Tracy Grant over at The Washington Post has put together a list of five amazing facts about Leonardo da Vinci.
1. He wrote backward, so the easiest way to read his notes was to hold them up to a mirror. It’s not clear why he did that, but da Vinci filled notebook after notebook with sketches and backward writing. About 6,000 pages of his notes still exist.
2. He was fascinated by the human body, and he cut up cadavers (dead bodies) to learn about human anatomy. Around the year 1487, he made a famous drawing called Vitruvian Man. It shows off da Vinci’s interests in art and science. The drawing illustrated several observations on the nature of an adult man’s body. See if they hold true for you:
• The palm is the width of four fingers.
• The length of a man’s foot is one-sixth of his height.
• The length of a man’s outspread arms is the same as his height.
3. He was as much an inventor as an artist. Though he never built many of the inventions he designed, some of the things he envisioned in the late 1400s are in use today, including helicopters and parachutes. Da Vinci was obsessed with war, and he sketched an armored vehicle that could carry eight men inside and allow them to fire weapons through holes in its walls. He drew and wrote about what we today call tanks more than 400 years before they were first used in combat during World War I.
4. Da Vinci, one of the greatest artists in human history, lived at the same time, in the same country — Italy — as another of the greatest artists of all time, Michelangelo. But the two were not buddies; instead, they were bitter rivals. They even insulted each other in public. Think Redskins vs. Cowboys.
5. Mona Lisa — yep, the lady with the smile, perhaps the most famous painting in the world — is the work of da Vinci. If you look closely at her face, you’ll see that she has neither eyelashes nor eyebrows. In reality, da Vinci probably painted her with them, but in the 500 years since, they have worn away or were removed during attempts to restore the portrait.
Photo by netfiles.uiuc.edu.