HOT TOPIC: Leonardo da Vinci
Volume 3, Issue 30 - April 15, 2007

"It was the age of giants. Ivan III drove the Tartars out of the Russian nation and Christianized his people by driving them into the river. Suleiman the Magnificent dominated the Ottoman Empire adding Egypt to his rule. Columbus sailed to the west and Magellan circumnavigated the globe. Luther and Henry Tudor both broke from the Catholic Church. The Borgia’s and Medici’s ruled Italy and the arts flourished.

It was a rebirth of high culture; the Renaissance. In art and literature the west began to emerge from the Dark Ages through expression of human experience in song, painting, sculpture, storytelling, drama and dance. Patrons supported artists so that they could hone their craft, and in return works of great significance were created. The result was a golden age of creativity, learning and achievement.

Against this backdrop, Leonardo di ser Piero was born in the village of Vinci, Italy on April 15, 1452. Born out of wedlock, he was never given a last name in the formal sense. Apprenticed to Verrocchio, one of the most productive artists of the time, Leonardo learned his craft as well as the art of mingling in high society. He lived in the great art centers of the time, Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice, and he was commissioned by the most powerful and influential patrons of the age.

More than just an artist, Leonardo was a scientist and a visionary who sketched and devised inventions that would become reality centuries after his death. With the age of reason yet to unfold, studying the natural world and thinking independently were dangerous pursuits. But da Vinci was driven to learn, think and create. From art and architecture to human biology and medicine, from painting and sculpting to flying machines, da Vinci was the prototype for the notion of a “Renaissance man.”

Today on the 555th anniversary of his birth, I invite you to take the opportunity to immerse your students in the genius of this unique character from human history. His ability to both intrigue and inspire us today as art and technology continue to influence human existence is profound. Few other figures in history have had such significant impact on civilization without the use of political, military or monetary advantage. At his funeral, his casket was trailed by sixty beggars, at Leonardo’s request. Perhaps his greatest legacy of all was his example of humility."

©2007 Walter McKenzie

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