Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is the archetype of the Renaissance Man. During his life he did it all: architect, painter, sculptor, musician, draftsman, engineer, geometer, inventor, anatomist, physiologist, botanist and scientist. In short, he was a true genius. Leonardo is justly famous for his realistic paintings, such as the Mona Lisa, the Madonna of the Rocks, and the Last Supper, as well as for influential drawings such as the Vitruvian Man.
The Mona Lisa is the famous 16th-century portrait by Leonardo da Vinci. Her mysterious smile has beguiled generations of viewers, but the true identity of this beauty remains unknown, despite intensive research by art historians. Many believe the Mona Lisa to be a portrait of Lisa Gherardini Giocondo, the wife of a wealthy Florentine merchant, Francesco del Giocondo, hence its name in Italian, “La Gioconda”. Others have suggested the subject was a mistress of da Vinci, or even a self-portrait, with da Vinci imagining himself as a woman. Leonardo's painting is famous among artist scholars for its innovative techniques, including sfumato (shown in the painting's distinctive hazy, soft-focus effect) and chiaroscuro (the complex interplay of light and shadow). Some believe that its French name “La Joconde” is a play on "the merry woman," a reference to her smile.