The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Complete
by Leonardo Da Vinci
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[Footnote: Compare LIBRI, Histoire des sciences mathmatiques en Italie. Tome III, p. 43.]

The function of the eye as explained by the camera obscura (70. 71).


If the object in front of the eye sends its image to the eye, the eye, on the other hand, sends its image to the object, and no portion whatever of the object is lost in the images it throws off, for any reason either in the eye or the object. Therefore we may rather believe it to be the nature and potency of our luminous atmosphere which absorbs the images of the objects existing in it, than the nature of the objects, to send their images through the air. If the object opposite to the eye were to send its image to the eye, the eye would have to do the same to the object, whence it might seem that these images were an emanation. But, if so, it would be necessary [to admit] that every object became rapidly smaller; because each object appears by its images in the surrounding atmosphere. That is: the whole object in the whole atmosphere, and in each part; and all the objects in the whole atmosphere and all of them in each part; speaking of that atmosphere which is able to contain in itself the straight and radiating lines of the images projected by the objects. From this it seems necessary to admit that it is in the nature of the atmosphere, which subsists between the objects, and which attracts the images of things to itself like a loadstone, being placed between them.


I say that if the front of a building—or any open piazza or field—which is illuminated by the sun has a dwelling opposite to it, and if, in the front which does not face the sun, you make a small round hole, all the illuminated objects will project their images through that hole and be visible inside the dwelling on the opposite wall which may be made white; and there, in fact, they will be upside down, and if you make similar openings in several places in the same wall you will have the same result from each. Hence the images of the illuminated objects are all everywhere on this wall and all in each minutest part of it. The reason, as we clearly know, is that this hole must admit some light to the said dwelling, and the light admitted by it is derived from one or many luminous bodies. If these bodies are of various colours and shapes the rays forming the images are of various colours and shapes, and so will the representations be on the wall.

[Footnote: 70. 15—23. This section has already been published in the "Saggio delle Opere di Leonardo da Vinci" Milan 1872, pp. 13, 14. G. Govi observes upon it, that Leonardo is not to be regarded as the inventor of the Camera obscura, but that he was the first to explain by it the structure of the eye. An account of the Camera obscura first occurs in CESARE CESARINI's Italian version of Vitruvius, pub. 1523, four years after Leonardo's death. Cesarini expressly names Benedettino Don Papnutio as the inventor of the Camera obscura. In his explanation of the function of the eye by a comparison with the Camera obscura Leonardo was the precursor of G. CARDANO, Professor of Medicine at Bologna (died 1576) and it appears highly probable that this is, in fact, the very discovery which Leonardo ascribes to himself in section 21 without giving any further details.]



An experiment, showing how objects transmit their images or pictures, intersecting within the eye in the crystalline humour, is seen when by some small round hole penetrate the images of illuminated objects into a very dark chamber. Then, receive these images on a white paper placed within this dark room and rather near to the hole and you will see all the objects on the paper in their proper forms and colours, but much smaller; and they will be upside down by reason of that very intersection. These images being transmitted from a place illuminated by the sun will seem actually painted on this paper which must be extremely thin and looked at from behind. And let the little perforation be made in a very thin plate of iron. Let a b e d e be the object illuminated by the sun and o r the front of the dark chamber in which is the said hole at n m. Let s t be the sheet of paper intercepting the rays of the images of these objects upside down, because the rays being straight, a on the right hand becomes k on the left, and e on the left becomes f on the right; and the same takes place inside the pupil.

[Footnote: This chapter is already known through a translation into French by VENTURI. Compare his 'Essai sur les ouvrages physico-mathmatiques de L. da Vinci avec des fragments tirs de ses Manuscrits, apports de l'Italie. Lu a la premiere classe de l'Institut national des Sciences et Arts.' Paris, An V (1797).]

The practice of perspective (72. 73).


In the practice of perspective the same rules apply to light and to the eye.


The object which is opposite to the pupil of the eye is seen by that pupil and that which is opposite to the eye is seen by the pupil.

Refraction of the rays falling upon the eye (74. 75)


The lines sent forth by the image of an object to the eye do not reach the point within the eye in straight lines.


If the judgment of the eye is situated within it, the straight lines of the images are refracted on its surface because they pass through the rarer to the denser medium. If, when you are under water, you look at objects in the air you will see them out of their true place; and the same with objects under water seen from the air.

The intersection of the rays (76-82).


The inversion of the images.

All the images of objects which pass through a window [glass pane] from the free outer air to the air confined within walls, are seen on the opposite side; and an object which moves in the outer air from east to west will seem in its shadow, on the wall which is lighted by this confined air, to have an opposite motion.



