Leonardo da Vinci was a scientist, mathematician and inventor who developed plans for machines, bridges and even a parachute. His sketches of human anatomy made a lasting impression on artists and physicians studying the body.
Influence on Art
Compared to other great artists, Da Vinci didn't leave behind an extensive body of work. What remains, however, are some of the most revered works of art in the world: the "Mona Lisa" and "The Last Supper." These works showcase the elements that influenced later artists. First is Da Vinci's ability to create depth on a two-dimensional surface as seen in "The Last Supper." The walls of the room appear to converge, and the figures in the painting sit and stand in asymmetrical positions that mimic the real world. Second is Da Vinci's ability to experiment with perspective, as seen in "Mona Lisa." Viewers comment that the figure in the painting appears to be looking directly at them no matter where they stand. Da Vinci's work influenced artists working during his lifetime. Filipino Lippi, Piero di Cosimo, Fra Bartolommeo and Andrea del Sarto mimicked his techniques in their own paintings. He also affected the work of sculptors Raphael and Michelangelo who drew upon his anatomical designs to make their sculptures more lifelike.
Influence on Science
During his lifetime, Da Vinci sketched ideas in notebooks, including designs for a bicycle, parachute and helicopter. In fact, Da Vinci showed considerable interest in the phenomenon of flight and spent time studying the mechanics of flight in birds and bats. Unfortunately, the technology did not exist during his lifetime to build these machines. However, Da Vinci's work did advance the study of anatomy. He started his formal study of anatomy under the direction of Andrea del Verrocchio, who required all his apprentices to do so. Da Vinci sketched detailed drawings of anatomical features, including muscles and tendons. He even went so far as to dissect bodies and record what he saw. These studies proved useful to the developing science. Andreas Vesalius, the Belgian physician who published one of the first books depicting human anatomy, likely used some ideas from Da Vinci's own dissection studies.
Da Vinci's Legacy
Leonardo da Vinci's legacy is his genius that spanned the worlds of art and science. He saw the connection between both worlds, drawing upon what he saw in the natural world to bring elements of realism to his art work. His drawing of the "Vitruvian Man" exemplifies it. Using the circle and square, da Vinci was able to draw the figure using realistic proportions on his arms and legs without distortion. Some of da Vinci's inventions, such as the ball bearing, remain in use today. In 1999, a Norwegian artist announced plans to construct a pedestrian bridge modeled after a design da Vinci sketched for the Ottoman Empire. It opened in 2002 on the E18 road near Oslo, Norway. A British man also built a model of da Vinci's parachute and tested it in 2005, proving the validity of the original Renaissance Man's design and dispelling the comments of critics who thought the plan was impractical and could not support the weight of an adult.