Monday, May 30, 2011

Top 20 Interesting Things about Leonardo Da Vinci

as determined by Cyn Gagen

20) Leonardo liked to wear pink to make his complexion look fresh.

19) He was a rebel. He didn't care for the way that art was taught in art schools and workshops, preferring instead going outside to actually observe nature and the world and drawing from that observation.

18) As well as being an artist, he worked as a military engineer.

17) He was considered a highly moral upstanding man. He was very religious as is reflected in many of his paintings.


16) He drew up the plans for the very first armoured car. He also invented the parachute, bicycle, and scissors among other things.

15) He was a vegetarian on humanitarian grounds (highly unusual in his time).

14) Leonardo snuck into graveyards at night to dig up bodies so that he could dissect them and study their anatomy for his art. He was also trying to locate the human soul within the body. To his credit, he did create the first realistic accurate drawings of human anatomy.

13) He liked to purchase caged birds so that he could set them free.


12) We have something in common. He was both a procrastinator and a perfectionist. He even destroyed many of his own paintings that were not turning out the way he wanted. This may be part of the explanation for having left fewer than 30 paintings behind.

11) It took him about 10 years just to paint the Mona Lisa's lips.

10) We think of Leonardo as a prolific painter, but really he left behind less than 30 paintings, some of which are unfinished.

9) No pieces of sculpture can be found that are attributed to da Vinci despite the fact that as an art apprentice to Verrocchio we know he did study sculpture. Most likely reason for this is that his work was unsigned.


8) Da Vinci and Michelangelo were not very fond of each other.

7) He never married nor did he ever have any children.

6) People often comment about his sketchbooks, saying they are messy because they are so jam-packed with sketches. This was because the good quality paper he used for his sketches was extremely expensive so he used up every square inch of it.

5) Leonardo was one of the first artists in Italy to use oil paints instead of egg temperas. I'll be talking about this in more depth on tonight's In the Zone with Roberta Birnbaum (Robi Cohen) and myself.


4) Da Vinci loved to experiment. He was always trying out new techniques and making new mixtures and materials. He came up with his own recipes for oil paints and when creating The Last Supper, he made up his own fresco technique using oil paints applied to a mixture of gesso, pitch, and mastic, instead of the usual technique of watercolours applied to wet plaster. Unfortunately, this experiment didn't fare too well as the Last Supper painting began to deteriorate very quickly, almost right from the time it was created.

3) He used mirror writing - right to left and backwards - in his notes to make them harder for others to read.

2) He was left-handed and dyslexic.

1) He was born out of wedlock. Had this not been the case, he may never have become an artist. Due to his station in life, art apprenticeship was one of the few professions open to him, whereas otherwise, he would have had a great many occupations available to pursue. What a loss it would have been if he had followed a different path!

Check out tonight’s In the Zone with Roberta Birnbaum and me to learn more about Da Vinci and the Renaissance! 9 pm Eastern

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