Born on April 15, 1452 at Vinci near Florence, Leonardo was trained, according to Vasari, in "all matters pertaining to design" by Andrea del Verrocchio, the leading sculptor of the time. Confirmation of Vasari's claim comes from a note in Leonardo's manuscript G, referring to his master's method of fabricating the copper ball set atop the cupola of Florence Cathedral in 1471. Two legal documents of 1476 further indicate that he was still in Verrocchio's workshop even after joining the painters' Confraternity of Saint Luke in 1472. Having learned many of the skills that would later serve him as painter, sculptor, architect, and engineer, around 1482 Leonardo departed Florence for Milan. There he remained until late in 1499, performing a variety of tasks for Duke Lodovico Sforza and his court. When Leonardo returned to Florence in 1500, he was, as the creator of the Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, the most celebrated painter of the day. In Florence he completed those masterpieces that are commonly acknowledged to have changed the course of Western art: the Mona Lisa, the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne (both now in the Musée du Louvre) and the (lost) Battle of Anghiari. After working for the French conquerors of the Sforza in Milan (1506/1508-1513) and for Giuliano de' Medici in Rome (1513-1516), Leonardo left Italy to serve as chief painter and engineer to the French King Francis I. He died in France on May 2, 1519. [This is the artist's biography published, or to be published, in the NGA Systematic Catalogue]
Vasari, Giorgio. Le vite de' più eccellenti pittori, scultori ed architetti. Edited by Gaetano Milanesi. 9 vols. Florence, 1878-1885: 4(1879):17-53, commentary 54-90.
Clark, Kenneth. Leonardo da Vinci. An Account of His Development as an Artist. Cambridge, 1939. Rev. ed., Intro. by Martin Kemp, London, 1988.
Boskovits, Miklós, and David Alan Brown, et al. Italian Paintings of the Fifteenth Century. The Systematic Catalogue of the National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 2003: 357.