Leonardo da Vinci Most Famous Paintings
Leonardo da Vinci: The Renaissance Man
Who is Leonardo da Vinci?
Leonardo da Vinci was known and widely admired for his painting of the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. He assumed many roles, as his genius, talents, and interests opened pathways for accomplishment, as a painter, a portraitist, an architect, engineer, an inventor, a philosopher, a geologist, among other things.
The Renaissance era was a period of changing social and cultural values and ideas, of experimentation in the arts.
Renaissance painters were moving from the flat space of medieval art and painted more realistic, receding landscapes. With the revival of Greek classicism, painters moved from medieval icons to produce portraiture and figure compositions, using realism and naturalism in the portrayal of figures and perspective in landscape painting.
While apprenticeship produced craftsmen in medieval times, in his time, apprenticeship developed one into an artist on his own. bearing, So it was with Leonardo da Vinci, who grew in stature above his master Verrochio, as Leonardo da Vinci's famous paintings used linear and aerial perspective, integrated light and shadow, showed his masterly understanding of the human anatomy. Amid the prevailing revival of classicism, da Vinci blended humanism with the symbols of religious icons.
He painted with oil, which replaced the quickly drying tempera as the main technique for painting in 15th, 16th c; the artist could render portraiture more realistically and he could change gestures, composition. He is known for his sfumato style, with its smooth color transition which imbued his portraiture with a soft, gentle appeal. He developed an aerial perspective, giving depth to landscapes in painting.
His contributions were pivotal to the culmination of the Renaissance style which came to be known as the High Renaissance. Leonardo da Vinci gave no limits to the development of his full human potential. He combined science and the arts. He applied his studies of human anatomy in his art. His notebooks have studies of a flying machine, drawn from his studies of the flight of birds and the principles of physics.
His notebooks also have numerous sketches of the anatomy of figures for religious and mythical scenes, which figured in Leonardo da Vinci's famous paintings. Leonardo da Vinci lived the life of a true Renaissance Man.
Here are 20 of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings:
- Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci
- Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci
- Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci
- Madonna Litta by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio and Leonardo da Vinci
- St John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci
- Mary Magdalene by Leonardo da Vinci
- Study for the head of Leda by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Leonardo da Vinci
- Madonna of the Carnation by Leonardo da Vinci
- Madonna of the Yarnwinder by Leonardo da Vinci
- Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci
- Bacchus by Leonardo da Vinci
- Head of a Woman by Leonardo da Vinci
- La Belle Ferronniere by Leonardo da Vinci
- Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci
- La Bella Principessa by Leonardo da Vinci
- Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci Artworks
Mona Lisa is prominent among Leonardo da Vinci's famous paintings. Her enigmatic facial expression, her smile, has given this work the appeal that gave it fame. Leonardo models her features softy.
The painting is done with oil paint on wood. Mona Lisa wears Florentine clothes which are the fashion of her day. At the backdrop is a mountainous landscape where da Vinci uses his sfumato technique as he gives it heavy shading. The sitter is Lisa Gerardhini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo.
The sfumato technique of da Vinci is infused into the curves of Mona Lisa's hair and clothing; this is further applied to the valleys and rivers in the backdrop. There is a dramatic interplay of light and dark in the composition backdrop. The painting is one of the first works of da Vinci, where an imaginary landscape recedes into the distance. This is also one of the early instances where he used aerial perspective to achieve this.
The theme of this painting by Leonardo is Christ's Last Supper with His apostles, which is narrated in the four Gospels of the New Testament. It paints the exact moment when Christ reveals to His apostles who are seated around the table, that one disciple among them will betray Him, before sunrise.
Christ has also given instructions on how they are to eat and drink in remembrance of Him, as a ritual in the future, after His death. The different reactions of anger and shock are vividly portrayed by Leonardo da Vinci. The most striking feature of this painting is how Leonardo places the vanishing point of the perspective in the Last Supper, where the vanishing point is behind the right temple of Christ.
This points exactly to the location of the center of the composition. The Last Supper also shows the love of the symmetry of Leonardo. He uses a horizontal layout here. The supper table is put in the foreground of the image of Christ. All the apostles are behind, with the same number of figures on each side of Christ. This shows the symmetrical composition of da Vinci.
