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Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (pronunciation (help·info)), April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) was an Italian polymath; a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Born as the illegitimate son of a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant girl, Caterina, at Vinci in the region of Florence, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter, Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice, spending his final years in France at the home given to him by King François I.

Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the "Renaissance man", a man whose seemingly infinite curiosity was equaled only by his powers of invention.[1] He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived.[2]

It is primarily as a painter that Leonardo was and is renowned. Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper occupy unique positions as the most famous, most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time, their fame approached only by Michelangelo's Creation of Adam.[1] Leonardo's drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic. Perhaps fifteen paintings survive, the small number due to his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination.[b] Nevertheless these few works, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, comprise a contribution to later generations of artists only rivalled by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.

As an engineer, Leonardo conceived ideas vastly ahead of his own time, conceptualising a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, and the double hull, and outlining a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or even feasible during his lifetime,[c] but some of his smaller inventions, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded.[d] As a scientist, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics.

Da Vinci's Last Supper has become one of the most widely appreciated masterpieces in the world. It began to acquire its unique reputation immediately after it was finished in 1498 and its prestige has never diminished. Despite the many changes in tastes, artistic styles, and rapid physical deterioration of the painting itself, the painting's status as an extraordinary creation has never been questioned nor doubted.

The perfection of this work lies not only in the artistic merits of the painting, but also in Leonardo's expressive mastery. Leonardo's Last Supper is an ideal pictorial representation of the most important event in the Christian doctrine of salvation - the institution of the Eucharist. His representation of this part of the Christian story has achieved a unanimous accceptance and authority. No other painting of a Christian subject dominates our imagination with the same power of Da Vinci's Last Supper. There are countless copies and reproductions of this particular painting in homes, places of worship, and museums throughout the world. However, when

thoughts turn to the Last Supper, we seem to see only Leonardo's representation before us.

The painting has also been subject to much attention due to the number of restorations it has had to face since its completion in the fifteenth century. The most recent restoration lasted twenty years and has been the subject of much controversy. The painting that remains so influential has been frequently referred to as "repainted", not "restored". However, restoration has been an ongoing reality with this masterpiece due to unprecedented manner in which Leonardo painted it. Although restoration may have altered Leonardo's painting to a degree, it has prolonged the life of this painting for future generations to appreciate and view.