Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was born in the small town of Vinci, Italy. Though no one knew it at the time, this little artist was to become one of the most celebrated personalities of the Italian Renaissance. His extraordinary works of art are still being studied. Through his various experiments with painting techniques, such as Fresco (watercolors on a plaster base), "smoky" backgrounds for certain portraits, color contrasts, and so on, it is evident that his work held something deeper. He apparently left many major works unfinished, a mystery that is still being explored. One work that he did manage to finish is one that has captured the imagination of countless thousands over the centuries: the Mona Lisa. It has been recorded that Leonardo believed that "A person's soul is shown in his or her eyes." If that is the case, what can be said about the Mona Lisa? Her intriguing smile and mysterious, inquisitive eyes have been the focus of study for artists, historians, and psychologists as well.
His unsurpassed works of art are not the only reason he has been described as, excuse the pun, a "Renaissance man." Evidence has been found that he also did extensive research on anatomy. He made sketches of the human body, and applied them to sketches of machines that he had invented. Some of these inventions were the parachute (which wasn't successfully produced for another 300 years), a military tank (which didn't come about until the twentieth century), and some crude sketches of a flying machine that turned out to be an early version of a helicopter, another modern-day creation he couldn't possibly have known about.
These are just a few examples of what this one man contributed to humanity, and this site will help you learn more about this amazing person.
Images courtesy of the Leonardo Virtual Museum at leonardo.net.