Leonardo Da Vinci Painting



This is a research paper about the famous painter Leonardo Da Vinci. It purposes to figure out how he came up with his artistic ideas, how important he thought his paintings were and how his techniques compared to other artists. Da Vinci was an Italian artist in the fifteenth and sixteenth century who is thought  be one of the most talented and influential artists of all time. He is regarded as the ‘Renaissance Man’ or the ‘Universal Genius’ according to many historians and scholars. As an artist, Leonardo was full of curiosity and an imagination that was out of this world. This essay aims to find out how and what motivated him in his paintings and artworks and their meanings and how this creativity came about and what inspired him.

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Leonardo is famous for great works like The Mona Lisa, The last supper, Salvator Mundi, The Vitruvian Man and Lady with an Ermine. Each of his works were inspired by something different and different techniques were also used to come up with them. The source of information about his work for this research will come from a few references written by famous authors. Further, Da Vinci’s notebooks will be a great asset to this research paper as they contain his thoughts on the nature of his paintings. This goal of this paper is to honor Leonardo’s work of art by trying to understand what led him to become one of the most renowned artists for over eight centuries. His works have inspired so many upcoming artists and painters and still are.

Renaissance painters during the Quattrocento (1400)

Leonardo’s areas of interests were not only in painting but also invention, sculpting, architecture, science, math writing, just to name a few. However this research paper is only going to cover his achievements in painting. His fame mostly rested on his achievements as a painter His life as a painter jumpstarted by his teacher, renowned painter Andrea Del Verrocchio. His famous masterpieces are famous for a variety of qualities such as his techniques during painting, his understanding of light and anatomy. He was very interested in how humans express their feelings and the gestures they employ and how subtly he used different tones. These qualities all that included using human forms in figurative composition can all be witnessed in his famous works.

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Leonardo’s collaborated with his teacher on his first painting; Baptism of Christ. This painting has a formal arrangement just like the artist Fra Angelico in his two paintings. In the painting, the Virgin Mary is either sitting or kneeling and her eyes are averted to the direction of an angel. The angel has appeared to Mary on her left in which her face expresses that she has been interrupted while reading her book so she places a finger on the reading as a bookmark. Her hand is raised either to imply an element of surprise or astonishment due to the Angels sudden appearance. In this painting Young Leonardo seems to recognize humanity’s role in Gods reincarnation as he presents the earthly face of Mary. The angel on the left is attributed as Leonardo’s. He used oil paint which at the time was a new material used in painting. It was done using Tempera on wood. It was believed that Verrocchio ashamed after this painting because the sections Leonardo had worked on received more praise compared to where he had worked on. Yet he had been his teacher all along. He described Leonardo as a brilliant student who had a better understanding of paint compared to him and he vowed never to touch paint again.  Famous painters and critics also attributed the landscape of this painting to him. Modern artists find the use of color in the painting as inspirational and the use of texture as brilliant.

Renaissance painters on painting

The Mona Lisa is the best known, most written about and the most visited painting done by the Renaissance artist. It is a half body portrait of a woman. Its background is a backdrop suggesting distance, depth and space. The shapes of rivers and valleys behind her create an impression of rigorous curves of hair and her linen over her head. This effect was achieved through a fine shading technique known as sfumato. Leonardo’s vision in making this painting a record is brought about when he implies the cosmic link connecting humanity and nature. This is achieved through the overall harmony caused by the woman’s faint smile. The Mona Lisa influenced the artistic world greatly. It revolutionized portrait painting. His stature and his character as an overall artist and a free thinker spread around among his peers and other artists. Such drawings encouraged artists to paint more and they stimulated collectors to collect even more paintings.

The last Supper, which is also one of the world’s most recognizable paintings was worked on by Leonardo. It represents the scene of the last supper when Jesus was with his disciples’ right before he was betrayed. The painting shows how distressed, angered and shocked the disciples were after Jesus announced that one of them was going to betray Him. Da Vinci’s technique differed from use of frescos where pigments are mixed with wet plaster. Instead he made the painting using pigments under experiment and he directly applied them to the dry plaster wall. This painting has an incredible sense of artistic perspective. The angles of the walls are very acute causing a depth effect of the size of the room and the windows display the hills and the nature beyond. Leonardo’s love for symmetry is experienced in this painting. The layout of the painting is horizontal and the large table has been placed on the foreground with the human images behind it. It was designed with a series of markings at important points to highlight the architectural aspects of the composition and also how to place the human figures.

