Posted: May 22nd, 2023

Leonardo’s paintings and other works projected his status as an illegitimate child

Leonardo da Vinci was born in 1452 to a lawyer father and a peasant mother. The world mostly recognizes Leonardo as a painter, scientist, and inventor, yet he also contributed significantly to the development of mathematics during the renaissance period, particularly in the field of Geometry.

Leonardo da Vinci, by the societal dictates of the time, was an illegitimate child. Although his father had a respectable position in society, as a lawyer, the fact that he had not married Leonardo’s mother by the time he got her pregnant rendered Leonardo an illegitimate child. This status shaped his life trajectory, at first in a manner that seemed disadvantageous for the young Leonardo, but his status as an illegitimate child left him with much more relative freedom for exploration (O’Connor 13). As an illegitimate child, he was destined to miss university and any form of formal higher education, and thus his mother sent him to the city of Florence to train as an apprentice painter. This led to Leonardo’s amazing rise to become one of the world’s most talented minds – a veritable genius. Because his parents largely left him to his own devices as he grew up, he developed a keen interest in nature and always attempted to satisfy this interest at any cost. As a child, Leonardo was constantly moving homes; occasionally living with his uncle in his early childhood before proceeding to live with his grandparents. He also lived for a short while with his mother, however when she re-married he went to live briefly with his father, who remarried several times. Some scholars believe that Leonardo’s paintings and other works projected his status as an illegitimate child; for instance, Capps states that he never included Jesus’ father Joseph in any of his paintings as a reflection of his sense of loss at never enjoying his father’s immaterial and material possessions (565). Out of ten sons, he was the only one who did not inherit anything from his father.

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