Part 5 out of 16
laurel, arbutus, box or holm oak, it will be different; because,
although _a_ does not face the earth, it faces the dark [green] of
the leaves cut up by many shadows, and this darkness is reflected
onto the under sides of the leaves immediately above. Thus these
trees have their darkest shadows nearest to the middle of the tree.
OF THE SHADOWS OF VERDURE.
The shadows of verdure are always somewhat blue, and so is every
shadow of every object; and they assume this hue more in proportion
as they are remote from the eye, and less in proportion as they are
nearer. The leaves which reflect the blue of the atmosphere always
present themselves to the eye edgewise.
OF THE ILLUMINATED PART OF VERDURE AND OF MOUNTAINS.
The illuminated portion, at a great distance, will appear most
nearly of its natural colour where the strongest light falls upon
OF TREES THAT ARE LIGHTED BY THE SUN AND BY THE ATMOSPHERE.
In trees that are illuminated [both] by the sun and the atmosphere
and that have leaves of a dark colour, one side will be illuminated
by the atmosphere [only] and in consequence of this light will tend
to blueness, while on the other side they will be illuminated by the
atmosphere and the sun; and the side which the eye sees illuminated
by the sun will reflect light.
OF DEPICTING A FOREST SCENE.
The trees and plants which are most thickly branched with slender
branches ought to have less dark shadow than those trees and plants
which, having broader leaves, will cast more shadow.
In the position of the eye which sees that portion of a tree
illuminated which turns towards the light, one tree will never be
seen to be illuminated equally with the other. To prove this, let
the eye be _c_ which sees the two trees _b d_ which are illuminated
by the sun _a_; I say that this eye _c_ will not see the light in
the same proportion to the shade, in one tree as in the other.
Because, the tree which is nearest to the sun will display so much
the stronger shadow than the more distant one, in proportion as one
tree is nearer to the rays of the sun that converge to the eye than
the other; &c.
You see that the eye _c_ sees nothing of the tree _d_ but shadow,
while the same eye _c_ sees thè tree _b_ half in light and half in
When a tree is seen from below, the eye sees the top of it as placed
within the circle made by its boughs.
Remember, O Painter! that the variety of depth of shade in any one
particular species of tree is in proportion to the rarity or density
of their branches.
[Footnote: The two lower sketches on the left of Pl XXVIII, No. 3,
refer to lines 21-23. The upper sketch has apparently been effaced
by Leonardo himself.]
The distribution of light and shade with reference to the position
of the spectator (441-443).
The shadows of trees placed in a landscape do not display themselves
in the same position in the trees on the right hand and those on the
left; still more so if the sun is to the right or left. As is proved
by the 4th which says: Opaque bodies placed between the light and
the eye display themselves entirely in shadow; and by the 5th: The
eye when placed between the opaque body and the light sees the
opaque body entirely illuminated. And by the 6th: When the eye and
the opaque body are placed between darkness and light, it will be
seen half in shadow and half in light.
[Footnote: See the figure on the right hand side of Pl. XXVIII, No.
3. The first five lines of the text are written below the diagram
and above it are the last eight lines of the text, given as No.
OF THE HERBS OF THE FIELD.
Of the plants which take a shadow from the plants which spring among
them, those which are on this side [in front] of the shadow have the
stems lighted up on a background of shadow, and the plants on which
the shadows fall have their stems dark on a light background; that
is on the background beyond the shadow.
OF TREES WHICH ARE BETWEEN THE EYE AND THE LIGHT.
Of the trees which are between the eye and the light the part in
front will be light; but this light will be broken by the
ramifications of transparent leaves--being seen from the under
side--and lustrous leaves--being seen from the upper side; and the
background below and behind will be dark green, being in shadow from
the front portion of the said tree. This occurs in trees placed
above the eye.
FROM WHENCE TO DEPICT A LANDSCAPE
Landscapes should be represented so that the trees may be half in
light and half in shadow; but it is better to do them when the sun
is covered with clouds, for then the trees are lighted by the
general light of the sky, and the general darkness of the earth. And
then they are darkest in certain parts in proportion as those parts
are nearest to the middle of the tree and to the earth.
The effects of morning light (444-448).
OF TREES TO THE SOUTH.
When the sun is in the east the trees to the South and to the North
have almost as much light as shadow. But a greater share of light in
proportion as they lie to the West and a greater share of shadow in
proportion as they lie to the East.
If the sun is in the East the verdure of the meadows and of other
small plants is of a most beautiful green from being transparent to
the sun; this does not occur in the meadows to the West, and in
those to the South and North the grass is of a moderately brilliant
OF THE 4 POINTS OF THE COMPASS [IN LANDSCAPES].
When the sun is in the East all the portions of plants lighted by it
are of a most lively verdure, and this happens because the leaves
lighted by the sun within the half of the horizon that is the
Eastern half, are transparent; and within the Western semicircle the
verdure is of a dull hue and the moist air is turbid and of the
colour of grey ashes, not being transparent like that in the East,
which is quite clear and all the more so in proportion as it is
The shadows of the trees to the East cover a large portion of them
and are darker in proportion as the foliage of the trees is thicker.
OF TREES IN THE EAST.
When the sun is in the East the trees seen towards the East will
have the light which surrounds them all round their shadows,
excepting on the side towards the earth; unless the tree has been
pruned [below] in the past year. And the trees to the South and
North will be half in shade and half in light, and more or less in
shade or in light in proportion as they are more or less to the East
or to the West.
The [position of] the eye above or below varies the shadows and
lights in trees, inasmuch as the eye placed above sees the tree with
the little shadow, and the eye placed below with a great deal of
The colour of the green in plants varies as much as their species.
OF THE SHADOWS IN TREES.
The sun being in the East [to the right], the trees to the West [or
left] of the eye will show in small relief and almost imperceptible
gradations, because the atmosphere which lies between the eye and
those trees is very dense [Footnote 7: _per la 7a di questo_. This
possibly referred to something written on the seventh page of this
note book marked _G_. Unfortunately it has been cut out and lost.],
see the 7th of this--and they have no shade; for though a shadow
exists in every detail of the ramification, it results that the
images of the shade and light that reach the eye are confused and
mingled together and cannot be perceived on account of their
minuteness. And the principal lights are in the middle of the trees,
and the shadows to wards the edges; and their separation is shown by
the shadows of the intervals between the trees; but when the forests
are thick with trees the thin edges are but little seen.
OF TREES TO THE EAST.
When the sun is in the East the trees are darker towards the middle
while their edges are light.
The effects of midday light.
OBJECTS IN HIGH LIGHT SHOW BUT LITTLE, BUT BETWEEN LIGHT AND SHADOW
THEY STAND OUT WELL.
To represent a landscape choose that the sun shall be at noon and
look towards the West or East and then draw. And if you turn towards
the North, every object placed on that side will have no shadow,
particularly those which are nearest to the [direction of the]
shadow of your head. And if you turn towards the South every object
on that side will be wholly in shadow. All the trees which are
towards the sun and have the atmosphere for their background are
dark, and the other trees which lie against that darkness will be
black [very dark] in the middle and lighter towards the edges.
The appearance of trees in the distance (450. 451).
OF THE SPACES [SHOWING THE SKY] IN TREES THEMSELVES.
The spaces between the parts in the mass of trees, and the spaces
between the trees in the air, are, at great distances, invisible to
the eye; for, where it is an effort [even] to see the whole it is
most difficult to discern the parts.--But a confused mixture is the
result, partaking chiefly of the [hue] which predominates. The
spaces between the leaves consist of particles of illuminated air
which are very much smaller than the tree and are lost sight of
sooner than the tree; but it does not therefore follow that they are
not there. Hence, necessarily, a compounded [effect] is produced of
the sky and of the shadows of the tree in shade, which both together
strike the eye which sees them.
OF TREES WHICH CONCEAL THESE SPACES IN ONE ANOTHER.
That part of a tree will show the fewest spaces, behind which a
large number of trees are standing between the tree and the air
[sky]; thus in the tree _a_ the spaces are not concealed nor in _b_,
as there is no tree behind. But in _c_ only half shows the spaces
filled up by the tree _d_, and part of the tree _d_ is filled up by
the tree _e_ and a little farther on all the spaces in the mass of
the trees are lost, and only that at the side remains.
What outlines are seen in trees at a distance against the sky which
serves as their background?
The outlines of the ramification of trees, where they lie against
the illuminated sky, display a form which more nearly approaches the
spherical on proportion as they are remote, and the nearer they are
the less they appear in this spherical form; as in the first tree
_a_ which, being near to the eye, displays the true form of its
ramification; but this shows less in _b_ and is altogether lost in
_c_, where not merely the branches of the tree cannot be seen but
the whole tree is distinguished with difficulty. Every object in
shadow, of whatever form it may be, at a great distance appears to
be spherical. And this occurs because, if it is a square body, at a
very short distance it loses its angles, and a little farther off it
loses still more of its smaller sides which remain. And thus before
the whole is lost [to sight] the parts are lost, being smaller than
the whole; as a man, who in such a distant position loses his legs,
arms and head before [the mass of] his body, then the outlines of
length are lost before those of breadth, and where they have become
equal it would be a square if the angles remained; but as they are
lost it is round.
