Leonardo da Vinci was a great example of Renaissance genius, who possessed one of the greatest minds of all time. As a painter, he produced such masterpieces as the Virgin of the Rocks (1483), the Last Supper (1495-97), and Mona Lisa (1503-06). As an architect, Leonardo worked on the cathedral of Milan and the restoration of the cathedral at Piacenza. As an engineer and scientist he investigated problems in geology, botany, hydraulics, mechanics, aerodynamics, and anatomy.
Leonardo was born in 1452 in Vinci, the illegitimate son of Master Piero, a public notary, and his companion Caterina. At the age of seventeen, Leonardo moved with his father to Florence, where Leonardo apprenticed to Verrocchio. In Florence his brilliance soon exceeded that of his master. In 1472 Leonardo became a member of the painter's guild of Florence. In 1476 he was denounced by the Night Watch, but was acquitted of the charge of immoral conduct.
One of his most popular early works, The Adoration of the Magi was painted in 1481 for the Monastery of San Donato a Scopeto as an altarpiece. It was never finished due to his departure for Milan, where he offered his services to Duke Ludovico il Moro. He worked on the Duomo in Milan and the Duomo and Castle in Pavia and painted the Madonna of the Rocks and the Last Supper at this time. He also set up festivals for the Duke and claimed to be an expert in military engineering and arms.
In 1499 Ludovico il Moro fled Milan ahead of invading French troops. The Gascon bowmen of Louis XII used Leonardo's model for the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza for target practice. Soon afterwards, Leonardo left Milan in spite of the evident good will of the French authorities.
During the next few years, Leonardo...