Leonardo da Vinci died 500 years ago at the age of 67. He was a universal genius driven by insatiable curiosity that led him to explore ideas in science, math, architecture, design, engineering, geology, cartography, sculpting, drawing and, of course, painting.
His mother was a local peasant named Caterina and his father was a wealthy notary. Leonardo was born out of wedlock, and both parents married other people after his birth, but he spent his childhood on his father’s estate, where he was educated and treated like a legitimate son.
The “Salvator Mundi.” Credit: Copyright 2011 Salvator Mundi LLC
Throughout his life, Leonardo, who never married, had several assistants who may also have been lovers — most prominently Gian Giacomo Caprotti, nicknamed Salaì, who went on to become an artist himself. It is believed that Salaì inherited the paintings Leonardo still owned at the time of his death: “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne,” “St. John the Baptist” and the “Mona Lisa,” which now all hang at the Louvre in Paris. The French museum has two more Leonardos — one of which is currently on loan to the Louvre Abu Dhabi — forming the largest collection in the world.
A detail of the “Mona Lisa.”
Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man
The uncertainty that surrounds so many aspects of Leonardo’s life and work has undoubtedly fueled the world’s fascination with the Renaissance master. Five hundred years on, it seems to be stronger than ever.