What difference is there in the way in which images pass through narrow openings and through large openings, or in those which pass by the sides of shaded bodies? By moving the edges of the opening through which the images are admitted, the images of immovable objects are made to move. And this happens, as is shown in the 9th which demonstrates: [Footnote 11: per la 9a che dicie. When Leonardo refers thus to a number it serves to indicate marginal diagrams; this can in some instances be distinctly proved. The ninth sketch on the page W. L. 145 b corresponds to the middle sketch of the three reproduced.] the images of any object are all everywhere, and all in each part of the surrounding air. It follows that if one of the edges of the hole by which the images are admitted to a dark chamber is moved it cuts off those rays of the image that were in contact with it and gets nearer to other rays which previously were remote from it &c.


If you move the right side of the opening the image on the left will move [being that] of the object which entered on the right side of the opening; and the same result will happen with all the other sides of the opening. This can be proved by the 2nd of this which shows: all the rays which convey the images of objects through the air are straight lines. Hence, if the images of very large bodies have to pass through very small holes, and beyond these holes recover their large size, the lines must necessarily intersect.

[Footnote: 77. 2. In the first of the three diagrams Leonardo had drawn only one of the two margins, et m.]


Necessity has provided that all the images of objects in front of the eye shall intersect in two places. One of these intersections is in the pupil, the other in the crystalline lens; and if this were not the case the eye could not see so great a number of objects as it does. This can be proved, since all the lines which intersect do so in a point. Because nothing is seen of objects excepting their surface; and their edges are lines, in contradistinction to the definition of a surface. And each minute part of a line is equal to a point; for smallest is said of that than which nothing can be smaller, and this definition is equivalent to the definition of the point. Hence it is possible for the whole circumference of a circle to transmit its image to the point of intersection, as is shown in the 4th of this which shows: all the smallest parts of the images cross each other without interfering with each other. These demonstrations are to illustrate the eye. No image, even of the smallest object, enters the eye without being turned upside down; but as it penetrates into the crystalline lens it is once more reversed and thus the image is restored to the same position within the eye as that of the object outside the eye.



Only one line of the image, of all those that reach the visual virtue, has no intersection; and this has no sensible dimensions because it is a mathematical line which originates from a mathematical point, which has no dimensions.

According to my adversary, necessity requires that the central line of every image that enters by small and narrow openings into a dark chamber shall be turned upside down, together with the images of the bodies that surround it.



It is impossible that the line should intersect itself; that is, that its right should cross over to its left side, and so, its left side become its right side. Because such an intersection demands two lines, one from each side; for there can be no motion from right to left or from left to right in itself without such extension and thickness as admit of such motion. And if there is extension it is no longer a line but a surface, and we are investigating the properties of a line, and not of a surface. And as the line, having no centre of thickness cannot be divided, we must conclude that the line can have no sides to intersect each other. This is proved by the movement of the line a f to a b and of the line e b to e f, which are the sides of the surface a f e b. But if you move the line a b and the line e f, with the frontends a e, to the spot c, you will have moved the opposite ends f b towards each other at the point d. And from the two lines you will have drawn the straight line c d which cuts the middle of the intersection of these two lines at the point n without any intersection. For, you imagine these two lines as having breadth, it is evident that by this motion the first will entirely cover the other—being equal with it—without any intersection, in the position c d. And this is sufficient to prove our proposition.



Just as all lines can meet at a point without interfering with each other—being without breadth or thickness—in the same way all the images of surfaces can meet there; and as each given point faces the object opposite to it and each object faces an opposite point, the converging rays of the image can pass through the point and diverge again beyond it to reproduce and re-magnify the real size of that image. But their impressions will appear reversed—as is shown in the first, above; where it is said that every image intersects as it enters the narrow openings made in a very thin substance.

Read the marginal text on the other side.

In proportion as the opening is smaller than the shaded body, so much less will the images transmitted through this opening intersect each other. The sides of images which pass through openings into a dark room intersect at a point which is nearer to the opening in proportion as the opening is narrower. To prove this let a b be an object in light and shade which sends not its shadow but the image of its darkened form through the opening d e which is as wide as this shaded body; and its sides a b, being straight lines (as has been proved) must intersect between the shaded object and the opening; but nearer to the opening in proportion as it is smaller than the object in shade. As is shown, on your right hand and your left hand, in the two diagrams a b c n m o where, the right opening d e, being equal in width to the shaded object a b, the intersection of the sides of the said shaded object occurs half way between the opening and the shaded object at the point c. But this cannot happen in the left hand figure, the opening o being much smaller than the shaded object n m.

It is impossible that the images of objects should be seen between the objects and the openings through which the images of these bodies are admitted; and this is plain, because where the atmosphere is illuminated these images are not formed visibly.