[Footnote: The sketch No. 4, Pl. XXVIII, belongs to this passage.]
The cast shadow of trees (452. 453).
The image of the shadow of any object of uniform breadth can never
be [exactly] the same as that of the body which casts it.
[Footnote: See Pl. XXVIII, No. 5.]
Light and shade on groups of trees (453-457).
All trees seen against the sun are dark towards the middle and this
shadow will be of the shape of the tree when apart from others.
The shadows cast by trees on which the sun shines are as dark as
those of the middle of the tree.
The shadow cast by a tree is never less than the mass of the tree
but becomes taller in proportion as the spot on which it falls,
slopes towards the centre of the world.
The shadow will be densest in the middle of the tree when the tree
has the fewest branches.
[Footnote: The three diagrams which accompany this text are placed,
in the original, before lines 7-11. At the spots marked _B_ Leonardo
wrote _Albero_ (tree). At _A_ is the word _Sole_ (sun), at _C Monte_
(mountain) at _D piano_ (plain) and at _E cima_ (summit).]
Every branch participates of the central shadow of every other
branch and consequently [of that] of the whole tree.
The form of any shadow from a branch or tree is circumscribed by the
light which falls from the side whence the light comes; and this
illumination gives the shape of the shadow, and this may be of the
distance of a mile from the side where the sun is.
If it happens that a cloud should anywhere overshadow some part of a
hill the [shadow of the] trees there will change less than in the
plains; for these trees on the hills have their branches thicker,
because they grow less high each year than in the plains. Therefore
as these branches are dark by nature and being so full of shade, the
shadow of the clouds cannot darken them any more; but the open
spaces between the trees, which have no strong shadow change very
much in tone and particularly those which vary from green; that is
ploughed lands or fallen mountains or barren lands or rocks. Where
the trees are against the atmosphere they appear all the same
colour--if indeed they are not very close together or very thickly
covered with leaves like the fir and similar trees. When you see the
trees from the side from which the sun lights them, you will see
them almost all of the same tone, and the shadows in them will be
hidden by the leaves in the light, which come between your eye and
TREES AT A SHORT DISTANCE.
[Footnote 29: The heading _alberi vicini_ (trees at a short
distance) is in the original manuscript written in the margin.] When
the trees are situated between the sun and the eye, beyond the
shadow which spreads from their centre, the green of their leaves
will be seen transparent; but this transparency will be broken in
many places by the leaves and boughs in shadow which will come
between you and them, or, in their upper portions, they will be
accompanied by many lights reflected from the leaves.
The trees of the landscape stand out but little from each other;
because their illuminated portions come against the illuminated
portions of those beyond and differ little from them in light and
Of trees seen from below and against the light, one beyond the other
and near together. The topmost part of the first will be in great
part transparent and light, and will stand out against the dark
portion of the second tree. And thus it will be with all in
succession that are placed under the same conditions.
Let _s_ be the light, and _r_ the eye, _c d n_ the first tree, _a b
c_ the second. Then I say that _r_, the eye, will see the portion _c
f_ in great part transparent and lighted by the light _s_ which
falls upon it from the opposite side, and it will see it, on a dark
ground _b c_ because that is the dark part and shadow of the tree _a
But if the eye is placed at _t_ it will see _o p_ dark on the light
background _n g_.
Of the transparent and shadowy parts of trees, that which is nearest
to you is the darkest.
That part of a tree which has shadow for background, is all of one
tone, and wherever the trees or branches are thickest they will be
darkest, because there are no little intervals of air. But where the
boughs lie against a background of other boughs, the brighter parts
are seen lightest and the leaves lustrous from the sunlight falling
In the composition of leafy trees be careful not to repeat too often
the same colour of one tree against the same colour of another
[behind it]; but vary it with a lighter, or a darker, or a stronger
On the treatment of light for landscapes (458-464).
The landscape has a finer azure [tone] when, in fine weather the sun
is at noon than at any other time of the day, because the air is
purified of moisture; and looking at it under that aspect you will
see the trees of a beautiful green at the outside and the shadows
dark towards the middle; and in the remoter distance the atmosphere
which comes between you and them looks more beautiful when there is
something dark beyond. And still the azure is most beautiful. The
objects seen from the side on which the sun shines will not show you
their shadows. But, if you are lower than the sun, you can see what
is not seen by the sun and that will be all in shade. The leaves of
the trees, which come between you and the sun are of two principal
colours which are a splendid lustre of green, and the reflection of
the atmosphere which lights up the objects which cannot be seen by
the sun, and the shaded portions which only face the earth, and the
darkest which are surrounded by something that is not dark. The
trees in the landscape which are between you and the sun are far
more beautiful than those you see when you are between the sun and
them; and this is so because those which face the sun show their
leaves as transparent towards the ends of their branches, and those
that are not transparent--that is at the ends--reflect the light;
and the shadows are dark because they are not concealed by any
The trees, when you place yourself between them and the sun, will
only display to you their light and natural colour, which, in
itself, is not very strong, and besides this some reflected lights
which, being against a background which does not differ very much
from themselves in tone, are not conspicuous; and if you are lower
down than they are situated, they may also show those portions on
which the light of the sun does not fall and these will be dark.
In the Wind.
But, if you are on the side whence the wind blows, you will see the
trees look very much lighter than on the other sides, and this
happens because the wind turns up the under side of the leaves,
which, in all trees, is much whiter than the upper sides; and, more
especially, will they be very light indeed if the wind blows from
the quarter where the sun is, and if you have your back turned to
[Footnote: At _S_, in the original is the word _Sole_ (sun) and at
_N parte di nuvolo_ (the side of the clouds).]
When the sun is covered by clouds, objects are less conspicuous,
because there is little difference between the light and shade of
the trees and of the buildings being illuminated by the brightness
of the atmosphere which surrounds the objects in such a way that the
shadows are few, and these few fade away so that their outline is
lost in haze.
OF TREES AND LIGHTS ON THEM.
The best method of practice in representing country scenes, or I
should say landscapes with their trees, is to choose them so that
the sun is covered with clouds so that the landscape receives an
universal light and not the direct light of the sun, which makes the
shadows sharp and too strongly different from the lights.
In landscapes which represent [a scene in] winter. The mountains
should not be shown blue, as we see in the mountains in the summer.
And this is proved [Footnote 5. 6.: _Per la_ 4_a di questo_. It is
impossible to ascertain what this quotation refers to. _Questo_
certainly does not mean the MS. in hand, nor any other now known to
us. The same remark applies to the phrase in line 15: _per la_ 2_a
di questo_.] in the 4th of this which says: Among mountains seen
from a great distance those will look of the bluest colour which are
in themselves the darkest; hence, when the trees are stripped of
their leaves, they will show a bluer tinge which will be in itself
darker; therefore, when the trees have lost their leaves they will
look of a gray colour, while, with their leaves, they are green, and
in proportion as the green is darker than the grey hue the green
will be of a bluer tinge than the gray. Also by the 2nd of this: The
shadows of trees covered with leaves are darker than the shadows of
those trees which have lost their leaves in proportion as the trees
covered with leaves are denser than those without leaves--and thus
my meaning is proved.
The definition of the blue colour of the atmosphere explains why the
landscape is bluer in the summer than in the winter.
OF PAINTING IN A LANDSCAPE.
If the slope of a hill comes between the eye and the horizon,
sloping towards the eye, while the eye is opposite the middle of the
height of this slope, then that hill will increase in darkness
throughout its length. This is proved by the 7th of this which says
that a tree looks darkest when it is seen from below; the
proposition is verified, since this hill will, on its upper half
show all its trees as much from the side which is lighted by the
light of the sky, as from that which is in shade from the darkness
of the earth; whence it must result that these trees are of a medium
darkness. And from this [middle] spot towards the base of the hill,
these trees will be lighter by degrees by the converse of the 7th
and by the said 7th: For trees so placed, the nearer they are to the
summit of the hill the darker they necessarily become. But this
darkness is not in proportion to the distance, by the 8th of this
which says: That object shows darkest which is [seen] in the
clearest atmosphere; and by the 10th: That shows darkest which
stands out against a lighter background.
[Footnote: The quotation in this passage again cannot be verified.]
The colours of the shadows in mountains at a great distance take a
most lovely blue, much purer than their illuminated portions. And
from this it follows that when the rock of a mountain is reddish the
illuminated portions are violet (?) and the more they are lighted
the more they display their proper colour.
A place is most luminous when it is most remote from mountains.
On the treatment of light for views of towns (465-469).
OF LIGHT AND SHADOW IN A TOWN.