Further, the perspective that da Vinci used highlights the positions of the figures and the architectural features in the composition. It is no wonder that this painting figures prominently among Leonardo da Vinci's famous paintings. In this work, a large scale wall painting, Leonardo as an artist had no prior experience in mural painting.
Experimental pigments were applied on the dry plaster wall. The usual technique with frescoes was that pigments were mixed on wet plaster. Hence, problems cropped up such as paint flaking off the wall. Today, the current masterpiece that remains has little of the original version.
This painting is the first painting by the twenty-year-old Leonardo da Vinci. Its composition is traditional in the portrayal of the figures, with the angel kneeling on the left and Mary seated at the right. A lectern is between them.
The scene is in an architectural setting with a landscape in the background. The composition resembles the medieval iconographic presentations of the Annunciation. The sfumato technique of da Vinci, his dramatic interplay of light and dark, his aerial perspective are not evident.
Hence, these painterly techniques are still in their developmental phase in the artistic palette of Leonardo da Vinci as an innovator. The painting is nevertheless regarded as the achievement of a master. It is considered as a showcase of the pictorial talent of Leonardo da Vinci and therefore is a forerunner of Leonardo da Vinci''s famous paintings.
It has been described as poetic and stylistic in the rendition of the figures, the spatial composition, the painting of trees, and the course of the water in the distance, which shows the artist's love of nature.
Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci
Art scholars believe this is the self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci. The artist used red chalk and scholars suggest that Leonardo did it when he lived in France and that he was 50 years old then. It is described as an enigmatic self-portrait And the features are those of a much older man.
This was the portrait traditionally ascribed to philosophers, learned men, prophets. This was how Leonardo envisioned himself.
The traditional portrayal of these men was that of an old venerable man with a long beard, in serious thought, eyes under thick brows. This image of himself can be linked to his belief that in his studies, he has been able to study and understand how the laws of the universe operate, and also that the painter has to deal with nature, and ultimately that painting is somehow related to God.
1892: Leonardo da Vinci moved to Milan from Florence. This was the period of High Renaissance (1490-1530) Harmony and balance characterize the paintings of this period; the peak of the exploratory efforts of the 14th century - meet the standard set by Leon Battista Alberti in his treatise: "complete harmony of parts, nothing can be added or taken away without destroying the whole".
The painting depicts Mary with her hands stretching out to the child Jesus, who embraces a lamb. The young John the Baptist has a goldfinch in his hand, which is a symbol of the passion of Christ.
They are set in a rocky landscape with green vegetation and a few structures in the far distance.
The motif of the outstretched hands of Mary is also seen in da Vinci's compositions and scholars who studied this recurring motif, place its use in the early 1480s. They concluded that Leonardo developed this motif, to prepare for his composition of The Virgin of the Rocks.
There are two paintings of the Virgin of the Rocks. The earlier work, which is displayed at the Louvre is painted in the style of the High Renaissance, which marks the peak of painterly explorations of the 14th century. That is, complete harmony and balance characterize the artwork.
The Virgin Mother and the Christ Child are shown with the young John the Baptist. Mary has her arm on the infant John the Baptist and her hand over the Christ Child. Jesus blesses John who is in a gesture of prayer toward Jesus. An angel sits with them and points to the child John.
They are in a rocky setting, a mystical landscape with rocky formations and a river and thick floral growth, rendered in soft detailed accuracy. The sfumato style, which is identified as da Vinci's style in color transition is evident here. While the setting is untouched by human presence, the figures of Mary, the two children, and the angel, blend in harmony with the setting.
John the Baptist was a frequent subject in the art of Florence because he is the patron saint of the city. Painters often depicted scenes where Mary is with the young Jesus who is adored by the young John the Baptist.
Madonna Litta by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio and Leonardo da Vinci
The painting is said to have been completed by a pupil of Leonardo. Here, an idealized portrait of Mary is painted, with all elements blending in harmony, It depicts Mary breastfeeding the baby Jesus, who holds a goldfinch, a symbol of the Passion.
