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Leonardo in Florence, to 1481

Leonardo was born in 1452 near the town of Vinci, 15 miles (25 km) west of Florence in central Italy. He was the illegitimate son of a lawyer and a peasant girl, and was raised in his paternal grandfather’s house in Vinci.

By the age of 20 Leonardo was established as a painter in Florence. The 1470s was a period of great experimentation in Florentine art, and a generation of young artists, including Leonardo, used drawing as never before – to devise novel compositions, study figures and faces from the life, and explore the world around them.

Leonardo’s earliest paintings were relatively conventional, but around 1480 he began work on an ambitious painting of the Adoration of the Magi, teeming with figures and animals (reproduced on the wall above). This remained unfinished when Leonardo left Florence for Milan, probably in late 1481.

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