When the sun is in the East and the eye is above the centre of a
town, the eye will see the Southern part of the town with its roofs
half in shade and half in light, and the same towards the North; the
Eastern side will be all in shadow and the Western will be all in
Of the houses of a town, in which the divisions between the houses
may be distinguished by the light which fall on the mist at the
bottom. If the eye is above the houses the light seen in the space
that is between one house and the next sinks by degrees into thicker
mist; and yet, being less transparent, it appears whiter; and if the
houses are some higher than the others, since the true [colour] is
always more discernible through the thinner atmosphere, the houses
will look darker in proportion as they are higher up. Let _n o p q_
represent the various density of the atmosphere thick with moisture,
_a_ being the eye, the house _b c_ will look lightest at the bottom,
because it is in a thicker atmosphere; the lines _c d f_ will appear
equally light, for although _f_ is more distant than _c_, it is
raised into a thinner atmosphere, if the houses _b e_ are of the
same height, because they cross a brightness which is varied by
mist, but this is only because the line of the eye which starts from
above ends by piercing a lower and denser atmosphere at _d_ than at
_b_. Thus the line a _f_ is lower at _f_ than at _c_; and the house
_f_ will be seen darker at _e_ from the line _e k_ as far as _m_,
than the tops of the houses standing in front of it.
OF TOWNS OR OTHER BUILDINGS SEEN IN THE EVENING OR THE MORNING
THROUGH THE MIST.
Of buildings seen at a great distance in the evening or the morning,
as in mist or dense atmosphere, only those portions are seen in
brightness which are lighted up by the sun which is near the
horizon; and those portions which are not lighted up by the sun
remain almost of the same colour and medium tone as the mist.
WHY OBJECTS WHICH ARE HIGH UP AND AT A DISTANCE ARE DARKER THAN THE
LOWER ONES, EVEN IF THE MIST IS UNIFORMLY DENSE.
Of objects standing in a mist or other dense atmosphere, whether
from vapour or smoke or distance, those will be most visible which
are the highest. And among objects of equal height that will be the
darkest [strongest] which has for background the deepest mist. Thus
the eye _h_ looking at _a b c_, towers of equal height, one with
another, sees _c_ the top of the first tower at _r_, at two degrees
of depth in the mist; and sees the height of the middle tower _b_
through one single degree of mist. Therefore the top of the tower
_c_ appears stronger than the top of the tower _b_, &c.
OF THE SMOKE OF A TOWN.
Smoke is seen better and more distinctly on the Eastern side than on
the Western when the sun is in the East; and this arises from two
causes; the first is that the sun, with its rays, shines through the
particles of the smoke and lights them up and makes them visible.
The second is that the roofs of the houses seen in the East at this
time are in shadow, because their obliquity does not allow of their
being illuminated by the sun. And the same thing occurs with dust;
and both one and the other look the lighter in proportion as they
are denser, and they are densest towards the middle.
OF SMOKE AND DUST.
If the sun is in the East the smoke of cities will not be visible in
the West, because on that side it is not seen penetrated by the
solar rays, nor on a dark background; since the roofs of the houses
turn the same side to the eye as they turn towards the sun, and on
this light background the smoke is not very visible.
But dust, under the same aspect, will look darker than smoke being
of denser material than smoke which is moist.
The effect of wind on trees (470-473).
OF REPRESENTING WIND.
In representing wind, besides the bending of the boughs and the
reversing of their leaves towards the quarter whence the wind comes,
you should also represent them amid clouds of fine dust mingled with
the troubled air.
Describe landscapes with the wind, and the water, and the setting
and rising of the sun.
All the leaves which hung towards the earth by the bending of the
shoots with their branches, are turned up side down by the gusts of
wind, and here their perspective is reversed; for, if the tree is
between you and the quarter of the wind, the leaves which are
towards you remain in their natural aspect, while those on the
opposite side which ought to have their points in a contrary
direction have, by being turned over, their points turned towards
Trees struck by the force of the wind bend to the side towards which
the wind is blowing; and the wind being past they bend in the
contrary direction, that is in reverse motion.
That portion of a tree which is farthest from the force which
strikes it is the most injured by the blow because it bears most
strain; thus nature has foreseen this case by thickening them in
that part where they can be most hurt; and most in such trees as
grow to great heights, as pines and the like. [Footnote: Compare the
sketch drawn with a pen and washed with Indian ink on Pl. XL, No. 1.
In the Vatican copy we find, under a section entitled '_del fumo_',
the following remark: _Era sotto di questo capitulo un rompimento di
montagna, per dentro delle quali roture scherzaua fiame di fuoco,
disegnate di penna et ombrate d'acquarella, da uedere cosa mirabile
et uiua (Ed. MANZI, p. 235. Ed. LUDWIG, Vol. I, 460). This appears
to refer to the left hand portion of the drawing here given from the
Windsor collection, and from this it must be inferred, that the leaf
as it now exists in the library of the Queen of England, was already
separated from the original MS. at the time when the Vatican copy
Light and shade on clouds (474-477).
Describe how the clouds are formed and how they dissolve, and what
cause raises vapour.
The shadows in clouds are lighter in proportion as they are nearer
to the horizon.
[Footnote: The drawing belonging to this was in black chalk and is
When clouds come between the sun and the eye all the upper edges of
their round forms are light, and towards the middle they are dark,
and this happens because towards the top these edges have the sun
above them while you are below them; and the same thing happens with
the position of the branches of trees; and again the clouds, like
the trees, being somewhat transparent, are lighted up in part, and
at the edges they show thinner.
But, when the eye is between the cloud and the sun, the cloud has
the contrary effect to the former, for the edges of its mass are
dark and it is light towards the middle; and this happens because
you see the same side as faces the sun, and because the edges have
some transparency and reveal to the eye that portion which is hidden
beyond them, and which, as it does not catch the sunlight like that
portion turned towards it, is necessarily somewhat darker. Again, it
may be that you see the details of these rounded masses from the
lower side, while the sun shines on the upper side and as they are
not so situated as to reflect the light of the sun, as in the first
instance they remain dark.
The black clouds which are often seen higher up than those which are
illuminated by the sun are shaded by other clouds, lying between
them and the sun.
Again, the rounded forms of the clouds that face the sun, show their
edges dark because they lie against the light background; and to see
that this is true, you may look at the top of any cloud that is
wholly light because it lies against the blue of the atmosphere,
which is darker than the cloud.
[Footnote: A drawing in red chalk from the Windsor collection (see
Pl. XXIX), representing a landscape with storm-clouds, may serve to
illustrate this section as well as the following one.]
OF CLOUDS, SMOKE AND DUST AND THE FLAMES OF A FURNACE OR OF A
The clouds do not show their rounded forms excepting on the sides
which face the sun; on the others the roundness is imperceptible
because they are in the shade. [Footnote: The text of this chapter
is given in facsimile on Pls. XXXVI and XXXVII. The two halves of
the leaf form but one in the original. On the margin close to lines
4 and 5 is the note: _rossore d'aria inverso l'orizonte_--(of the
redness of the atmosphere near the horizon). The sketches on the
lower portion of the page will be spoken of in No. 668.]
If the sun is in the East and the clouds in the West, the eye placed
between the sun and the clouds sees the edges of the rounded forms
composing these clouds as dark, and the portions which are
surrounded by this dark [edge] are light. And this occurs because
the edges of the rounded forms of these clouds are turned towards
the upper or lateral sky, which is reflected in them.
Both the cloud and the tree display no roundness at all on their
On images reflected in water.
Painters often deceive themselves, by representing water in which
they make the water reflect the objects seen by the man. But the
water reflects the object from one side and the man sees it from the
other; and it often happens that the painter sees an object from
below, and thus one and the same object is seen from hind part
before and upside down, because the water shows the image of the
object in one way, and the eye sees it in another.
Of rainbows and rain (479. 480).
The colours in the middle of the rainbow mingle together.
The bow in itself is not in the rain nor in the eye that sees it;
though it is generated by the rain, the sun, and the eye. The
rainbow is always seen by the eye that is between the rain and the
body of the sun; hence if the sun is in the East and the rain is in
the West it will appear on the rain in the West.
When the air is condensed into rain it would produce a vacuum if the
rest of the air did not prevent this by filling its place, as it
does with a violent rush; and this is the wind which rises in the
summer time, accompanied by heavy rain.
Of flower seeds.
All the flowers which turn towards the sun perfect their seeds; but
not the others; that is to say those which get only the reflection
of the sun.
_The Practice of Painting._
_It is hardly necessary to offer any excuses for the division
carried out in the arrangement of the text into practical
suggestions and theoretical enquiries. It was evidently intended by
Leonardo himself as we conclude from incidental remarks in the MSS.
(for instance No_ 110_). The fact that this arrangement was never
carried out either in the old MS. copies or in any edition since, is
easily accounted for by the general disorder which results from the
provisional distribution of the various chapters in the old copies.