Light focuses on the two figures who are in a dark interior with two arches, similar to the interior wall in the painting of the Madonna of the Carnation. Aerial perspective stretches the mountain landscape into the distance.
This painting is considered as the artwork by da Vinci where his sfumato style reaches its peak, in color rendition. The surrounding shadows lend a soft tone to the body of John the Baptist.
Leonardo da Vinci also uses the chiaroscuro effect, as he places the lighted figure of John the Baptist within the dark shadows of the background. Da Vinci veers away from the stereotype portrayal of John the Baptist as an ascetic. Here, John the Baptist smiles in the same enigmatic smile of Mona Lisa; he wears fur, holds a red cross with one hand, and points upward with the other.
Mary Magdalene by Leonardo da Vinci
It is painted with oil on canvas. The painting is that of a woman, who is half-covered.
The upper part of her chest is uncovered, so that her breasts are seen and an immoral impression is given, like that of a prostitute. The virtuous woman of these days are shown in fully covered and decent garb. This portrait of Mary Magdalene depicts the controversial interpretation of Leonardo as an artist.
Study for the head of Leda by Leonardo da Vinci
This is a study done for a painting of Leda and the Swan, which is now lost. The Greek myth tells the story of the Queen of Sparta, Leda. She is seduced by Jupiter who comes in the form of a swan. She bears two eggs; twins come out of each egg.
Da Vinci's study is a drawing of a woman's head; it is turned to the left as she looks down at the ground below. She demurely looks down. Leonardo focused his artist's strokes on the hair of Leda, its complicated style with plaits running over her head and which interlaced at her temples.
It is an oil painting done on wood. Leonardo da Vinci received a commission to do the altarpiece for a church in Florence, Church of Santissima Annunziata. Mary is seated on the lap of her mother, St, Anne, a rare scene in paintings of Mary and her mother.
Mary tries to restrain the young Jesus as He grapples with a lamb. Leonardo combines the symbol of a child's innocence and the eventual sacrifice of Christ's passion, which is symbolized by the lamb.
The figures pose in a pyramid arrangement against the backdrop of a landscape, whose blue color melts in what is known as sfumato haze, with the soft transition of colors. Sfumato style was perfected by da Vinci. It is said that Leonardo first worked on this theme in 1498.
Madonna of the Carnation by Leonardo da Vinci
This is also known as the Madonna with the Vase because of the flower vase beside Mary. Mary holds a carnation which the child Jesus tries to grasp. The flower symbolizes the passion of Christ, with its petals in the form of a crucifix. Da Vinci combines the reality of the scene with the symbol of elements of nature.
This painting is officially described as the first autonomous work of Leonardo. Before reaching the status of artist and painter, Da Vinci was an apprentice of the Italian painter Verrochio. In his painting of the Madonna of the Carnation, da Vinci departs from the graphic style of Verrochio.
He uses the depth of three-dimensional perspective which was developed in a Renaissance painting, a departure from the flat space of medieval art. The background of the painting is said to be similar to that of the Dutch painter Van Eyck. The landscape, the curtains, even the cushion on which the child sits are all typical elements of his paintings.
Madonna of the Yarnwinder by Leonardo da Vinci
This painting is also known as Madonna of the Spindle. The painting was done for Florimond Robertet, Secretary to the French King.
The art piece shows the Christ child holding a winder, shaped like a cross; a symbol of Christ's Passion. Mary looks and sees if she can draw her Child from the winder but she is unable to do this.
It is said that the portrait of Salvator Mundi was done by Leonardo da Vinci for King Louis XII of France and "his consort, Anne of Brittany". France had defeated Milan and Genoa. It is done in oil, a relatively new medium for painting, which replaced tempera.
Leonardo uses Verse 14, of the 4th chapter of John, and paints Christ as the Savior of the World; half of his figure is garbed in Renaissance robes. The 26-inch haunting oil-on-panel painting depicts a half-length figure of Christ as Savior of the World, facing frontally and dressed in Renaissance robes. He looks at the viewer in front. He is bearded. His left hand holds a crystal ball while his right hand gives a blessing.
The portrait is an oil painting on wood. It is an unfinished portrait of a woman, with disheveled hair. Art critics have pointed out that the sketchiness of the woman's hair and neck, combined with the defined modeling of the face, was intentional on the part of Leonardo da Vinci.
