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Leonardo Da Vinci created some of the most important works of all time. The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are still revered portraits. However, the Renaissance master wasn’t just a painter. His studies on human anatomy were scarily accurate, while his military designs might make you believe he was a time-traveler. The artist also considered himself an inventor, and most of his ideas inspired things we use every day. His peers ignored most of his designs at the time, but now the world can't stop looking at his weird and wacky creations—most of which are more shocking than we once thought!
Da Vinci designed several drafts for an anemometer, a device that measures wind speed. He was inspired by Leon Batista’s sketches during his flight studies and added a few more details that made the instrument much more accurate. This design might be a beautiful creation, but not all of his pieces share the same level of perfection. One of his most prominent pieces was left incomplete.
The Mona Lisa is surprisingly one of Leonardo’s unfinished works. When the painter died in 1519, his assistant Salaì kept it. Some historians speculate that he was Da Vinci’s lover, but this was never confirmed. Furthermore, it’s said that he created Prado’s copy of the painting. Now that we know the painting was never finished, we can only wonder what would have been different? There is certainly a lot of mystery surrounding this artist—his next invention adds even more to the mix!
This was one of Leonardo’s hardest projects. It was commissioned in 1482 by the Duke of Milan, who wanted the biggest horse statue ever made. Naturally, the artist designed and made a 24-foot clay model. He only needed to cover it in bronze, but when King Charles invaded in 1494, the Duke gave him Da Vinci’s stock. The artist gave up on the statue and refused to speak of it again—the mystery surrounding this decision lives on to this very day.
Da Vinci designed several contraptions during his water studies, but his scuba gear was very unique. While living in Venice in 1500, he made a suit connected by tubes to a diving bell. The diver would be able to get air by opening the tubes. There was also a balloon on the mask that could deflate and inflate. This invention is easily seen as one of his oddest in appearance! It also has an uncanny resemblance to the character of Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean!
Da Vinci’s bridge is one of his odd military creations. It was commissioned in the 1480s by Duke Sforza so that soldiers could cross rivers effortlessly. It was also portable, which meant that the army could take it with them wherever they went. The bridge also featured wheels and a pulley system for easy deployment.
Scissors might not seem like the most amazing creation right now, but can you imagine the world without them? From regular kid’s scissors to industrial kinds, it’s an important tool that people use every day. However, the origin of scissors is still a debate. There is evidence of their existence that goes all the way back to ancient Egypt and Rome. But Da Vinci’s sketches have an improved design, which is closer to the modern version.
While Mona Lisa is a painting, it’s also one of the most amazing creations in the world. It has baffled people for centuries. Some see her smiling, and there are theories behind its secret grin. The portrait of Lisa Gherardini is among the most valuable in the world as well. Therefore, we just had to mention it on this list!
You have to study the human body to paint it properly. Da Vinci studied anatomy while apprenticing with Andrea del Verrocchio, who insisted on it with all his students. His sketch of the Vitruvian Man is one of his other marvelous creations. It’s the perfect male figure with measurements that elevated it from art to science.
This is another of Leonardo’s military inventions. It was essentially a reinforced car capable of moving in any direction. He drew the first drafts in 1485 for the Duke of Milan. The car also features cannons that can deploy from any direction, and it’s completely covered, much like a turtle’s shell.
One of Da Vinci’s biggest strategies when making warfare machines was intimidation. The giant crossbow was more than 27 yards long with six wheels for easier use. Additionally, the bow was made of wood to make it more aerodynamic. However, it was not designed to throw arrows but big stones or bombs.
Obviously, Leonardo did not invent the clock himself. However, he designed a more accurate version of it. His idea featured two separates instruments to count both hours and minutes. It worked by utilizing weights and gears. However, the big difference is that this one could also show moon phases.
This is another example of Da Vinci’s military inventions. He hoped to improve the power of regular cannons by creating this barreled carriage. It was easier to handle and was capable of firing several shots in quick succession. Additionally, its fan-like design made it much more effective in derailing incoming enemies.
This wasn’t exactly a car because it didn’t have any passengers in mind. It was originally designed for Renaissance festivals. The vehicle moved on its own thanks to two torsional springs connected to gears—those connected to the cart’s wheels. Da Vinci’s sketches of this invention are part of the Atlantic Code.