We have every reason to believe that the earliest copyists, in
distributing the materials collected by them, did not in the least
consider the order in which the original MS.lay before them._
_It is evident that almost all the chapters which refer to the
calling and life of the painter--and which are here brought together
in the first section (Nos._ 482-508_)--may be referred to two
distinct periods in Leonardo's life; most of them can be dated as
belonging to the year_ 1492 _or to_ 1515. _At about this later time
Leonardo may have formed the project of completing his Libro della
Pittura, after an interval of some years, as it would seem, during
which his interest in the subject had fallen somewhat into the
_In the second section, which treats first of the artist's studio,
the construction of a suitable window forms the object of careful
investigations; the special importance attached to this by Leonardo
is sufficiently obvious. His theory of the incidence of light which
was fully discussed in a former part of this work, was to him by no
means of mere abstract value, but, being deduced, as he says, from
experience (or experiment) was required to prove its utility in
practice. Connected with this we find suggestions for the choice of
a light with practical hints as to sketching a picture and some
other precepts of a practical character which must come under
consideration in the course of completing the painting. In all this
I have followed the same principle of arrangement in the text as was
carried out in the Theory of Painting, thus the suggestions for the
Perspective of a picture, (Nos._ 536-569_), are followed by the
theory of light and shade for the practical method of optics (Nos._
548--566_) and this by the practical precepts or the treatment of
aerial perspective (_567--570_)._
_In the passage on Portrait and Figure Painting the principles of
painting as applied to a bust and head are separated and placed
first, since the advice to figure painters must have some connection
with the principles of the treatment of composition by which they
_But this arrangement of the text made it seem advisable not to pick
out the practical precepts as to the representation of trees and
landscape from the close connection in which they were originally
placed--unlike the rest of the practical precepts--with the theory
of this branch of the subject. They must therefore be sought under
the section entitled Botany for Painters._
_As a supplement to the_ Libro di Pittura _I have here added those
texts which treat of the Painter's materials,--as chalk, drawing
paper, colours and their preparation, of the management of oils and
varnishes; in the appendix are some notes on chemical substances.
Possibly some of these, if not all, may have stood in connection
with the preparation of colours. It is in the very nature of things
that Leonardo's incidental indications as to colours and the like
should be now-a-days extremely obscure and could only be explained
by professional experts--by them even in but few instances. It might
therefore have seemed advisable to reproduce exactly the original
text without offering any translation. The rendering here given is
merely an attempt to suggest what Leonardo's meaning may have been._
_LOMAZZO tells us in his_ Trattato dell'arte della Pittura, Scultura
ed Architettura (Milano 1584, libro II, Cap. XIV): "Va discorrendo
ed argomentando Leonardo Vinci in un suo libro letto da me (?)
questi anni passati, ch'egli scrisse di mano stanca ai prieghi di
LUDOVICO SFORZA duca di Milano, in determinazione di questa
questione, se e piu nobile la pittura o la scultura; dicendo che
quanto piu un'arte porta seco fatica di corpo, e sudore, tanto piu e
vile, e men pregiata". _But the existence of any book specially
written for Lodovico il Moro on the superiority of Painting over
sculpture is perhaps mythical. The various passages in praise of
Painting as compared not merely with Sculpture but with Poetry, are
scattered among MSS. of very different dates._
_Besides, the way, in which the subject is discussed appears not to
support the supposition, that these texts were prepared at a special
request of the Duke._
MORAL PRECEPTS FOR THE STUDENT OF PAINTING.
How to ascertain the dispositions for an artistic career.
A WARNING CONCERNING YOUTHS WISHING TO BE PAINTERS.
Many are they who have a taste and love for drawing, but no talent;
and this will be discernible in boys who are not diligent and never
finish their drawings with shading.
The course of instruction for an artist (483-485).
The youth should first learn perspective, then the proportions of
objects. Then he may copy from some good master, to accustom himself
to fine forms. Then from nature, to confirm by practice the rules he
has learnt. Then see for a time the works of various masters. Then
get the habit of putting his art into practice and work.
[Footnote: The Vatican copy and numerous abridgements all place this
chapter at the beginning of the _Trattato_, and in consequence
DUFRESNE and all subsequent editors have done the same. In the
Vatican copy however all the general considerations on the relation
of painting to the other arts are placed first, as introductory.]
OF THE ORDER OF LEARNING TO DRAW.
First draw from drawings by good masters done from works of art and
from nature, and not from memory; then from plastic work, with the
guidance of the drawing done from it; and then from good natural
models and this you must put into practice.
PRECEPTS FOR DRAWING.
The artist ought first to exercise his hand by copying drawings from
the hand of a good master. And having acquired that practice, under
the criticism of his master, he should next practise drawing objects
in relief of a good style, following the rules which will presently
The study of the antique (486. 487).
Which is best, to draw from nature or from the antique? and which is
more difficult to do outlines or light and shade?
It is better to imitate [copy] the antique than modern work.
[Footnote 486, 487: These are the only two passages in which
Leonardo alludes to the importance of antique art in the training of
an artist. The question asked in No. 486 remains unanswered by him
and it seems to me very doubtful whether the opinion stated in No.
487 is to be regarded as a reply to it. This opinion stands in the
MS. in a connection--as will be explained later on--which seems to
require us to limit its application to a single special case. At any
rate we may suspect that when Leonardo put the question, he felt
some hesitation as to the answer. Among his very numerous drawings I
have not been able to find a single study from the antique, though a
drawing in black chalk, at Windsor, of a man on horseback (PI.
LXXIII) may perhaps be a reminiscence of the statue of Marcus
Aurelius at Rome. It seems to me that the drapery in a pen and ink
drawing of a bust, also at Windsor, has been borrowed from an
antique model (Pl. XXX). G. G. Rossi has, I believe, correctly
interpreted Leonardo's feeling towards the antique in the following
note on this passage in manzi's edition, p. 501: "Sappiamo dalla
storia, che i valorosi artisti Toscani dell'età dell'oro dell'arte
studiarono sugli antichi marmi raccolti dal Magnifico LORENZO DE'
MEDICI. Pare che il Vinci a tali monumenti non si accostasse. Quest'
uomo sempre riconosce per maestra la natura, e questo principio lo
stringeva alla sola imitazione dì essa"--Compare No. 10, 26--28
The necessity of anatomical knowledge (488. 489).
It is indispensable to a Painter who would be thoroughly familiar
with the limbs in all the positions and actions of which they are
capable, in the nude, to know the anatomy of the sinews, bones,
muscles and tendons so that, in their various movements and
exertions, he may know which nerve or muscle is the cause of each
movement and show those only as prominent and thickened, and not the
others all over [the limb], as many do who, to seem great
draughtsmen, draw their nude figures looking like wood, devoid of
grace; so that you would think you were looking at a sack of walnuts
rather than the human form, or a bundle of radishes rather than the
muscles of figures.
HOW IT IS NECESSARY TO A PAINTER THAT HE SHOULD KNOW THE INTRINSIC
FORMS [STRUCTURE] OF MAN.
The painter who is familiar with the nature of the sinews, muscles,
and tendons, will know very well, in giving movement to a limb, how
many and which sinews cause it; and which muscle, by swelling,
causes the contraction of that sinew; and which sinews, expanded
into the thinnest cartilage, surround and support the said muscle.
Thus he will variously and constantly demonstrate the different
muscles by means of the various attitudes of his figures, and will
not do, as many who, in a variety of movements, still display the
very same things [modelling] in the arms, back, breast and legs. And
these things are not to be regarded as minor faults.
How to acquire practice.
OF STUDY AND THE ORDER OF STUDY.
I say that first you ought to learn the limbs and their mechanism,
and having this knowledge, their actions should come next, according
to the circumstances in which they occur in man. And thirdly to
compose subjects, the studies for which should be taken from natural
actions and made from time to time, as circumstances allow; and pay
attention to them in the streets and _piazze_ and fields, and note
them down with a brief indication of the forms; [Footnote 5: Lines
5-7 explained by the lower portion of the sketch No. 1 on Pl. XXXI.]
thus for a head make an o, and for an arm a straight or a bent line,
and the same for the legs and the body, [Footnote 7: Lines 5-7
explained by the lower portion of the sketch No. 1 on Pl. XXXI.] and
when you return home work out these notes in a complete form. The
Adversary says that to acquire practice and do a great deal of work
it is better that the first period of study should be employed in
drawing various compositions done on paper or on walls by divers
masters, and that in this way practice is rapidly gained, and good
methods; to which I reply that the method will be good, if it is
based on works of good composition and by skilled masters. But since
such masters are so rare that there are but few of them to be found,
it is a surer way to go to natural objects, than to those which are
imitated from nature with great deterioration, and so form bad
methods; for he who can go to the fountain does not go to the
[Footnote: This passage has been published by Dr. M. JORDAN, _Das
Malerbuck des L. da Vinci_, p. 89; his reading however varies
slightly from mine.]
Industry and thoroughness the first conditions (491-493.)
WHAT RULES SHOULD BE GIVEN TO BOYS LEARNING TO PAINT.
We know for certain that sight is one of the most rapid actions we
can perform. In an instant we see an infinite number of forms, still
we only take in thoroughly one object at a time. Supposing that you,
Reader, were to glance rapidly at the whole of this written page,
you would instantly perceive that it was covered with various
letters; but you could not, in the time, recognise what the letters
were, nor what they were meant to tell. Hence you would need to see
them word by word, line by line to be able to understand the
letters. Again, if you wish to go to the top of a building you must
go up step by step; otherwise it will be impossible that you should
reach the top. Thus I say to you, whom nature prompts to pursue this
art, if you wish to have a sound knowledge of the forms of objects
begin with the details of them, and do not go on to the second
[step] till you have the first well fixed in memory and in practice.
