Leonardo's Notebooks Leonardo da Vinci

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Beauty, Reason and Art

  Light and Shade IV. Studies and SketchesObservations and Order VI.

Practical Matters

  Architecture and Planning XI. Sculpture and Metalwork XII.


  In addition, the notebooks are widely scattered and, with a few notable exceptions such as the Codex Leicester and the Codex Madrid, treat a vast range of subjects, sometimes even within a single page. Combined with the language barrier and the relative scarcity of translated materials, a further exploration of Leonardo’s genius can devolve into an exercise in frustration for the interested layreader.


  In cases where there are several blocks of text on a single illustration, both the original blocks of text and the translated textare marked with corresponding letters. For those interested in further readings in the vast body of scholarship on Leonardo, essential bibliographies of English, French, German, andItalian sources are provided at the end of the volume.

Beauty, Reason, and Art

  This section introduces his thoughts and instructions on different aspects of the painter’s craft.“On Painting” presents his general ideas about the essentials of paintings, such as the role of light in compositions, guidelines for different kinds of paintings, and tips for the aspiring painter. “HumanFigures” compiles Leonardo’s extensive studies of proportion and balance in the depiction of the human body, considered the noblest subject of Renaissance art.

I. On Painting

  The least thickness of the leg in profile goes six times from the sole of the foot to the knee joint and is the same width as the space between the outer corner of the eye and the opening of the ear,and as the thickest part of the arm seen in profile and between the inner corner of the eye and the insertion of the hair. a b c are equal to each other and to the space from the armpit of the shoulder to the genitals and to the distance from the tip of the fingers of the hand to the joint of the arm, and to the half of thebreast; and you must know that c b is the third part of the height of a man from the shoulders to the ground; d e f are equal to each other and equal to the greatest width of the shoulders.

III. Light and Shade

  That part of the object which is marked m is in the highest light because it faces the window ad by the line a f; n is in the second grade because the light b d strikes it by the line b e; o is in the third grade, as the light falls on it from c d by the line c h; p is the lowest light but one as c d falls on it bythe line d v; q is the deepest shadow for no light falls on it from any part of the window. {e} [14][14]The forms of shadows are three: for if the substance that casts the shadow is equal in size to the light, the shadow is like a column which has no end; if the substance is greater than the light, its shadow islike a pyramid that grows larger as it recedes and of which the length has no end; but if the substance is smaller than the light, the shadow resembles a pyramid and comes to an end, as is seen in theeclipses of the moon.

IV. Perspective and Visual Perception

  Waves that intersect like the scales of a fir cone reflect the image of the sun with the greatest splendor; and this is the case because the images are as many as the ridges of the waves on which thesun shines, and the shadows between these waves are small and not very dark; and the radiance of so many reflections together becomes united in the image that is transmitted to the eye, so that theseshadows are imperceptible. The images of the objects placed before the eye pass to the vitreous sphere by the gate of the pupil, and they intersect within this pupil in such a way that the vitreous sphere is struck on its left side by [5][5]All the images of objects reach the senses by a small aperture in the eye; hence, if the whole horizon a d is admitted through such an aperture, the object b c being but a very small fraction of this horizon,what space can it fill in that minute image of so vast a hemisphere?

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