for paintings and sculptures. There are more than 13,000 pages in museums and collections all over the world.
  • He was left-handed, and he wrote most of his notes backwards, which means they can only be read using a mirror.
  • Leonardo da Vinci made friends with Francis I, the king of France, in his later years, and he lived in a luxurious mansion near the royal palace. He completed many commissions from the king before he died in 1519 in France.
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