And if you do otherwise you will throw away your time, or certainly
greatly prolong your studies. And remember to acquire diligence
rather than rapidity.
HOW THAT DILIGENCE [ACCURACY] SHOULD FIRST BE LEARNT RATHER THAN
If you, who draw, desire to study well and to good purpose, always
go slowly to work in your drawing; and discriminate in. the lights,
which have the highest degree of brightness, and to what extent and
likewise in the shadows, which are those that are darker than the
others and in what way they intermingle; then their masses and the
relative proportions of one to the other. And note in their
outlines, which way they tend; and which part of the lines is curved
to one side or the other, and where they are more or less
conspicuous and consequently broad or fine; and finally, that your
light and shade blend without strokes and borders [but] looking like
smoke. And when you have thus schooled your hand and your judgment
by such diligence, you will acquire rapidity before you are aware.
The artist's private life and choice of company (493-494).
OF THE LIFE OF THE PAINTER IN THE COUNTRY.
A painter needs such mathematics as belong to painting. And the
absence of all companions who are alienated from his studies; his
brain must be easily impressed by the variety of objects, which
successively come before him, and also free from other cares
[Footnote 6: Leonardo here seems to be speaking of his own method of
work as displayed in his MSS. and this passage explains, at least in
part, the peculiarities in their arrangement.]. And if, when
considering and defining one subject, a second subject
intervenes--as happens when an object occupies the mind, then he
must decide which of these cases is the more difficult to work out,
and follow that up until it becomes quite clear, and then work out
the explanation of the other [Footnote 11: Leonardo here seems to be
speaking of his own method of work as displayed in his MSS. and this
passage explains, at least in part, the peculiarities in their
arrangement.]. And above all he must keep his mind as clear as the
surface of a mirror, which assumes colours as various as those of
the different objects. And his companions should be like him as to
their studies, and if such cannot be found he should keep his
speculations to himself alone, so that at last he will find no more
useful company [than his own].
[Footnote: In the title line Leonardo had originally written _del
pictore filosofo_ (the philosophical painter), but he himself struck
out_filosofo_. Compare in No. 363 _pictora notomista_ (anatomical
painter). The original text is partly reproduced on Pl. CI.]
OF THE LIFE OF THE PAINTER IN HIS STUDIO.
To the end that well-being of the body may not injure that of the
mind, the painter or draughtsman must remain solitary, and
particularly when intent on those studies and reflections which will
constantly rise up before his eye, giving materials to be well
stored in the memory. While you are alone you are entirely your own
[master] and if you have one companion you are but half your own,
and the less so in proportion to the indiscretion of his behaviour.
And if you have many companions you will fall deeper into the same
trouble. If you should say: "I will go my own way and withdraw
apart, the better to study the forms of natural objects", I tell
you, you will not be able to help often listening to their chatter.
And so, since one cannot serve two masters, you will badly fill the
part of a companion, and carry out your studies of art even worse.
And if you say: "I will withdraw so far that their words cannot
reach me and they cannot disturb me", I can tell you that you will
be thought mad. But, you see, you will at any rate be alone. And if
you must have companions ship find it in your studio. This may
assist you to have the advantages which arise from various
speculations. All other company may be highly mischievous.
The distribution of time for studying (495-497).
OF WHETHER IT IS BETTER TO DRAW WITH COMPANIONS OR NOT.
I say and insist that drawing in company is much better than alone,
for many reasons. The first is that you would be ashamed to be seen
behindhand among the students, and such shame will lead you to
careful study. Secondly, a wholesome emulation will stimulate you to
be among those who are more praised than yourself, and this praise
of others will spur you on. Another is that you can learn from the
drawings of others who do better than yourself; and if you are
better than they, you can profit by your contempt for their defects,
while the praise of others will incite you to farther merits.
[Footnote: The contradiction by this passage of the foregoing
chapter is only apparent. It is quite clear, from the nature of the
reasoning which is here used to prove that it is more improving to
work with others than to work alone, that the studies of pupils only
are under consideration here.]
OF STUDYING, IN THE DARK, WHEN YOU WAKE, OR IN BED BEFORE YOU GO TO
I myself have proved it to be of no small use, when in bed in the
dark, to recall in fancy the external details of forms previously
studied, or other noteworthy things conceived by subtle speculation;
and this is certainly an admirable exercise, and useful for
impressing things on the memory.
OF THE TIME FOR STUDYING SELECTION OF SUBJECTS.
Winter evenings ought to be employed by young students in looking
over the things prepared during the summer; that is, all the
drawings from the nude done in the summer should be brought together
and a choice made of the best [studies of] limbs and bodies among
them, to apply in practice and commit to memory.
After this in the following summer you should select some one who is
well grown and who has not been brought up in doublets, and so may
not be of stiff carriage, and make him go through a number of agile
and graceful actions; and if his muscles do not show plainly within
the outlines of his limbs that does not matter at all. It is enough
that you can see good attitudes and you can correct [the drawing of]
the limbs by those you studied in the winter.
[Footnote: An injunction to study in the evening occurs also in No.
On the productive power of minor artists (498-501).
He is a poor disciple who does not excel his master.
Nor is the painter praiseworthy who does but one thing well, as the
nude figure, heads, draperies, animals, landscapes or other such
details, irrespective of other work; for there can be no mind so
inept, that after devoting itself to one single thing and doing it
constantly, it should fail to do it well.
[Footnote: In MANZI'S edition (p. 502) the painter G. G. Bossi
indignantly remarks on this passage. "_Parla il Vince in questo
luogo come se tutti gli artisti avessero quella sublimita d'ingegno
capace di abbracciare tutte le cose, di cui era egli dotato"_ And he
then mentions the case of CLAUDE LORRAIN. But he overlooks the fact
that in Leonardo's time landscape painting made no pretensions to
independence but was reckoned among the details (_particulari_,
lines 3, 4).]
THAT A PAINTER IS NOT ADMIRABLE UNLESS HE IS UNIVERSAL.
Some may distinctly assert that those persons are under a delusion
who call that painter a good master who can do nothing well but a
head or a figure. Certainly this is no great achievement; after
studying one single thing for a life-time who would not have
attained some perfection in it? But, since we know that painting
embraces and includes in itself every object produced by nature or
resulting from the fortuitous actions of men, in short, all that the
eye can see, he seems to me but a poor master who can only do a
figure well. For do you not perceive how many and various actions
are performed by men only; how many different animals there are, as
well as trees, plants, flowers, with many mountainous regions and
plains, springs and rivers, cities with public and private
buildings, machines, too, fit for the purposes of men, divers
costumes, decorations and arts? And all these things ought to be
regarded as of equal importance and value, by the man who can be
termed a good painter.
OF THE MISERABLE PRETENCES MADE BY THOSE WHO FALSELY AND UNWORTHILY
ACQUIRE THE NAME OF PAINTERS.
Now there is a certain race of painters who, having studied but
little, must need take as their standard of beauty mere gold and
azure, and these, with supreme conceit, declare that they will not
give good work for miserable payment, and that they could do as well
as any other if they were well paid. But, ye foolish folks! cannot
such artists keep some good work, and then say: this is a costly
work and this more moderate and this is average work and show that
they can work at all prices?
A caution against one-sided study.
HOW, IN IMPORTANT WORKS, A MAN SHOULD NOT TRUST ENTIRELY TO HIS
MEMORY WITHOUT CONDESCENDING TO DRAW FROM NATURE.
Any master who should venture to boast that he could remember all
the forms and effects of nature would certainly appear to me to be
graced with extreme ignorance, inasmuch as these effects are
infinite and our memory is not extensive enough to retain them.
Hence, O! painter, beware lest the lust of gain should supplant in
you the dignity of art; for the acquisition of glory is a much
greater thing than the glory of riches. Hence, for these and other
reasons which might be given, first strive in drawing to represent
your intention to the eye by expressive forms, and the idea
originally formed in your imagination; then go on taking out or
putting in, until you have satisfied yourself. Then have living men,
draped or nude, as you may have purposed in your work, and take care
that in dimensions and size, as determined by perspective, nothing
is left in the work which is not in harmony with reason and the
effects in nature. And this will be the way to win honour in your
How to acquire universality (503-506).
OF VARIETY IN THE FIGURES.
The painter should aim at universality, because there is a great
want of self-respect in doing one thing well and another badly, as
many do who study only the [rules of] measure and proportion in the
nude figure and do not seek after variety; for a man may be well
proportioned, or he may be fat and short, or tall and thin, or
medium. And a painter who takes no account of these varieties always
makes his figures on one pattern so that they might all be taken for
brothers; and this is a defect that demands stern reprehension.
HOW SOMETHING MAY BE LEARNT EVERYWHERE.
Nature has beneficently provided that throughout the world you may
find something to imitate.
OF THE MEANS OF ACQUIRING UNIVERSALITY.
It is an easy matter to men to acquire universality, for all
terrestrial animals resemble each other as to their limbs, that is
in their muscles, sinews and bones; and they do not vary excepting
in length or in thickness, as will be shown under Anatomy. But then
there are aquatic animals which are of great variety; I will not try
to convince the painter that there is any rule for them for they are
of infinite variety, and so is the insect tribe.
