Why did Leonardo da Vinci paint?

+94 votes
asked Jul 19, 2018 in Culture & Society by EugenioManso (370 points)
edited Sep 24, 2018 by Morgenstern
Leonardo da Vinci is among the crème de la crème of the greatest artists humanity has ever seen. But, as is known to many, da Vinci also belonged to the rare breed of true polymaths. A renaissance man as Leonardo da Vinci was, why did he choose to paint rather than to further explore his many other fortes like engineering or architecture?

2 Answers

+25 votes
answered Aug 14 by MonteM72989 (370 points)
edited Aug 14
Well, you have to know that Leonardo da Vinci was born illegitimate: his father, a wealthy and notable government official in Medici-ruled Florence, had a tryst with a peasant girl, who became Leonardo’s biological mother. Because of his status, Leonardo had no hope to serve the Medici administration as his father did. And he didn’t have a chance to receive university education, either, which meant, among other things, that he could hardly read Latin, in which most scholarly literature at that time was written.

In helping him choose his profession, Leonardo’s father reasoned that since he had showed a precocious and clear talent for drawing, he might well have a future there. So at the age of 14, Leonardo da Vinci was sent to the workshop of a famous artist in Florence. And that’s how he started his career in art.

Hope I have answered your question of why did Leonardo da Vinci paint.
+3 votes
answered Jan 7 by RichelleBale (220 points)
edited Aug 3
Truly, Leonardo da Vinci was the epitome of renaissance. Indeed, he was not just A renaissance man, he was the ARCHTYPE of all renaissance men. But nevertheless, given the social and political context of his time, it’s not really hard to understand why we haven’t seen him showcasing his multifaceted geniuses.

Most evidences of his plethora of talents came up posthumously, because he never got the opportunities to fully realize many of his innovative designs and ideas during his lifetime. I believe he considered himself more as a scientist or inventor or, after all, a polymath than just a painter or sculptor, as could be seen in his letter to the then ruler of Milan, Duke Ludovico Sforza, in which he proposed himself as a military engineer, a civil engineer, an architect and, only lastly, an artist. It’s interesting that Ludovico only hired da Vinci as a military engineer upon seeing one of his artworks. However, it was not long before Ludovico fled Milan when the French invaded.

Things like that happened many times in Leonardo da Vinci’s life. And even when he served formally as an engineer for a certain administration, he rarely got the relevant assignments. Most of the time, he was doing his commissions as an artist. Throughout his life, his major source of income was still his artworks as he remained supported by his various patrons. That’s just how it was for an artist at his time, even though he was not just an artist.
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