If Leonardo had never been born, the world would be without bicycles, life vests, river-water dredges, parachutes and spotlights.
He was born on April 15, 1452, in the open countryside of Vinci, a small built-up area a few kilometres away from Florence.
Although one day he would be known as the “absolute genius”, his first years were neither happy nor easy.
Leonardo was the love child of Ser Piero, heir to one of the richest families in the Florentine area, and Caterina, a poor peasant and Piero’s youthful indiscretion.
Leonardo spent the first five years of his life in anonymity, until 1457, when his grandfather Antonio acknowledged him in his last will.
Unable to bear an heir, Ser Piero was forced to recognise the illegitimate Leonardo as his son.
According to local laws, Leonardo was unable to receive formal education, being born outside of marriage.
When Piero noticed Leonardo’s talent for painting, he decided to send him to the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio - one of the most renowned artists of the time - to practise his craft.
Leonardo’s first job was to refine one of Verrocchio’s canvases.
The chronicles tell that Verrocchio was so astounded by Leonardo’s skill and technique that he decided to quit painting altogether.
From this moment on, the story of Leonardo is well known, and his fame preceded him wherever he went.
He started to travel according to the jobs he received and the political situation.
His most important commissions were received in his thirties, when he moved to the Sforza Court in Milan.
There he painted the Last Supper and the first version of the Virgin of the Rocks, and he began to study anatomy.
After this period, he moved to Venice, Florence, Rome and finally Amboise in France, where he died at 67-years-old, leaving behind approximately 20 canvases and more than 6000 pages of manuscripts.
Leonardo’s works epitomised the style of an era: humanism, and academics continue to attribute new works to him.
Among his works are the Mona Lisa, the most famous painting in the world, and the Salvator Mundi, the most expensive canvas ever bought, now mysteriously disappeared.
The ‘Year of Leonardo da Vinci’ will take place from May 2019 until spring 2020 across Europe, with celebrations, events, expositions and lectures, all dedicated to discovering the multifaceted genius of Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo’s hometown of Vinci will host the exhibition ‘Leonardo da Vinci: The Origins of a Genius’, until October 15.
The town will also host the historical ‘Mille Miglia’ for an evening on May 19.
Florence plays host to the ‘Leonardo and Florence’ exhibition until June 24, while at Santa Maria Novella from September 13 until December 15 ‘Botany and Leonardo’ will be on show.
Also in December, the Florence Light Show will take inspiration from the Master himself.
The town of Anghiari, famous for its textiles, will be displaying replicas of weaving machines designed by Leonardo.
In Milan, the canals with Da Vinci’s miter locks will be reopened, as will the frescoed ‘Sala delle Asse’ in the Castello Sforzesco where a multimedia expo will reconstruct the Renaissance city as it appeared in the eyes of the Maestro.
Milan in May will see the opening of ‘The Best of the Codex Atlanticus’ exhibition, followed by ‘The Court of the Grand Maestro’ at the end of the year.
Rome will host the ‘Science before Science’ exhibition, while in the Vatican City one will be able to admire Leonardo’s celebrated painting of Saint Jerome for free.
France has organised a special tour through the areas frequented by Leonardo in the last years of his life, including his chateau in Amboise and other castles of the Loire valley; and, naturally, at the Louvre.
Finally, celebrations of Leonardo will be held right across Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Norway and Poland, where elements of the Maestro remain.