The mind of the painter must resemble a mirror, which always takes
the colour of the object it reflects and is completely occupied by
the images of as many objects as are in front of it. Therefore you
must know, Oh Painter! that you cannot be a good one if you are not
the universal master of representing by your art every kind of form
produced by nature. And this you will not know how to do if you do
not see them, and retain them in your mind. Hence as you go through
the fields, turn your attention to various objects, and, in turn
look now at this thing and now at that, collecting a store of divers
facts selected and chosen from those of less value. But do not do
like some painters who, when they are wearied with exercising their
fancy dismiss their work from their thoughts and take exercise in
walking for relaxation, but still keep fatigue in their mind which,
though they see various objects [around them], does not apprehend
them; but, even when they meet friends or relations and are saluted
by them, although they see and hear them, take no more cognisance of
them than if they had met so much empty air.
Useful games and exercises (507. 508).
OF GAMES TO BE PLAYED BY THOSE WHO DRAW.
When, Oh draughtsmen, you desire to find relaxation in games you
should always practise such things as may be of use in your
profession, by giving your eye good practice in judging accurately
of the breadth and length of objects. Thus, to accustom your mind to
such things, let one of you draw a straight line at random on a
wall, and each of you, taking a blade of grass or of straw in his
hand, try to cut it to the length that the line drawn appears to him
to be, standing at a distance of 10 braccia; then each one may go up
to the line to measure the length he has judged it to be. And he who
has come nearest with his measure to the length of the pattern is
the best man, and the winner, and shall receive the prize you have
settled beforehand. Again you should take forshortened measures:
that is take a spear, or any other cane or reed, and fix on a point
at a certain distance; and let each one estimate how many times he
judges that its length will go into that distance. Again, who will
draw best a line one braccio long, which shall be tested by a
thread. And such games give occasion to good practice for the eye,
which is of the first importance in painting.
A WAY OF DEVELOPING AND AROUSING THE MIND TO VARIOUS INVENTIONS.
I cannot forbear to mention among these precepts a new device for
study which, although it may seem but trivial and almost ludicrous,
is nevertheless extremely useful in arousing the mind to various
inventions. And this is, when you look at a wall spotted with
stains, or with a mixture of stones, if you have to devise some
scene, you may discover a resemblance to various landscapes,
beautified with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide
valleys and hills in varied arrangement; or again you may see
battles and figures in action; or strange faces and costumes, and an
endless variety of objects, which you could reduce to complete and
well drawn forms. And these appear on such walls confusedly, like
the sound of bells in whose jangle you may find any name or word you
choose to imagine.
THE ARTIST'S STUDIO.--INSTRUMENTS AND HELPS FOR THE APPLICATION OF
PERSPECTIVE.--ON JUDGING OF A PICTURE.
On the size of the studio.
Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.
On the construction of windows (510-512).
The larger the wall the less the light will be.
The different kinds of light afforded in cellars by various forms of
windows. The least useful and the coldest is the window at _a_. The
most useful, the lightest and warmest and most open to the sky is
the window at _b_. The window at _c_ is of medium utility.
[Footnote: From a reference to the notes on the right light for
painting it becomes evident that the observations made on
cellar-windows have a direct bearing on the construction of the
studio-window. In the diagram _b_ as well as in that under No. 510
the window-opening is reduced to a minimum, but only, it would seem,
in order to emphasize the advantage of walls constructed on the plan
OF THE PAINTER'S WINDOW AND ITS ADVANTAGE.
The painter who works from nature should have a window, which he can
raise and lower. The reason is that sometimes you will want to
finish a thing you are drawing, close to the light.
Let _a b c d_ be the chest on which the work may be raised or
lowered, so that the work moves up and down and not the painter. And
every evening you can let down the work and shut it up above so that
in the evening it may be in the fashion of a chest which, when shut
up, may serve the purpose of a bench.
[Footnote: See Pl. XXXI, No. 2. In this plate the lines have
unfortunately lost their sharpness, for the accidental loss of the
negative has necessitated a reproduction from a positive. But having
formerly published this sketch by another process, in VON LUTZOW'S
_Zeitschrift fur bildende Kunst_ (Vol. XVII, pg. 13) I have
reproduced it here in the text. The sharpness of the outline in the
original sketch is here preserved but it gives it from the reversed
On the best light for painting (513-520).
Which light is best for drawing from nature; whether high or low, or
large or small, or strong and broad, or strong and small, or broad
and weak or small and weak?
[Footnote: The question here put is unanswered in the original MS.]
OF THE QUALITY OF THE LIGHT.
A broad light high up and not too strong will render the details of
objects very agreeable.
THAT THE LIGHT FOR DRAWING FROM NATURE SHOULD BE HIGH UP.
The light for drawing from nature should come from the North in
order that it may not vary. And if you have it from the South, keep
the window screened with cloth, so that with the sun shining the
whole day the light may not vary. The height of the light should be
so arranged as that every object shall cast a shadow on the ground
of the same length as itself.
THE KIND OF LIGHT REQUISITE FOR PAINTING LIGHT AND SHADE.
An object will display the greatest difference of light and shade
when it is seen in the strongest light, as by sunlight, or, at
night, by the light of a fire. But this should not be much used in
painting because the works remain crude and ungraceful.
An object seen in a moderate light displays little difference in the
light and shade; and this is the case towards evening or when the
day is cloudy, and works then painted are tender and every kind of
face becomes graceful. Thus, in every thing extremes are to be
avoided: Too much light gives crudeness; too little prevents our
seeing. The medium is best.
OF SMALL LIGHTS.
Again, lights cast from a small window give strong differences of
light and shade, all the more if the room lighted by it be large,
and this is not good for painting.
The luminous air which enters by passing through orifices in walls
into dark rooms will render the place less dark in proportion as the
opening cuts into the walls which surround and cover in the
OF THE QUALITY OF LIGHT.
In proportion to the number of times that _a b_ goes into _c d_ will
it be more luminous than _c d_. And similarly, in proportion as the
point _e_ goes into _c d_ will it be more luminous than _c d;_ and
this light is useful for carvers of delicate work. [Footnote 5: For
the same reason a window thus constructed would be convenient for an
illuminator or a miniature painter.]
[Footnote: M. RAVAISSON in his edition of the Paris MS. A remarks on
this passage: _"La figure porte les lettres_ f _et_ g, _auxquelles
rien ne renvoie dans l'explication; par consequent, cette
explication est incomplete. La figure semblerait, d'ailleurs, se
rapporter a l'effet de la reflexion par un miroir concave."_ So far
as I can see the text is not imperfect, nor is the sense obscure. It
is hardly necessary to observe that _c d_ here indicate the wall of
the room opposite to the window _e_ and the semicircle described by
_f g_ stands for the arch of the sky; this occurs in various
diagrams, for example under 511. A similar semicircle, Pl III, No. 2
(and compare No. 149) is expressly called '_orizonte_' in writing.]
That the light should fall upon a picture from one window only. This
may be seen in the case of objects in this form. If you want to
represent a round ball at a certain height you must make it oval in
this shape, and stand so far off as that by foreshortening it
OF SELECTING THE LIGHT WHICH GIVES MOST GRACE TO FACES.
If you should have a court yard that you can at pleasure cover with
a linen awning that light will be good. Or when you want to take a
portrait do it in dull weather, or as evening falls, making the
sitter stand with his back to one of the walls of the court yard.
Note in the streets, as evening falls, the faces of the men and
women, and when the weather is dull, what softness and delicacy you
may perceive in them. Hence, Oh Painter! have a court arranged with
the walls tinted black and a narrow roof projecting within the
walls. It should be 10 braccia wide and 20 braccia long and 10
braccia high and covered with a linen awning; or else paint a work
towards evening or when it is cloudy or misty, and this is a perfect
On various helps in preparing a picture (521-530).
To draw a nude figure from nature, or any thing else, hold in your
hand a plumb-line to enable you to judge of the relative position
OF DRAWING AN OBJECT.
When you draw take care to set up a principal line which you must
observe all throughout the object you are drawing; every thing
should bear relation to the direction of this principal line.
OF A MODE OF DRAWING A PLACE ACCURATELY.
Have a piece of glass as large as a half sheet of royal folio paper
and set thus firmly in front of your eyes that is, between your eye
and the thing you want to draw; then place yourself at a distance of
2/3 of a braccia from the glass fixing your head with a machine in
such a way that you cannot move it at all. Then shut or entirely
cover one eye and with a brush or red chalk draw upon the glass that
which you see beyond it; then trace it on paper from the glass,
afterwards transfer it onto good paper, and paint it if you like,
carefully attending to the arial perspective.
HOW TO LEARN TO PLACE YOUR FIGURES CORRECTLY.
