Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was one of the most important and fascinating individuals in human history. His contributions to the sciences, to the arts, and to the humanities cannot be overstated. His paintings of "The Last Supper" and "Mona Lisa" are among the most well-known and respected works of art ever produced.
Da Vinci lived during the period of European history known as "the Renaissance." The Renaissance, of course, followed what were known as "the Middle Ages" or "the Dark Ages." It was a period of phenomenal creativity and enlightenment. It was also a period of horrific and protracted religious wars, including the Thirty Years War, the end of which ushered in the era of modern Europe with the Treaty of Westphalia. Especially in Italy, where the Catholic Church continued to exert its influences and where intrigue and deceit were not uncommon, the Renaissance is considered the greatest era in history. The individual who best embodied that era was da Vinci, whose contributions to virtually every realm of knowledge were unparalled, and for whom the phrase "Renaissance man" is believed to have been coinced. [Michaelangelo is also discussed in the same vein in this regard.]