The Salvator Mundi was also one of Da Vinci’s greatest masterpieces. He drew this oil-based portrait of Jesus for King Louis XII of France. It depicts a half-length figure of Jesus Christ in Renaissance robes. On his left hand he is holding a crystal sphere and his right hand is raised to show benediction. This painting signals his role as the savior of the world. The most evident feature on this painting is the position of his right thumb. There is an evident sfumato effect on the face which was mostly achieved through the manipulation of paint using the heel of his hand. This was one of many techniques employed by the painter. Leonardo was also responsible for dissecting limbs of the deceased  in order to learn exactly how they looked like so that when he painted he who do it in the most lifelike manner. Another of Leonardo’s distinct style that was quite evident was how he drew the hair and the knots. He worked on pigments and walnut panels in almost all his works, something that was evidently a character of his pieces. By drawing this portrait it is thought that Leonardo was trying to impart a miraculous quality to Christ and his orb. Furthermore, Jesus face which is in soft focus seems to be distorted or damaged whereas his lifted hand is in sharp focus and clearer. This was a technique in depth of field or of shallow focus used by him severally. Elements at the front are clearly in sharper focus as compared to elements at the background.

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Interpretation of Vinci’s words on painting

Throughout his lifetime, Leonardo influenced comments from critics as well as major historians, a clear sign that his works influenced others. Right from his very own childhood, his teacher thought of him as a brilliant student especially after they did the Baptism of Christ. It was thought that Verrocchio who had painted the other characters in the painting was somewhat ashamed because the painting of the Angel on the left had received the most attention. Yet he was the teacher. He acclaimed saying that he did not deserve to touch colors again and that Leonardo’s understanding of colors was more superior to his.

On the Salvador Mundi, one of the world’s leading expert on Leonardo’s work said that the painting had a kind of presence characterized by Leonardo and that it contained a certain kind of strangeness that was associated with him. Martin Kemp further said that despite parody paintings of Salvador Mundi, none of those works had reached out into the ‘realms of philosophical and subtle speculation. Walter Isaacson who wrote Da Vinci’s biography criticized that he ought to have drawn the crystal ball better. He did not regard effects such as the refraction, inversion and magnification that would naturally occur while looking through the glass. However he explained that he felt that maybe if Leonardo had painted it more accurately, it would have been otherwise distracting so it was better that way. Further, an old Chairman of an auction hall commented that the painting was an extraordinary consensus by Leonardo and that it had been his most important auction sale in his life. The painting further manifested superiority as compared to other parody versions of the same yet they too, were very nice paintings.

Raphael Zollner was a painter who borrowed his creativity from the Mona Lisa. He thought that the Mona Lisa exerted most of the influence than any other painting Leonardo had done. It became the epitome of Renaissance portraits such that it wasn’t seen as the painting of a person anymore but the representation of an ideal. Early commentators also thought that the painting suppressed desires and hopes that could cause despair due to her vague and inexpressible facial expressions. Vasari and Andre Vellibien describe the painting as a representation of realism and naturalism. The Mona Lisa is the most parodied work of Da Vinci, many attempting to impart his techniques on their work. Vasari further comments that the work shines forth as a work of genius and over the years it has maintained its specialty. Another technique that was invented by Leonardo is the chiaroscuro. This is achieved by adding light and dark colors to cause contrast. However, not everyone finds the Mona Lisa a great deal. The Mona Lisa was a stepping stone to Da Vinci to try new things. The president of Friends of Mona Lisa, a group that collects artworks, says that he doesn’t like that painting at all because it doesn’t look real, further, it’s not as impressive to him.

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Patterns and description

Generally many people think that the impact of Da Vinci’s paintings was due to his unique style in painting. His work caused a unique effect on the viewers even creating a scientific patterns to his works. He was one of the few artists in the Renaissance era who had mastered the concept of depth and three dimension in a two dimension portrait. This is otherwise known as the concept of the vanishing point. A perfect example of how this was utilized was the painting of The Last Supper. He made use of perspective and symmetry to create impressions of people and things that directly caused a stir to the soul. The Mona Lisa is an ideal example that is thought to bring out different emotions and effects to viewers. Viewers comment about having intimate experiences while visiting her and others deem the masterpiece as unforgettable. Most of his works are thought to have impacted the world in that it has had an effect on the Worlds sensibilities.

