One of the most prolific and enigmatic individuals who truly enlightened several aspects of the Renaissance, Leonardo Da Vinci, was also an extremely talented and well known painter.
The president of Harris/Ragan Management Group, Godfrey Harris, visited Saddleback College to discuss the influence Leonardo Da Vinci had on the Renaissance’s advances in inventing and culture.
“The three things you need to know about Leonardo Da Vinci,” Harris said, “he was illegitimate, he was defiantly left-handed in a right-handed era and he was gay in an era when homosexuality was a walking death sentence.”
Da Vinci’s illegitimacy when he was born in 1452, was thought to cause him to try to please everyone. His mother was a maid and his father was a notary. When he was two years old, Da Vinci was taken away to live with his grandfather. His plight was complicated, and he was brought up by maids, while being spoiled by his grandfather at the same time.
“Brought up below stairs by colleagues of his mother and his grandfather doting on him upstairs. He didn’t know where he belonged, upstairs or downstairs,” Harris said, in reference to the fact servants were downstairs and the aristocracy or wealthy owner of the house lived upstairs.
Da Vinci consistently wrote and painted with his left hand, although there was superstition about being left-handed. In French, it means awkward and in Olde English it means weak. However, some might conclude his paintings were so revered because the way he painted was different than others, and the left to right brush strokes would have a unique appearance in the light.
Since there wasn’t a wide selection of books during the Renaissance, because all of them had to be handwritten, visual representations of history were extremely popular. To have a portrait painted was popular as well, and many people sought out Da Vinci’s artistic ability.
Another discrepancy of Da Vinci was his homosexuality, which Freud described as ‘a love for his mother, and he kept himself away from females to keep his singular love for his mother.’
“However, Freud wrote three books on Da Vinci and kept changing his mind,” Harris said. “He didn’t know how to explain Da Vinci’s homosexuality.”
Da Vinci took many risks and learned to watch his back. He was highly talented in explaining himself when questioned.
Despite Da Vinci’s insecurity between being illegitimate and homosexual, he had many works of art still cherished and studied today.
He also painted the “Virgin of the Rocks” for the Dominican Church in Milan issued by the Duke of Milan. Da Vinci was ordered to make the second painting after he completed the first, because he had refused to put any attributes on Jesus or St.John. Attributes are halos and characteristics that depicted saintliness.
His painting “The Last Supper” is one of the paintings he did not ask for permission to paint. He often sought forgiveness rather than permission.
“The Last Supper” was one of Da Vinci’s more brave projects. Known as a procrastinator by even great artists like Michelangelo, it was unique day when Da Vinci decided to paint a fresco. He often did not finish paintings and it was unsure if he would be able to paint his work before the plaster wall dried beneath his paint.
In a moment of creativity, he decided to paint his mural with oil paints directly onto the wall. Because of this choice, his artwork “The Last Supper” is now deteriorating because of improper storage, and oil paints deteriorate faster.
The portrayal of Jesus Christ is the main focal point, although it is unknown if he sat in the middle, it is portrayed like this by Da Vinci.
“The center of the table is where the alpha sits,” Harris explained, “Where does the president sit during a meeting, always the center.”
He added the societal tradition of when a mother sets a table she places the father at the head of the table, but she’s at the center of the table. It’s a place of power.
The Biblical story tells this scenario took place during the Jewish Passover, However it has been observed that the bread is leavened and there is wine. Some believe that it was the night before Passover meal and that the twelve disciples were all Jewish.
Harris said Da Vinci was angry with the anti-semitism of the time, and he put many Jewish symbolism in the painting.
According to Harris, there are many other hidden symbols, including the tablecloth creases, which line up with the bread rolls and hands of the disciples to create a medieval staff. The staff creates chords and notes to make a musical requiem.
Other than being an influential painter, it had been studied that he himself might have been influenced as well. While the Chinese were advancing in their inventions and becoming part of the trading system, they brought many inventions to Europe.
The explorer, Marco Polo, reported that the Chinese had ships with several hulls, so that if one of the hulls were punctured the others would keep the ship afloat. Polo was thought to have influenced Da Vinci and his work.
Over a hundred years after Marco Polo’s death, Da Vinci sketched a double hull ship, so the second hull could keep the ship buoyant. Unfortunately his idea was not utilized at the time.
“Da Vinci was an ordinary person who did extraordinary things,” Harris said, “however sometimes his ideas were not recognized at the time.”
The artist had proposed his double hulled ship to many aristocrats and the Catholic church, but was rejected every time with negative responses.
“His ideas are still recognized in the 21st century,” Harris said, “Today all vessels that come into the U.S. with petroleum and oils must have two hulls.”
There are many pieces of evidence that the Renaissance was influenced majorly by the Chinese, who in turn influenced Da Vinci.
Da Vinci was a mysterious and powerful intellectual, and his paintings and inventions still influence the inventions and culture of our time.