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Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci actually translates to Leonardo, son of (Mes)ser Piero from Vinci.
Interestingly, the use of surnames was not common in Italy until the 15th century. As such, people were often identified by landmarks or their father’s name. So, Leonardo was identified through his hometown as well as the son of a Florentine notary, Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci.
Not much is actually known about his early life, though it is know that he was the illegitimate child Messer Piero and Caterina, a peasant who may have been a slave from the Middle East.
What is known is that he was an Italian artist, architect, scientist, and inventor who lived during the Renaissance period – from 1452 to 1519. He is generally thought to be one of the most talented and diversely skilled individuals in history. Leonardo made contributions to a wide range of fields that made him a legendary figure.
Despite a number of inventions and scientific studies, he is best known for his paintings. He is often cited as a prime example of the “Renaissance man” – a person who is well-versed in a wide range of fields.
In this article, we highlight 12 of his most famous paintings.
Let’s dive in!
1. Mona Lisa
The Mona Lisa is currently housed at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. In fact, it has been there for over 200 years since 1797.
The painting depicts a woman sitting with an enigmatic smile on her face, and is believed to be a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. The exact meaning and significance of the painting is a subject of much debate and speculation. Many theories have been proposed to explain the enigmatic smile and the hidden symbols in the painting. Some art historians believe that the Mona Lisa is a representation of the ideal woman, while others have suggested that it is a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci in disguise. Ultimately, the true meaning of the Mona Lisa remains a mystery.
It is believed to have been completed between 1503 and 1519.
2. The Last Supper
The Last Supper is one of the most famous paintings in the world easily recognized by many. It is currently housed at the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy. It is actually quite impressive that this piece still exists. Despite a number of obstacles over time, the painting still hangs.
The Last Supper depicts the moment in the Gospel of John when Jesus announces that one of his disciples will betray him. The painting shows Jesus and his disciples seated at a table, with Jesus making the announcement as he holds up a piece of bread. The Last Supper is an important religious work, as it portrays the moment when Jesus foretells his own betrayal and death. The painting is also notable for its artistic merit, as Leonardo da Vinci used innovative techniques to create a sense of depth and perspective in the scene.
The painting was completed sometime between 1495 and 1497.
3. Salvator Mundi
The painting is currently owned by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The piece was actually rediscovered in 2005 and later sold at auction in 2017 for a record-breaking price of $450.3 million, making it the most expensive painting ever sold. Some experts have questioned the attribution to Leonardo da Vinci and the authenticity of the painting. Others believe Leonardo was at least involved in the creation of the painting.
The Salvator Mundi is a painting of Jesus Christ with 2 fingers extended as if giving a benediction. In his left hand, he holds a crystal orb, perhaps signifying his position as master of the universe.
The painting is believed to have been completed in 1500.
4. The Vitruvian Man
The Vitruvian Man is one of Leonardo’s most famous drawings, and is currently housed at the Gallerie dell’Accademia in Venice, Italy.
The drawing depicts a naked man standing in two different poses within a circle and a square. The drawing is based on the ideas of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius, who wrote that a human body can be inscribed within a circle and a square, with the man’s navel at the center of the circle and his feet touching the corners of the square. The Vitruvian Man is considered to be a representation of the ideal human proportions, and is often cited as an example of Leonardo da Vinci’s interest in anatomy and the human form. The drawing is also notable for its artistic merit, as Leonardo used careful shading and precise lines to create a sense of movement and depth.
The drawing is considered to have been created in 1490.
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5. Lady With An Ermine
This piece is currently housed in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, Poland, though the painting has certainly moved around. It was purchased by Prince Czartoryski in 1798 for his mother. The painting was brought back to Poland where his mother altered the painting as she did not like the color of the background.
Lady with an Ermine is a painting that depicts Cecilia Gallerani, the mistress of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. The painting is known for its intricate details and the delicate way in which Leonardo captured the ermine, a type of stoat, in Cecilia’s arms. It is considered to be one of Leonardo’s finest portraits and is one of only a handful of his paintings that feature a single subject.