When the images are made double by mutually crossing each other they are invariably doubly as dark in tone. To prove this let d e h be such a doubling which although it is only seen within the space between the bodies in b and i this will not hinder its being seen from f g or from f m; being composed of the images a b i k which run together in d e h.

[Footnote: 81. On the original diagram at the beginning of this chapter Leonardo has written "azurro" (blue) where in the facsimile I have marked A, and "giallo" (yellow) where B stands.]

[Footnote: 15—23. These lines stand between the diagrams I and III.]

[Footnote: 24—53. These lines stand between the diagrams I and II.]

[Footnote: 54—97 are written along the left side of diagram I.]


An experiment showing that though the pupil may not be moved from its position the objects seen by it may appear to move from their places.

If you look at an object at some distance from you and which is below the eye, and fix both your eyes upon it and with one hand firmly hold the upper lid open while with the other you push up the under lid—still keeping your eyes fixed on the object gazed at—you will see that object double; one [image] remaining steady, and the other moving in a contrary direction to the pressure of your finger on the lower eyelid. How false the opinion is of those who say that this happens because the pupil of the eye is displaced from its position.

How the above mentioned facts prove that the pupil acts upside down in seeing.

[Footnote: 82. 14—17. The subject indicated by these two headings is fully discussed in the two chapters that follow them in the original; but it did not seem to me appropriate to include them here.]

Demostration of perspective by means of a vertical glass plane (83-85).



Perspective is nothing else than seeing place [or objects] behind a plane of glass, quite transparent, on the surface of which the objects behind that glass are to be drawn. These can be traced in pyramids to the point in the eye, and these pyramids are intersected on the glass plane.


Pictorial perspective can never make an object at the same distance, look of the same size as it appears to the eye. You see that the apex of the pyramid f c d is as far from the object c d as the same point f is from the object a b; and yet c d, which is the base made by the painter's point, is smaller than a b which is the base of the lines from the objects converging in the eye and refracted at s t, the surface of the eye. This may be proved by experiment, by the lines of vision and then by the lines of the painter's plumbline by cutting the real lines of vision on one and the same plane and measuring on it one and the same object.



The vertical plane is a perpendicular line, imagined as in front of the central point where the apex of the pyramids converge. And this plane bears the same relation to this point as a plane of glass would, through which you might see the various objects and draw them on it. And the objects thus drawn would be smaller than the originals, in proportion as the distance between the glass and the eye was smaller than that between the glass and the objects.


The different converging pyramids produced by the objects, will show, on the plane, the various sizes and remoteness of the objects causing them.


All those horizontal planes of which the extremes are met by perpendicular lines forming right angles, if they are of equal width the more they rise to the level of eye the less this is seen, and the more the eye is above them the more will their real width be seen.


The farther a spherical body is from the eye the more you will see of it.

The angle of sight varies with the distance (86-88)


A simple and natural method; showing how objects appear to the eye without any other medium.

The object that is nearest to the eye always seems larger than another of the same size at greater distance. The eye m, seeing the spaces o v x, hardly detects the difference between them, and the. reason of this is that it is close to them [Footnote 6: It is quite inconceivable to me why M. RAVAISSON, in a note to his French translation of this simple passage should have remarked: Il est clair que c'est par erreur que Leonard a crit per esser visino au lieu de per non esser visino. (See his printed ed. of MS. A. p. 38.)]; but if these spaces are marked on the vertical plane n o the space o v will be seen at o r, and in the same way the space v x will appear at r q. And if you carry this out in any place where you can walk round, it will look out of proportion by reason of the great difference in the spaces o r and r q. And this proceeds from the eye being so much below [near] the plane that the plane is foreshortened. Hence, if you wanted to carry it out, you would have [to arrange] to see the perspective through a single hole which must be at the point m, or else you must go to a distance of at least 3 times the height of the object you see. The plane o p being always equally remote from the eye will reproduce the objects in a satisfactory way, so that they may be seen from place to place.


How every large mass sends forth its images, which may diminish through infinity.

The images of any large mass being infinitely divisible may be infinitely diminished.


Objects of equal size, situated in various places, will be seen by different pyramids which will each be smaller in proportion as the object is farther off.


Perspective, in dealing with distances, makes use of two opposite pyramids, one of which has its apex in the eye and the base as distant as the horizon. The other has the base towards the eye and the apex on the horizon. Now, the first includes the [visible] universe, embracing all the mass of the objects that lie in front of the eye; as it might be a vast landscape seen through a very small opening; for the more remote the objects are from the eye, the greater number can be seen through the opening, and thus the pyramid is constructed with the base on the horizon and the apex in the eye, as has been said. The second pyramid is extended to a spot which is smaller in proportion as it is farther from the eye; and this second perspective [= pyramid] results from the first.