They link this half-done sketch to a passage by a Roman author, Pliny the Elder, which strongly influenced Leonardo da Vinci and his colleagues. Pliny the Elder wrote about a sketch of Venus done by the Roman artist Apelles. That his last sketch of Venus was even more admired than his complete painting of Venus. This way, da Vinci shows himself to be more advanced in style than his peers.
The painting resembles the painting of John the Baptist, with his finger pointed upward. The Greek god of the vine, Bacchus, with a garland on his head and leopard skin draped on him, sits in an idyllic landscape, receding into the distance. Bacchus has the same position as the original work of John the Baptist in the cited painting and likewise has his finger pointed up.
In this painting, as a symbolic gesture, Bacchus holds a thyrsus, that is, a staff that has been decorated with vines or grapes. Bacchus is surrounded with plants and fruits on the earth below, which also symbolizes his being the god of fertility.
The composition is taken from da Vinci's original painting of John the Baptist and a different artist, an apprentice or a da Vinci follower, has transformed it into an artwork on the pagan god Bacchus. The pointed finger is associated with John the Baptist. The fur robe worn by John the Baptist is now the leopard skin worn by Bacchus.
Art critics have agreed that this transformed Bacchus painting should nevertheless be attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, as it remains his original composition, even with changed persona and pagan symbolism.
The subject is said to be Lucrezia Crivelli, another mistress of Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan. Some say she may be Isabella of Aragon because La Belle Ferronniere was the nickname of the woman of Henry II. king of France.
The Ferroniere is the accessory around the forehead of the sitter, a fashion accessory in Lombardy. She is garbed in a Spanish dress, which was popular then. The portrait has appealed strongly to many viewers because of the beauty and the vitality that Leonardo has painted into the facial features.
Other artists have imitated the portrait, trying to capture the same appeal that the beauty of this portrait has, in the fine modeling and proportion of the facial features, the smooth tone of the skin, the face and that indefinable quality of beauty and appeal, but they have been unable to do so.
The portrait was done in oil paint on a walnut board. The subject of the portraiture was Cecilia Gallerani, a mistress of Ludovica Sforza il Moro. From 1482 to 1499, Leonardo da Vinci stayed at the court of his art patron, Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan from 1494 to 1498.
The court of Milan became a famous and splendid court because Ludovico drew in artists, poets, musicians, and scholars. It was during this time that Leonardo da Vinci achieved much in art and in his scientific works. The portrait underwent a lot of uncalled for repainting and retouching by several hands, such as the darkening of the background, the retouching of the dress, addition of dark shadows in her right-hand fingers, and others.
This art piece is important however because, in this work, Leonardo worked with experimental materials, and with his artistic genius, he measured up to this challenge, The Lady with an Ermine was indeed a rare work, showing an image of fine elegance.
This work was previously attributed to a German artist in the 19th c. But in 2008, Alessandro Vezzosi, Museo Ideale director confirmed this work as one of Leonardo da Vinci's famous paintings. In 2009, Art History professor at Oxford University, Martin Kemp, a Leonardo scholar, renamed the portrait as La Bella Principessa.
He identifies the woman in the portrait as Bianco Sforza, the daughter of Ludovico Sforza Il Moro and Bernardina de Corradis, his mistress. They confirmed this as the work of da Vinci because they found the imprint of a fingertip and a palm print that was identical with the imprint of a fingertip of Leonardo in his St. Jerome painting.
The subject is Ginevra de' Benci, a 16-year-old daughter in a wealthy family. Her features were fine as porcelain and her skin was flawless. She was educated, a poet, and had literary refinement which gave her a reserved expression.
Her many admirers wrote poetry for her and asked her if they might share moments of poetry with her. Modesty, dignity, and virtue comprised a young woman's demeanor during this time.
This goodness was reflected in her beauty and portraitists enhanced these inner qualities in a woman's attractiveness. One of Ginevra's admirers was Lorenzo de Medici. Venetian Ambassador Bernardo Bembo to Florence, who was also an admirer of Ginevra, may have commissioned this portrait.
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