Da Vinci also explained through his works that science and art ought to work side by side. This meant that science could motivate and teach innovative people how to improve in their art and also magnificent art could lead to scientific study. Another technique that helped him a great deal was his observation skills. He was very thorough on detail, be it his paintings or his scientific inventions. He never limited his scope and he thought wide and far. For the many artists who follow in his footsteps, there is a notable character of open mindedness from them. This is a necessary characteristic for a good artist given the revolution of art and major inventions today. Most of the drawings were in the form of knots basically foe velvet which produced Venetian velvet. The patterns were clear drawing that illustrated the 16th century velvets.

Throughout the whole research several sources were employed; Da Vinci’s notebooks, his biography by other authors, his paintings and other secondary sources. The importance of using all these different sources is to understand Da Vinci through different eyes. Different authors, commentators and critics have different views about his paintings and works, all describing what they thought of Da Vinci in general. All these descriptions assist the reader in understanding the painter’s personality and how and why he painted the way he did and the different effects of his works to the viewers. As much as personal opinion is important, this essay has relied fully on legitimate cited sources in order to acquaint the reader with a range of perspectives on the subject matter. The use of sources in this research has also been useful in order to come up with a viable conclusion about the topics and that the reader can be able to comprehend the ideas presented in the essay.

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The sources cited that have been used to come up with the essay utilize peer reviews online thus providing great credibility as secondary sources. Authors like Freud Sigmund and Leonardo Da Vinci himself have been of great help to this research from their writings. Freud Sigmund was a great neurologist in the twentieth century who did research on Da Vinci. These sources to some extent all credit Leonardo Da Vinci as one of the greatest investors and artists citing some of his most famous works. Moreover, his masterpiece paintings had an impact in the early painters who came after Da Vinci as well as the modern art world. The evidence of this argument has been thoroughly explained and in detail. The intended audience for Leonardo’s artistic work is mostly creative artists and individuals interested in history. This argument has cited all its sources as a secondary sources because of the evidence brought about to support the argument as well as providing a theoretical framework for the paper’s analysis. Appropriate Bibliography citations will be provided at the end of the essay.

Following the research, it is clear that Leonardo’s techniques in painting were unique and different compared to other artists making him one of the greatest artists to have lived. Many sources still insist that Leonardo was not a man to be easily understood and that he was very queer …..’While the man himself is mysterious and remote’. However through overwhelming evidence, this argument refutes this claim as he is seen as a man full of creativity and personality. His achievements and the value of his paintings are still a debate on whether he should take credit for some of them, others arguing that his works do not deserve the credit they get. The argument in the paper clearly states how his discoveries and his works changed the world and its views. All these were achieved due to his curiosity, his questions, his hypothesizes, his dreams and conquering his fears. He sketches his discoveries before he made a drawing, rather than writing about them as done by other artists in the sixteenth century. This by itself supports the argument that his techniques were quite different and more risky compared to other artists.


Leonardo’s involvement in the art world has provided an insight into the culture that was present during the Renaissance. Modern artists try to incorporate today’s artistic skills with that of Leonardo into their paintings, leading to more revolutionized pieces of art. When he was painting the last supper, he deviated from the norm of using wet paint and decided to try his own new technique of applying dry pigments. Although the painting is said to have failed terribly, it was and still is a masterpiece. It teaches other artists not to fear. Art is not about fear, it’s about concurring the undone regardless of the results. Many of Leonardo’s works of art are still in his notebooks untouched but researchers are still studying his works up-to-date. In conclusion, this essay reviews Da Vinci as one of the most brilliant minds in history. During his era, among other great minds, his art was mistakably misunderstood or not understood at all because it was too advanced for that age and time. However, over a period of time open minded analysts reviewed his works and finally found the genius in his paintings.

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Did you like this sample?
  1. Da Vinci, Leonardo. Leonardo’s notebooks: Writing and art of the great master. Black Dog &  Leventhal, 2013.
  2. Da Vinci, Leonardo. The notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Vol. 1. Courier Corporation, 2012.
  3. Eissler, Kurt Robert. Leonardo da Vinci: Psychoanalytic notes on the enigma. Vol. 58. Intl  Universities Pr Inc, 2011.
  4. Farago, Claire J. Leonardo da Vinci’s Paragone: a critical interpretation with a new edition of the text in the Codex Urbinas. Leiden, Netherlands; New York: EJ Brill, 2012.
  5. Freud, Sigmund. Leonardo da Vinci. Routledge, 2013.
  6. Gelb, Michael J. How to think like Leonardo da Vinci: Seven steps to genius every day. Dell, 2009.
  7. Pedretti, Carlo. “Leonardo da Vinci on painting: a lost book.” (2016).
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