It is believed to have been painted between 1489 and 1490.
6. Virgin Of The Rocks
The Virgin of the Rocks is the name of two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, both of which depict the Virgin Mary, the infant Jesus, and an angel. The paintings are known for their striking compositions and the subtle expressions on the faces of the figures. The original version of the painting is housed in the Louvre in Paris, while a later version is in the National Gallery in London. Both versions were commissioned by the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception, a religious organization in Milan.
The paintings are thought to have been completed around 1483-1486.
7. Portrait Of Ginevra Benci
The Portrait of Ginevra Benci is believed to have been completed in the 1470s. It is one of the few surviving paintings by Leonardo from this period, and is the only portrait he is known to have created of a woman from this time.
The portrait is believed to depict Ginevra de’ Benci, a member of the Benci family of Florence and a poet in her own right. The portrait is currently held by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
8. The Virgin And Child With Saint Anne
The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne is actually an unfinished piece. Many believe it was never finished due to a growing interest in mathematics. The painting currently resides in the Louvre in Paris, France.
Showing Saint Anne with her child Mary and the Christ child, this painting depicts Christ gripping a sacrificial lamb while his mother reaches for him. This was a theme that Leonardo often toyed with as he has a few other pieces with the same idea.
Leonardo da Vinci created this piece in 1515.
9. Saint John The Baptist
This painting currently hangs in the Louvre in Paris, France.
Saint John the Baptist is a popular subject in Christian art, and there are many paintings that depict him. John the Baptist was a Jewish preacher who was known for his preaching of repentance and baptism of Jesus. He is often depicted in art as a young man wearing a simple robe and holding a staff or a lamb, which represents his role as a forerunner of Jesus. In some paintings, he is shown baptizing Jesus in the River Jordan. Saint John the Baptist is considered a saint by the Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican churches, among others.
This painting was likely completed between 1513 and 1516.
The Annunciation is one of Leonardo’s earlier works and is currently located in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.
The Annunciation is a famous event in the Christian Bible, in which the Archangel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary to announce that she will bear the son of God, Jesus Christ. This event is often depicted in art. In fact, paintings of the Annunciation are a popular subject in Christian iconography. In these paintings, the Virgin Mary is typically shown as a young woman, kneeling or standing, with the Archangel Gabriel appearing before her. The Annunciation is considered one of the most important moments in the story of Jesus Christ, and it is often seen as a symbol of the incarnation of God.
This work of art is thought to have been completed between 1472 and 1475.
11. Portrait Of A Man In Red Chalk
This piece is currently held at the Royal Library in Turin Italy. Due to its delicate and fragile nature, it is not readily available for viewing by the general public.
The “Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk” is actually believed to be a self-portrait of da Vinci. As the title suggests, the drawing is made with red chalk on paper. It shows da Vinci in three-quarter profile, with his head turned slightly to the right. The portrait is notable for its delicate lines and subtle shading, which give it a sense of movement and liveliness.
Leonardo is credited with creating this piece in 1512.
12. Benois Madonna
The Benois Madonna is currently held in the collection of the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia.
The painting is a Madonna and Child portrait, which depicts the Virgin Mary holding the infant Jesus. The painting is known for its delicate lines and subtle shading, which give it a sense of movement and liveliness. The Benois Madonna is considered one of da Vinci’s most important Madonna and Child paintings, and it is a key work in the development of his artistic style.
It is believed to have been painted sometime between 1478 and 1480.
The world loves Leonardo da Vinci for his incredible talent and his ability to excel in so many different fields. His paintings, such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, are considered to be some of the greatest works of art in history. But he wasn’t just an artist!
His inventions and scientific studies have had a lasting impact on the world. Additionally, Leonardo’s passion for knowledge and his curious, inquisitive nature have inspired many people over the years, and continue to make him a beloved figure.
These 12 works of art demonstrate a variety of styles and themes present throughout the life of Leonardo. Each one of these pieces has an interesting history, especially as they have lasted over 500 years through wars, natural disasters, and transferring owners.
If you want to learn more about artwork as an investment, be sure to check out our complete artwork investing guide.