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11 Things You Might Not Know About Leonardo Da Vinci

Artists' Stories

11 Things You Might Not Know About Leonardo Da Vinci

You may think you know everything about the genius of Renaissance. But there are a few unknown facts about Leonardo da Vinci’s life that may surprise you. When da Vinci died in 1519, he left behind more than 6,000 journal pages filled with his personal musings, grocery lists and bawdy jokes, so we know quite a thing about his life. Here you will find our top 11 things you probably didn’t know about Leo + the gallery of his magnificent works!

1. He was an illegitimate child

Leonardo da Vinci, Presumed Self-portrait, c. 1512, Biblioteca Reale, Turin

Leonardo da Vinci, Presumed Self-portrait, c. 1512, Biblioteca Reale, Turin

Leonardo was the son of Caterina, a peasant, and Ser Piero, a lawyer and landlord. He lived with his mother until he was five, then he was taken by his father. He was homeschooled and lacked a formal education.

2. And his family situation was even more complex than that

Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with the Ermine), about 1488, Czartoryski Museum, Krakow. Cecilia is not connected to da Vinci's family, but it is a magnificent portrait!

Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with the Ermine), about 1488, Czartoryski Museum, Krakow. Cecilia is not connected to da Vinci’s family, but it is a magnificent portrait!


When Leonardo was sixteen, his father Piero married twenty-year-old Francesca Lanfredini who died without having any children. Piero’s legitimate heirs were born from his third wife Margherita di Guglielmo, who gave birth to six children, and his fourth and final wife, Lucrezia Cortigiani, who bore him another six children. In total Leonardo had twelve half-siblings who were much younger than him – the last one was born when Leonardo was forty years old.

3. He was the first one to answer why the sky is blue

Leonardo da Vinci, A deluge, c.1517-18 Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


Da Vinci was the first person that explained why the sky is blue. If you don’t know – it is because of the way that the air scatters light from the sun.

4. He was dyslexic and wrote mirror image scripts

Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruvian Man, c. 1490, Gallerie dell'Accademia, Venice

Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruvian Man, c. 1490, Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice

Leonardo was ambidextrous, paranoid dyslexic and could draw forward with one hand while writing backward with the other, producing a mirror-image script that others found difficult to read. As he loved secrets, it totally makes sense.

5. He was a great (sometimes dreamy, not always) designer

Leonardo da Vinci, Design For A Flying Machine, 1488, Bibliotheque de l'Institut de France, Paris

Leonardo da Vinci, Design For A Flying Machine, 1488, Bibliotheque de l’Institut de France, Paris


Leonardo designed an armored car, a scythed chariot, a pile driver, a revolving crane, a pulley, a lagoon dredge, a flying ship, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, and the double hull, also outlining a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics.

6. He loved word games

Royal Collection handout photo dated circa 1510 of page from Leonardo da Vinci's notebook

Royal Collection handout photo dated circa 1510 of page from Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook

Leo was a big fan of word puns and games. Folio 44 of his Codex Arundel contains a long list of playful synonyms for penis.

7. He loved music

Leonardo's music notes

Leonardo’s music notes


Leonardo, when first presented to the Milanese court, was a musician, not an artist or inventor. He played lyre and composed music by himself.

8. He was a vegetarian

Leonardo da Vinci, Cats, lions, and a dragon, 1513-1518, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Leonardo da Vinci, Cats, lions, and a dragon, 1513-1518, Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Da Vinci had an unparalleled love for animals. Not only did he never eat them, sometimes he also bought caged birds intended for slaughter and released them into the wild.

9. He might have preferred boys

Leonardo da Vinci, Saint John the Baptist, 1513-1516, Louvre, Paris

Leonardo da Vinci, Saint John the Baptist, 1513-1516, Louvre, Paris


When he was 24 years old, da Vinci and a few other male companions were arrested on charges of sodomy. The charges were dropped, but Leo was shaken by the event.

10. He had that thing for corpses

Leonardo da Vinci, The muscles of the shoulder, arm and neck, 1518, Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Leonardo da Vinci, The muscles of the shoulder, arm and neck, 1518, Royal Collection Trust / (C) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

One of da Vinci’s jobs was to dissect human corpses at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence. He used this experience to study the human form, and this experience pushed him to create over 200 pages of drawings.

11. He died in France

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Death Of Leonardo Da Vinci, 1818, Musée du Petit Palais, Paris

Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Death Of Leonardo Da Vinci, 1818, Musée du Petit Palais, Paris

Leonardo was 67 when he died in Amboise, France. There is a legend claiming that when the king Francis I found out about da Vinci’s state, he ran to Amboise and the artist died in his arms. But it is justa legend, of course.

Find out more:

     

Art Historian, huge fan of Giorgione and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Founder and CEO of DailyArtMagazine.com and DailyArt mobile app. But to be honest, her greatest accomplishment is being the owner of Pimpek the Cat.

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