Also known as Leonardo’s robot, this is another innovation by the artist that uses pulleys, gears, and weights. Unfortunately, the full sketch of his robot has never been found, only fragments of his plans that lay over his notebooks remain. But historians know that it was originally made for an event in Milan.
Leonardo also came up with the perfect city using his artistry, engineering, and innovative mind. The idea came after an incident that ruined Milan, and Da Vinci wanted to create a town with better communication and sanitation to stop it from happening again. His plans included a sewage system through canals, bigger roads, and better vent systems for buildings.
Also known as the 33-barreled organ, this musical instrument was developed from his designs of barreled guns. It uses friction to create vibrations on each string, similar to a viola, but only when each key is pressed like an organ. Sadly, it was never built during his lifetime. In 2012, Polish pianist and constructor Sławomir Zubrzycki constructed the first one and played it in Croatia in 2017.
The official inventor of the parachute is Sebastien Lenormand in 1783. But Da Vinci came first. The big difference is that the artist’s version has a triangular design like a tent, unlike modern versions which have a round canopy. Additionally, the design consisted of linen with a wooden frame, and many questioned whether it would actually work.
The aerial screw is considered one of the earliest versions of the helicopter, an invention from the 1940s. As its name suggests, it has a spinning “wing” wrapped around an axis. It was also a four-man-powered machine, as it required four people pedaling the cranks quickly to make it fly.
Also known as the flying machine, this invention would predate the airplane for hundreds of years. The artist was inspired by the wings of a bird and created a machine with a 33-feet wingspan so that man could fly too. The frame was made of pine with silk to be light but durable. The pilot would have to spin a crank to make the wing system move.
Da Vinci created many contraptions in his studies of water. In fact, Florentine government records called him “Master of Water.” He believed that while humans couldn’t control water, they could utilize it. He wanted to take advantage of canals during wartime and also designed a hydraulic saw.
Among his sketches, historians found drafts of a mechanical lion commissioned by Pope Leo X to give to King Francois I. Unfortunately, it was never constructed until modern times. In 2019, the Italian Cultural Institute of Paris displayed a reconstruction of the piece in honor of the 500th anniversary of his death. Some strange events shaped this artist and certainly added to his mystery!
The artist was born in 1452 near Tuscany. His father was Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci. Meanwhile, his mother, Caterina, was a peasant, but some historians think she actually worked for Piero. Naturally, they were not married, and Leonardo’s father actually had an official wife.
Many other Renaissance artists were highly educated, but Da Vinci did not go to school. He studied math, reading, and writing at home. However, the artist preferred to be outside and observe nature. Luckily, Leonardo was sent to Florence in his teens to become an apprentice under Andrea Del Verrocchio.
You might find it hard to believe, but most of Da Vinci’s works remained unfinished. One of them is The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, which is in the Louvre in Paris. The painting of St. Jerome in the Wilderness at the Vatican Museum and The Adoration of the Magi at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence was never completed either.
His era was difficult. Anyone who thought differently or wanted to create new things was a source of trouble for any monarchy. Interestingly, Leonardo got in trouble with the law when he was 24. The charges were dropped eventually, but he was scared. Therefore, Da Vinci left Florence for Milan.
Da Vinci was no fool, and he became close to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. As mentioned earlier, the Duke commissioned Colossus. Although he never completed it, the artist created his many war machines for the House of Sforza. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that they were actually built at all.
While everyone knows him as Leonardo Da Vinci, that’s not really his name at all. His real name was Lionardo di ser Piero da Vinci, which translates to “Leonardo of Piero from Vinci.” People had no last names back then. They were known as the son of someone. His peers knew him as Leonardo or “Il Florentine.”
As mentioned earlier, Leonardo was also a musician. He wrote that music was directly related to his artistry in his journals. Da Vinci was proficient in lyre and flute. Furthermore, he would often perform for his patrons, and some of his notebooks also had compositions.
In 1977, a Pennsylvanian man, Charles Dent, created a non-profit organization to revive the Colossus project. He spent 17 years trying to make it happen but died in 1994. Luckily, in 1999, they completed the horse, which was sent to Milan as a gift—it is a magnificent piece!
