In the Beginning
One of the Renaissance's favorite sons had a less-than-spectacular start in life. Born the illegitimate son of a notary and a peasant girl in a small town near Florence, Italy, Leonardo da Vinci soon rose to fame as no one else could (or did!). His family, his surroundings in the Tuscan countryside, and the time of his birth all influenced Leonardo's formative years—the early years of the burgeoning Italian Renaissance.
Because of his illegitimate birth, Leonardo actually lucked out: He didn't have to follow in his father's footsteps. As a result, he was able to spend much of his childhood studying exactly what he wanted, rather than what he was told to; he spent years looking at and drawing the world around him.
Later, Leonardo's apprenticeship in Andrea Verrocchio's workshop had an enormous impact on his artistic and scientific works. Once he “graduated” to doing his own projects, he started to incorporate many of the rapidly evolving themes of the Renaissance itself.