In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Leonardo da Vinci

  • Introduction
  • Conservation Studies
  • Sculpture
  • Architecture
  • Music
  • Exhibition Catalogues

Renaissance and Reformation Leonardo da Vinci
Claire Farago, Matthew Landrus
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 September 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0151


Leonardo da Vinci was born in Anchiano, near Vinci, on 15 April 1452, and died in Amboise, near Tours, on 2 May 1519. He was an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, natural scientist, writer, and theorist. He is considered the founding artist of the High Renaissance style, what the 16th-century artists’ biographer Giorgio Vasari called the maniera moderna. Many of his artistic and architectural designs and inventions were widely disseminated within or soon after his lifetime. His posthumously published writings on painting helped to establish academic ideals of representation for nearly four centuries across Europe and beyond. Among his very few surviving paintings are two of the most famous and extensively studied images in the history of art, namely the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Thanks primarily to his surviving 6,000 pages of notes and drawings, there has been extensive scholarly interest in his scientific and technological knowledge and philosophical ideas honed over many generations of scholarship. The majority of his wide-ranging writings first came to light with the publication of his notes and manuscripts in the late 19th century. The historical reception of his ideas and his unprecedented intellectual and artistic achievements, built upon a medieval and classical foundation, continue to provide significant material for scholarly investigation. Analyses of his art based on new imaging technologies are one of the most productive new fields of scholarship. Studies centered on Leonardo’s multifaceted career and unprecedented literary, scientific, and artistic legacy still dominate the field, although recent interest in his followers and his historical reception are developing into a more decentered historical and cultural context for understanding the artist, putting Leonardo studies in better touch with other scholarship and current trends. Meanwhile, the celebrations of Leonardo as an artistic genius and cultural icon have never been greater, whether the context is blockbuster exhibitions or television shows of mythic proportions.

General Overviews

The majority of overviews focus on Leonardo’s artistic career, but a few sources such as Kemp 1981 (cited under Monographs), integrate the full range of Leonardo’s activities; a few others focus on his scientific and philosophical writings, such as Zubov 1968 (cited under Monographs). There is a long tradition of monographic studies of the artist by art historians that are valuable and necessary for scholars to consult, even if they have been superseded by the current generation of monographs given here. The older literature can be accessed through the bibliography in Kemp’s Leonardo da Vinci entry in Oxford Art Online (cited under Encyclopedia Entries). A short selection to provide a more general cultural context is included here.

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