As mentioned, most of his works were unfinished. One of the reasons is that Leonardo has so many interests that he couldn’t focus on one thing long enough. Furthermore, historians believe that he suffered a stroke that left his right hand immobile, and he couldn’t keep painting.
Looking at all of his inventions, it’s easy to see how they influenced many contemporary contraptions. His scientific studies have also been vital in modern times. However, none of his findings were actually deemed important among his peers back then. But the master didn’t care to publish them either. In fact, his manuscripts, also called codices, became public centuries later.
The artist left Italy in 1515 when King Francis I gave him the title of Premier Painter and Engineer and Architect to the King. Da Vinci lived in a manor near the King’s castle and lived peacefully for the rest of his life. He passed away in 1519 at the age of 67. His body was buried in a church that was destroyed during the French Revolution.
His manuscripts were written in mirror script. People can only read it by holding pages up to a mirror. While you might think that Da Vinci wanted his keep his ideas a secret with this method, the truth is that he did it for practical reasons. Leonardo was left-handed, and writing from left to right would often blotch the ink. Therefore, he started writing from right to left.
The Last Supper was one of his most important works, but it barely survived when France invaded Milan in 1499. King Louis XII wanted to take it down from the wall of Milan’s Convent of Santa Maria Delle Grazie and bring it back home. In 1796, French troops threw rocks at it. In 1943, soldiers bombed the area around the church, although they had reinforced the wall hoping it wouldn’t be damaged. Luckily, it made it!
Da Vinci often wrote about his love for nature and animals. So, he was an animal rights frontrunner centuries before it became a thing. Furthermore, it’s believed that the artist did not eat meat and would often buy birds to set them free. What a visionary!
Have you ever bought a paint-by-numbers kit? It’s hard to imagine that a Renaissance artist inspired this way of painting. The owner of the company, Dan Robbins, explained that he had read that Da Vinci would teach his students how to paint by placing numbers in the canvases. However, historians still debate whether that was the case.
Michelangelo was another major artist of the Renaissance, and historical records have often stated that they were rivals. Apparently, the Sistine Chapel artist would make fun of Leonardo for not finishing his art, particularly Colossus. Additionally, Da Vinci would say that Michelangelo exaggerated his sculptures’ muscles.
Major artists like Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Matisse, and others left several self-portraits for the world. However, Leonardo only made one: Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk. He was around 60 years old at the time, and it’s possible that Da Vinci never completed it.
The Codex Leicester was made between 1506 and 1510 while Da Vinci lived in Florence and Milan. The manuscript went on auction at Christie’s in 1994, and billionaire Bill Gates bought it for a whopping $30.8 million. This journal contains his observations of the sky and even a sketch of what appears to be a submarine.
Although the artist created some of the most revered paintings of all time, he did not paint that much. There are only 17 surviving portraits by Leonardo Da Vinci. This is also due to his tendency to procrastinate. Like The Battle of Anghiari, some of his works remained only as sketches and are known only by other artists’ copies of them.
As mentioned earlier, Leonardo was sent to become an apprentice under Andrea del Verrocchio when he was 15. He learned how to paint, sculpt, and the basic concepts of engineering. Furthermore, Da Vinci started learning about chemistry, metalwork, among many more subjects. The artist also worked with Antonio Pollaiuolo and got accepted into Florence’s painter’s guild at 20 years old.
While Da Vinci did all kinds of artistry and sculpting throughout his life, he considered himself an inventor. He focused on military machines for the Sforza family. But art and science were not two different practices for the artist. Leonardo did not differentiate between them.
Due to his studies of waters, Leonardo determined that the timeline in the Bible was wrong. He posited that there was not enough time for geological formations on Earth and that many of its suppositions could thus not have happened. Therefore, the planet was much older than what the Bible said. Isn't that just remarkable?
Among his many observations, there were studies of light, unlike others before him. He wanted to dissect the properties of it and discover why the sky was blue. One of his journals states that the color comes from the particles of moisture in the atmosphere reflected by the sun’s light. That’s remarkably close to the truth!
They are not lying when they tell you that Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius. It’s almost like he was a time-traveler. Let us know which one of his inventions best resembles their modern counterpart. If you liked this article, share it with your friends who also love the Renaissance period!