Leonardo da Vinci

Start Free Trial

Did Leonardo da Vinci's geographical background influence his work?

Leonardo da Vinci's studies in geography definitely influenced the backgrounds of his paintings. He was a perfectionist who always applied what he had learned to his work.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Leonardo da Vinci, who lived from 1452 to 1519, is primarily known as a painter, but he had an overwhelming curiosity that made him a student of many subjects. He studied engineering, architecture, mechanics, anatomy, physics, mathematics, and also geography. He always carried notebooks wherever he went so that he could record observations, and during his lifetime he compiled thousands of notebook pages full of drawings and text on his various interests.

Geography fascinated him as much as any of the other subjects he studied, and he delved into it far more than most scholars of his time. For instance, he analyzed the movements of water in streams and rivers. From his observations of rock strata and shells found on the slopes and tops of mountains, he deduced that the landscapes of the Earth had not been formed in a quick flash as written in the Bible's book of Genesis, but rather took shape in a long slow process as natural forces shaped the land. Some of his observations would not be scientifically recognized until centuries later.

Leonardo's geographical background, as well as everything else he studied, definitely influenced his paintings. For example, in the Mona Lisa, possibly the most famous painting in the world, behind the enigmatic smiling woman we see an elaborate background of mountains, hills, valleys, a river, and a bridge. Although some observers have speculated that Leonardo may have made up the scenery, it is crafted from his observations of the Italian countryside. In other paintings, such as Virgin of the Rocks and Virgin and Child with St. Anne, experts have remarked on the clarity of geographical details as a result of Leonardo's on-site studies.

We see, then, that just as Leonard's studies in anatomy helped him to craft the human figures in his paintings, so also did his studies in geography help shape the landscapes that form the backgrounds of many of his works.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team