Leonardo was born on the 15 April 1452 in a little town near Florence, Italy. He was the illegitimate son of a twenty-five year old notary called Ser Piero and of a poor peasant, Caterina. After Leonardo’s birth his parents separated because having an illegitimate child was considered outrageous. However both parents continued having children, supplying Leonardo with approximately seventeen half brothers and sisters. Leonardo grew up in his father’s house in Vinci. He first showed his real interest in painting when he was about twelve years old, and so when he was fifteen Ser Piero sent him to be an apprentice to Andrea da Verrochio, a painter in Florence. While Leonardo stayed with Verrochio he showed extraordinary painting talents. Once, his master told him to paint an angel in his “Baptism of Christ”; Leonardo’s one was so much better then Verrochio’s that he swore to never paint again in his life. Leonardo left Andrea da Verrochio in 1477, for he had larger ambitions than to stay in Florence. In 1482 Leonardo entered the service of the Duke of Milan, abandoning his previous commission in Florence: “The adoration of the Magi”. In Milan he was kept very busy by the Duke. He did many paintings and sculptures, but at the same time designed weapons, buildings and machinery. Leonardo was very scrupulous about his paintings; it is said that after he finished “The virgin of the rocks” he decided that he would do it again and make a few changes. While Leonardo was serving the Duke of Milan he made such inventions as the tank, the flying machine (which was practically perfect apart from one or two flaws), the submarine and various other combat devices. He also had a great interest in the human body and he would dig up bodies so that he could dissect them.
Sadly, Leonardo had many interests and if he suddenly discovered something that he thought was more interesting than the thing he was working on at the time he would leave it. In this way, many of Leonardo’s works were left unfinished. In 1499 the French army invaded Milan and deposed the Duke Ludovico Sforza so that Leonardo had to leave.
During the sixteen years that followed Leonardo went around Italy and was under the service of many great rulers. He even travelled with Borgia’s army and met Niccolò Macchiavelli.
On July the 9 1504, Ser Piero perished and, thanks to his evil half brothers and sisters, he did not receive any of the inheritance. Soon after his uncle died and this too resulted in a scuffle over the legacy but this time Leonardo managed to beat off his greedy siblings and take some money for himself.
From this period Leonardo worked for various important people such as the Pope and the king of France who, sadly did not prove to be very nice employers. On the 2 May 1519 Leonardo died, aged 67, at Cloux having been a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, musician, poet, writer, philosopher, scientist and many other kinds of occupations... What a prodigy!