What Leonardo da Vinci Can Teach Us Today

This month marks the 500th anniversary of the death of one of the greatest creative minds in human history—Leonardo da Vinci. What can we learn from this remarkable man?

The term “Renaissance man” is often used to describe an exceptionally well-rounded person who has many talents and knowledge of a wide variety of subjects and fields of study. When looking up this term in dictionaries and encyclopedias, you will often find Leonardo da Vinci’s name literally listed under the definition.

May 2, 2019, marks the 500th anniversary of this brilliant man’s death.

Challenging start to life

Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452, in Anchiano, Tuscany, in what is now Italy. This was near the town of Vinci, which became part of his name (Leonardo of Vinci). He entered the world somewhat disadvantaged, in part because his parents were never married. His father, a prominent attorney, became involved with a peasant woman, and Leonardo was the result. They both went on to marry others, providing Leonardo with 17 half-siblings!

Considering all his accomplishments, it is surprising to learn that in his youth Leonardo did not receive a formal education beyond basic reading, writing and math. He did have an uncle who loved nature. His uncle’s influence led Leonardo to develop the same love and appreciation.

His father had a keen interest in the arts, so at about the age of 15, Leonardo was apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio, a notable sculptor and painter in Florence, Italy. Over the next decade of his life, his natural artistic talents were developed and honed. But his mind was on more than art, and he used this time to explore many different subjects that interested him.

A man of many accomplishments

Leonardo is still known for his sketches. In notebooks he drew many conceptualized inventions and devices. In some cases, these inventions would not become reality until centuries after his death! In fact, a number of the ideas he sketched had a direct impact on our world today.

For instance, he conceptualized a flying machine patterned after the anatomy of a bat, a helicopter, a submarine, armored fighting vehicles, solar power and even an adding machine (or a calculator). He also made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology, optics, hydrodynamics and more.

Sad to say, when it comes to his artistic abilities, relatively few of his paintings and sculptures still exist. Part of the reason is that with all his diverse interests consuming much of his time, he produced relatively few significant pieces of art. Yet two of his works are among the world’s most universally well-known and admired: The Last Supper and Mona Lisa.

The first is a mural, approximately 15 by 29 feet, and took Da Vinci about three years to complete. The second is described as the best-known, most-visited, most-written-about and most-sung-about work of art in the world! It has been on permanent display in the Louvre Museum in Paris since 1797 (though it was stolen and missing for about three years, from 1911 to 1914).

Human vision and God’s vision

Leonardo da Vinci was a unique man of many talents. But perhaps the greatest of his talents was vision. I have almost zero artistic talent, but I’ve heard it said that to create a sculpture or carving is really very simple: all one needs to do is envision what the sculpture needs to look like and then take away everything that doesn’t look like that! Easy to say, but it takes a special kind of vision to look at a chunk of stone and see a meticulously crafted, lifelike sculpture. Or to look at a blank canvas and see a brilliant painting.

Leonardo’s creative vision pales in comparison to the vision of our Creator—and the future He envisions for all mankind!It also takes great vision to imagine machines and contraptions that nobody had ever even conceived of before and that technology wouldn’t allow to be built for (in some cases) 400 years! Leonardo was able to see and draw what perhaps no one else on earth at that time was able to even imagine!

But Leonardo’s creative vision pales in comparison to the vision of our Creator—and the future He envisions for all mankind!

God the Father, along with the Word (the One who became Jesus Christ), envisioned a plan to create a family of beings like Themselves before the foundations of the world were laid (Revelation 13:8).

That plan included creating the earth as a perfect place for man to live. God envisioned many thousands (maybe millions, maybe billions) of years in advance exactly what would need to happen in order to make that plan a reality, including the plan that the Word would come to earth as a Man to pay the penalty for human sin in order to make eternal life possible.

The prophet Isaiah wrote these poignant words about God’s great vision: “Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

God’s vision of the future

God can declare the end from the beginning. He can see, well in advance, what will occur in the future. Through the prophets, He revealed events hundreds of years in advance, including the ultimate purpose of His plan—to establish His Kingdom on earth for eternity (Daniel 2:44).

That vision includes the creation of a family of sons and daughters who have learned to distinguish between right and wrong and have developed the character to willingly choose the right. He will give eternal life to those who learn to live and think as He does.

That great vision includes you.

Leonardo da Vinci died 500 years ago, but his unique vision allowed him to create artistic masterpieces and imagine inventions that are still enjoyed and appreciated to this very day. 

As great as he was, Leonardo’s ability to envision was merely a faint glimmer of the vision of His Creator—the God of the universe. God’s vision spans across time beyond measure and includes a future beyond imagination for you and me. God speed the day when His vision will be fulfilled!

About the Author

Tom Clark

Tom Clark

Tom Clark married his lovely wife, Mary, in 1985. They have three grown children and four grandchildren. Tom was ordained a minister in 1989 and has served congregations in Georgia, Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota and North Dakota. He currently pastors the Bentonville, Van Buren and Mena, Arkansas, congregations of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association.

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