It is August 5, 1473, and a 21-year-old aspiring artist decides to draw the beautiful Tuscan landscape before him. Born out of wedlock in a small town outside the small village of Vinci, Leonardo de Vinci was apprenticed to the Florentine sculptor and painter Andrea del Verrocchio ("Andrea of the true eye"). Apprenticed as a teenager, Leonardo honed his skills as a junior partner in Verrocchio's workshop. Verrocchio preferred sculpture and entrusted Leonardo with the painting part of the workshop.
Leonardo had obviously done a great deal before putting pen to paper to draw the landscape before him on that summer day in 1473. However, the resulting drawing was to become a milestone in the history of art: it was the first time that a landscape became a central subject for an artist.
The landscape as a work of art really began with this drawing. In 1473 Leonardo decided to draw the region he had known since childhood, the Arno Valley. Leonardo had also mastered the use of gesture lines - the clearest example of this is the way he drew the trees and the shading of the mountains in the background. Leonardo's quick sketch, dated precisely to 5 August 1473, makes this the earliest painting in Leonardo's oeuvre. It also marks the first time the artist focused his mind on the natural world as the subject of a work of art, even a modest drawing. Leonardo came of age at a time when paper was increasingly available, allowing for greater experimentation. A lot of paper could be used for relatively little money, compared to the much more expensive and limited vellum used in previous centuries.