If you want to acquire a practice of good and correct attitudes for
your figures, make a square frame or net, and square it out with
thread; place this between your eye and the nude model you are
drawing, and draw these same squares on the paper on which you mean
to draw the figure, but very delicately. Then place a pellet of wax
on a spot of the net which will serve as a fixed point, which,
whenever you look at your model, must cover the pit of the throat;
or, if his back is turned, it may cover one of the vertebrae of the
neck. Thus these threads will guide you as to each part of the body
which, in any given attitude will be found below the pit of the
throat, or the angles of the shoulders, or the nipples, or hips and
other parts of the body; and the transverse lines of the net will
show you how much the figure is higher over the leg on which it is
posed than over the other, and the same with the hips, and the knees
and the feet. But always fix the net perpendicularly so that all the
divisions that you see the model divided into by the net work
correspond with your drawing of the model on the net work you have
sketched. The squares you draw may be as much smaller than those of
the net as you wish that your figure should be smaller than nature.
Afterwards remember when drawing figures, to use the rule of the
corresponding proportions of the limbs as you have learnt it from
the frame and net. This should be 3 braccia and a half high and 3
braccia wide; 7 braccia distant from you and 1 braccio from the
[Footnote: Leonardo is commonly credited with the invention of the
arrangement of a plate of glass commonly known as the "vertical
plane." Professor E. VON BRUCKE in his _"Bruchstucke aus der Theorie
der bildenden Kunste,"_ Leipzig 1877, pg. 3, writes on this
contrivance. _"Unsere Glastafel ist die sogenannte Glastafel des
Leonardo da Vinci, die in Gestalt einer Glastafel vorgestellte
A METHOD OF DRAWING AN OBJECT IN RELIEF AT NIGHT.
Place a sheet of not too transparent paper between the relievo and
the light and you can draw thus very well.
[Footnote: Bodies thus illuminated will show on the surface of the
paper how the copyist has to distribute light and shade.]
If you want to represent a figure on a wall, the wall being
foreshortened, while the figure is to appear in its proper form, and
as standing free from the wall, you must proceed thus: have a thin
plate of iron and make a small hole in the centre; this hole must be
round. Set a light close to it in such a position as that it shines
through the central hole, then place any object or figure you please
so close to the wall that it touches it and draw the outline of the
shadow on the wall; then fill in the shade and add the lights; place
the person who is to see it so that he looks through that same hole
where at first the light was; and you will never be able to persuade
yourself that the image is not detached from the wall.
[Footnote: _uno piccolo spiracelo nel mezzo_. M. RAVAISSON, in his
edition of MS. A (Paris), p. 52, reads _nel muro_--evidently a
mistake for _nel mezzo_ which is quite plainly written; and he
translates it _"fait lui une petite ouverture dans le mur,"_ adding
in a note: _"les mots 'dans le mur' paraissent etre de trop.
Leonardo a du les ecrire par distraction"_ But _'nel mezzo'_ is
clearly legible even on the photograph facsimile given by Ravaisson
himself, and the objection he raises disappears at once. It is not
always wise or safe to try to prove our author's absence of mind or
inadvertence by apparent difficulties in the sense or connection of
TO DRAW A FIGURE ON A WALL 12 BRACCIA HIGH WHICH SHALL LOOK 24
If you wish to draw a figure or any other object to look 24 braccia
high you must do it in this way. First, on the surface _m r_ draw
half the man you wish to represent; then the other half; then put on
the vault _m n_ [the rest of] the figure spoken of above; first set
out the vertical plane on the floor of a room of the same shape as
the wall with the coved part on which you are to paint your figure.
Then, behind it, draw a figure set out in profile of whatever size
you please, and draw lines from it to the point _f_ and, as these
lines cut _m n_ on the vertical plane, so will the figure come on
the wall, of which the vertical plane gives a likeness, and you will
have all the [relative] heights and prominences of the figure. And
the breadth or thickness which are on the upright wall _m n_ are to
be drawn in their proper form, since, as the wall recedes the figure
will be foreshortened by itself; but [that part of] the figure which
goes into the cove you must foreshorten, as if it were standing
upright; this diminution you must set out on a flat floor and there
must stand the figure which is to be transferred from the vertical
plane _r n_[Footnote 17: _che leverai dalla pariete r n_. The
letters refer to the larger sketch, No. 3 on Pl. XXXI.] in its real
size and reduce it once more on a vertical plane; and this will be a
good method [Footnote 18: Leonardo here says nothing as to how the
image foreshortened by perspective and thus produced on the vertical
plane is to be transferred to the wall; but from what is said in
Nos. 525 and 523 we may conclude that he was familiar with the
process of casting the enlarged shadow of a squaring net on the
surface of a wall to guide him in drawing the figure.
_Pariete di rilieuo; "sur une parai en relief"_ (RAVAISSON). _"Auf
einer Schnittlinie zum Aufrichten"_ (LUDWIG). The explanation of
this puzzling expression must be sought in No. 545, lines 15-17.].
[Footnote: See Pl. XXXI. 3. The second sketch, which in the plate is
incomplete, is here reproduced and completed from the original to
illustrate the text. In the original the larger diagram is placed
between lines 5 and 6.
1. 2. C. A. 157a; 463a has the similar heading: '_del cressciere
della figura_', and the text begins: "_Se voli fare 1a figura
grande_ b c" but here it breaks off. The translation here given
renders the meaning of the passage as I think it must be understood.
The MS. is perfectly legible and the construction of the sentence is
simple and clear; difficulties can only arise from the very fullness
of the meaning, particularly towards the end of the passage.]
If you would to draw a cube in an angle of a wall, first draw the
object in its own proper shape and raise it onto a vertical plane
until it resembles the angle in which the said object is to be
Why are paintings seen more correctly in a mirror than out of it?
HOW THE MIRROR IS THE MASTER [AND GUIDE] OF PAINTERS.
When you want to see if your picture corresponds throughout with the
objects you have drawn from nature, take a mirror and look in that
at the reflection of the real things, and compare the reflected
image with your picture, and consider whether the subject of the two
images duly corresponds in both, particularly studying the mirror.
You should take the mirror for your guide--that is to say a flat
mirror--because on its surface the objects appear in many respects
as in a painting. Thus you see, in a painting done on a flat
surface, objects which appear in relief, and in the mirror--also a
flat surface--they look the same. The picture has one plane surface
and the same with the mirror. The picture is intangible, in so far
as that which appears round and prominent cannot be grasped in the
hands; and it is the same with the mirror. And since you can see
that the mirror, by means of outlines, shadows and lights, makes
objects appear in relief, you, who have in your colours far stronger
lights and shades than those in the mirror, can certainly, if you
compose your picture well, make that also look like a natural scene
reflected in a large mirror.
[Footnote: I understand the concluding lines of this passage as
follows: If you draw the upper half a figure on a large sheet of
paper laid out on the floor of a room (_sala be piana_) to the same
scale (_con le sue vere grosseze_) as the lower half, already drawn
upon the wall (lines 10, 11)you must then reduce them on a '_pariete
di rilievo_,' a curved vertical plane which serves as a model to
reproduce the form of the vault.]
OF JUDGING YOUR OWN PICTURES.
We know very well that errors are better recognised in the works of
others than in our own; and that often, while reproving little
faults in others, you may ignore great ones in yourself. To avoid
such ignorance, in the first place make yourself a master of
perspective, then acquire perfect knowledge of the proportions of
men and other animals, and also, study good architecture, that is so
far as concerns the forms of buildings and other objects which are
on the face of the earth; these forms are infinite, and the better
you know them the more admirable will your work be. And in cases
where you lack experience do not shrink from drawing them from
nature. But, to carry out my promise above [in the title]--I say
that when you paint you should have a flat mirror and often look at
your work as reflected in it, when you will see it reversed, and it
will appear to you like some other painter's work, so you will be
better able to judge of its faults than in any other way. Again, it
is well that you should often leave off work and take a little
relaxation, because, when you come back to it you are a better
judge; for sitting too close at work may greatly deceive you. Again,
it is good to retire to a distance because the work looks smaller
and your eye takes in more of it at a glance and sees more easily
the discords or disproportion in the limbs and colours of the
On the management of works (531. 532).
OF A METHOD OF LEARNING WELL BY HEART.
When you want to know a thing you have studied in your memory
proceed in this way: When you have drawn the same thing so many
times that you think you know it by heart, test it by drawing it
without the model; but have the model traced on flat thin glass and
lay this on the drawing you have made without the model, and note
carefully where the tracing does not coincide with your drawing, and
where you find you have gone wrong; and bear in mind not to repeat
the same mistakes. Then return to the model, and draw the part in
which you were wrong again and again till you have it well in your
mind. If you have no flat glass for tracing on, take some very thin
kidts-kin parchment, well oiled and dried. And when you have used it
for one drawing you can wash it clean with a sponge and make a
THAT A PAINTER OUGHT TO BE CURIOUS TO HEAR THE OPINIONS OF EVERY ONE
ON HIS WORK.
Certainly while a man is painting he ought not to shrink from
hearing every opinion. For we know very well that a man, though he
may not be a painter, is familiar with the forms of other men and
very capable of judging whether they are hump backed, or have one
shoulder higher or lower than the other, or too big a mouth or nose,
and other defects; and, as we know that men are competent to judge
of the works of nature, how much more ought we to admit that they
can judge of our errors; since you know how much a man may be
deceived in his own work. And if you are not conscious of this in
yourself study it in others and profit by their faults. Therefore be
curious to hear with patience the opinions of others, consider and
weigh well whether those who find fault have ground or not for
blame, and, if so amend; but, if not make as though you had not
heard, or if he should be a man you esteem show him by argument the
cause of his mistake.
On the limitations of painting (533-535)
HOW IN SMALL OBJECTS ERRORS ARE LESS EVIDENT THAN IN LARGE ONES.
In objects of minute size the extent of error is not so perceptible
as in large ones; and the reason is that if this small object is a
representation of a man or of some other animal, from the immense
diminution the details cannot be worked out by the artist with the
finish that is requisite. Hence it is not actually complete; and,
not being complete, its faults cannot be determined. For instance:
Look at a man at a distance of 300 braccia and judge attentively
whether he be handsome or ugly, or very remarkable or of ordinary
appearance. You will find that with the utmost effort you cannot
persuade yourself to decide. And the reason is that at such a
distance the man is so much diminished that the character of the
details cannot be determined. And if you wish to see how much this
man is diminished [by distance] hold one of your fingers at a span's
distance from your eye, and raise or lower it till the top joint
touches the feet of the figure you are looking at, and you will see
an incredible reduction. For this reason we often doubt as to the
person of a friend at a distance.
WHY A PAINTING CAN NEVER APPEAR DETACHED AS NATURAL OBJECTS DO.
Painters often fall into despair of imitating nature when they see
their pictures fail in that relief and vividness which objects have
that are seen in a mirror; while they allege that they have colours
which for brightness or depth far exceed the strength of light and
shade in the reflections in the mirror, thus displaying their own
ignorance rather than the real cause, because they do not know it.
It is impossible that painted objects should appear in such relief
as to resemble those reflected in the mirror, although both are seen
on a flat surface, unless they are seen with only one eye; and the
reason is that two eyes see one object behind another as _a_ and _b_
see _m_ and _n_. _m_ cannot exactly occupy [the space of] _n_
because the base of the visual lines is so broad that the second
body is seen beyond the first. But if you close one eye, as at _s_
the body _f_ will conceal _r_, because the line of sight proceeds
from a single point and makes its base in the first body, whence the
second, of the same size, can never be seen.
[Footnote: This passage contains the solution of the problem
proposed in No. 29, lines 10-14. Leonardo was evidently familiar
with the law of optics on which the construction of the stereoscope
depends. Compare E. VON BRUCKE, _Bruchstucke aus der Theorie der
bildenden Kunste_, pg. 69: "_Schon Leonardo da Vinci wusste, dass
ein noch so gut gemaltes Bild nie den vollen Eindruck der
Korperlichkeit geben kann, wie ihn die Natur selbst giebt. Er
erklart dies auch in Kap. LIII und Kap. CCCXLI_ (ed. DU FRESNE)
_des_ 'Trattato' _in sachgemasser Weise aus dem Sehen mit beiden
Chap. 53 of DU FRESNE'S edition corresponds to No. 534 of this
WHY OF TWO OBJECTS OF EQUAL SIZE A PAINTED ONE WILL LOOK LARGER THAN
A SOLID ONE.
The reason of this is not so easy to demonstrate as many others.
Still I will endeavour to accomplish it, if not wholly, at any rate
in part. The perspective of diminution demonstrates by reason, that
objects diminish in proportion as they are farther from the eye, and
this reasoning is confirmed by experience. Hence, the lines of sight
that extend between the object and the eye, when they are directed
to the surface of a painting are all intersected at uniform limits,
while those lines which are directed towards a piece of sculpture
are intersected at various limits and are of various lengths. The
lines which are longest extend to a more remote limb than the others
and therefore that limb looks smaller. As there are numerous lines
each longer than the others--since there are numerous parts, each
more remote than the others and these, being farther off,
necessarily appear smaller, and by appearing smaller it follows that
their diminution makes the whole mass of the object look smaller.
But this does not occur in painting; since the lines of sight all
end at the same distance there can be no diminution, hence the parts
not being diminished the whole object is undiminished, and for this
reason painting does not diminish, as a piece of sculpture does.
On the choice of a position (536-537)
HOW HIGH THE POINT OF SIGHT SHOULD BE PLACED.
The point of sight must be at the level of the eye of an ordinary
man, and the farthest limit of the plain where it touches the sky
must be placed at the level of that line where the earth and sky
meet; excepting mountains, which are independent of it.
OF THE WAY TO DRAW FIGURES FOR HISTORICAL PICTURES.
The painter must always study on the wall on which he is to picture
a story the height of the position where he wishes to arrange his
figures; and when drawing his studies for them from nature he must
place himself with his eye as much below the object he is drawing
as, in the picture, it will have to be above the eye of the
spectator. Otherwise the work will look wrong.
The apparent size of figures in a picture (538-539)
OF PLACING A FIGURE IN THE FOREGROUND OF A HISTORICAL PICTURE.
You must make the foremost figure in the picture less than the size
of nature in proportion to the number of braccia at which you place
it from the front line, and make the others in proportion by the
You are asked, O Painter, why the figures you draw on a small scale
according to the laws of perspective do not appear--notwithstanding
the demonstration of distance--as large as real ones--their height
being the same as in those painted on the wall.
And why [painted] objects seen at a small distance appear larger
than the real ones?
The right position of the artist, when painting, and of the
When you draw from nature stand at a distance of 3 times the height
of the object you wish to draw.
OF DRAWING FROM RELIEF.
In drawing from the round the draughtsman should so place himself
that the eye of the figure he is drawing is on a level with his own.
This should be done with any head he may have to represent from
nature because, without exception, the figures or persons you meet
in the streets have their eyes on the same level as your own; and if
you place them higher or lower you will see that your drawing will
not be true.
WHY GROUPS OF FIGURES ONE ABOVE ANOTHER ARE TO BE AVOIDED.
The universal practice which painters adopt on the walls of chapels
is greatly and reasonably to be condemned. Inasmuch as they
represent one historical subject on one level with a landscape and
buildings, and then go up a step and paint another, varying the
point [of sight], and then a third and a fourth, in such a way as
that on one wall there are 4 points of sight, which is supreme folly
in such painters. We know that the point of sight is opposite the
eye of the spectator of the scene; and if you would [have me] tell
you how to represent the life of a saint divided into several
pictures on one and the same wall, I answer that you must set out
the foreground with its point of sight on a level with the eye of
the spectator of the scene, and upon this plane represent the more
important part of the story large and then, diminishing by degrees
the figures, and the buildings on various hills and open spaces, you
can represent all the events of the history. And on the remainder of
the wall up to the top put trees, large as compared with the
figures, or angels if they are appropriate to the story, or birds or
clouds or similar objects; otherwise do not trouble yourself with it
for your whole work will be wrong.
A PICTURE OF OBJECTS IN PERSPECTIVE WILL LOOK MORE LIFELIKE WHEN
SEEN FROM THE POINT FROM WHICH THE OBJECTS WERE DRAWN.
If you want to represent an object near to you which is to have the
effect of nature, it is impossible that your perspective should not
look wrong, with every false relation and disagreement of proportion
that can be imagined in a wretched work, unless the spectator, when
he looks at it, has his eye at the very distance and height and
direction where the eye or the point of sight was placed in doing
this perspective. Hence it would be necessary to make a window, or
rather a hole, of the size of your face through which you can look
at the work; and if you do this, beyond all doubt your work, if it
is correct as to light and shade, will have the effect of nature;
nay you will hardly persuade yourself that those objects are
painted; otherwise do not trouble yourself about it, unless indeed
you make your view at least 20 times as far off as the greatest
width or height of the objects represented, and this will satisfy
any spectator placed anywhere opposite to the picture.
If you want the proof briefly shown, take a piece of wood in the
form of a little column, eight times as high as it is thick, like a
column without any plinth or capital; then mark off on a flat wall
40 equal spaces, equal to its width so that between them they make
40 columns resembling your little column; you then must fix,
opposite the centre space, and at 4 braccia from the wall, a thin
strip of iron with a small round hole in the middle about as large
as a big pearl. Close to this hole place a light touching it. Then
place your column against each mark on the wall and draw the outline
of its shadow; afterwards shade it and look through the hole in the
[Footnote: In the original there is a wide space between lines 3 and
4 in which we find two sketches not belonging to the text. It is
unnecessary to give prominence to the points in which my reading
differs from that of M. RAVAISSON or to justify myself, since they
are all of secondary importance and can also be immediately verified
from the photograph facsimile in his edition.]
A diminished object should be seen from the same distance, height
and direction as the point of sight of your eye, or else your
knowledge will produce no good effect.
And if you will not, or cannot, act on this principle--because as
the plane on which you paint is to be seen by several persons you
would need several points of sight which would make it look
discordant and wrong--place yourself at a distance of at least 10
times the size of the objects.
The lesser fault you can fall into then, will be that of
representing all the objects in the foreground of their proper size,
and on whichever side you are standing the objects thus seen will
diminish themselves while the spaces between them will have no
definite ratio. For, if you place yourself in the middle of a
straight row [of objects], and look at several columns arranged in a
line you will see, beyond a few columns separated by intervals, that