Simple perspective is that which is constructed by art on a vertical plane which is equally distant from the eye in every part. Complex perspective is that which is constructed on a ground-plan in which none of the parts are equally distant from the eye.



No surface can be seen exactly as it is, if the eye that sees it is not equally remote from all its edges.



When an object opposite the eye is brought too close to it, its edges must become too confused to be distinguished; as it happens with objects close to a light, which cast a large and indistinct shadow, so is it with an eye which estimates objects opposite to it; in all cases of linear perspective, the eye acts in the same way as the light. And the reason is that the eye has one leading line (of vision) which dilates with distance and embraces with true discernment large objects at a distance as well as small ones that are close. But since the eye sends out a multitude of lines which surround this chief central one and since these which are farthest from the centre in this cone of lines are less able to discern with accuracy, it follows that an object brought close to the eye is not at a due distance, but is too near for the central line to be able to discern the outlines of the object. So the edges fall within the lines of weaker discerning power, and these are to the function of the eye like dogs in the chase which can put up the game but cannot take it. Thus these cannot take in the objects, but induce the central line of sight to turn upon them, when they have put them up. Hence the objects which are seen with these lines of sight have confused outlines.

The relative size of objects with regard to their distance from the eye (93-98).



Small objects close at hand and large ones at a distance, being seen within equal angles, will appear of the same size.



There is no object so large but that at a great distance from the eye it does not appear smaller than a smaller object near.


Among objects of equal size that which is most remote from the eye will look the smallest. [Footnote: This axiom, sufficiently clear in itself, is in the original illustrated by a very large diagram, constructed like that here reproduced under No. 108.

The same idea is repeated in C. A. I a; I a, stated as follows: Infra le cose d'equal grandeza quella si dimostra di minor figura che sara pi distante dall' ochio.—]


Why an object is less distinct when brought near to the eye, and why with spectacles, or without the naked eye sees badly either close or far off [as the case may be].



Among objects of equal size, that which is most remote from the eye will look the smallest.



No second object can be so much lower than the first as that the eye will not see it higher than the first, if the eye is above the second.


And this second object will never be so much higher than the first as that the eye, being below them, will not see the second as lower than the first.


If the eye sees a second square through the centre of a smaller one, that is nearer, the second, larger square will appear to be surrounded by the smaller one.


Objects that are farther off can never be so large but that those in front, though smaller, will conceal or surround them.


This proposition can be proved by experiment. For if you look through a small hole there is nothing so large that it cannot be seen through it and the object so seen appears surrounded and enclosed by the outline of the sides of the hole. And if you stop it up, this small stopping will conceal the view of the largest object.

The apparent size of objects defined by calculation (99-105)



Linear Perspective deals with the action of the lines of sight, in proving by measurement how much smaller is a second object than the first, and how much the third is smaller than the second; and so on by degrees to the end of things visible. I find by experience that if a second object is as far beyond the first as the first is from the eye, although they are of the same size, the second will seem half the size of the first and if the third object is of the same size as the 2nd, and the 3rd is as far beyond the second as the 2nd from the first, it will appear of half the size of the second; and so on by degrees, at equal distances, the next farthest will be half the size of the former object. So long as the space does not exceed the length of 20 braccia. But, beyond 20 braccia figures of equal size will lose 2/4 and at 40 braccia they will lose 9/10, and 19/20 at 60 braccia, and so on diminishing by degrees. This is if the picture plane is distant from you twice your own height. If it is only as far off as your own height, there will be a great difference between the first braccia and the second.

[Footnote: This chapter is included in DUFRESNE'S and MANZI'S editions of the Treatise on Painting. H. LUDWIG, in his commentary, calls this chapter "eines der wichtigsten im ganzen Tractat", but at the same time he asserts that its substance has been so completely disfigured in the best MS. copies that we ought not to regard Leonardo as responsible for it. However, in the case of this chapter, the old MS. copies agree with the original as it is reproduced above. From the chapters given later in this edition, which were written at a subsequent date, it would appear that Leonardo corrected himself on these points.]



A second object as far distant from the first as the first is from the eye will appear half the size of the first, though they be of the same size really.


If you place the vertical plane at one braccio from the eye, the first object, being at a distance of 4 braccia from your eye will diminish to 3/4 of its height at that plane; and if it is 8 braccia from the eye, to 7/8; and if it is 16 braccia off, it will diminish to 15/16 of its height and so on by degrees, as the space doubles the diminution will double.


Begin from the line m f with the eye below; then go up and do the same with the line n f, then with the eye above and close to the 2 gauges on the ground look at m n; then as c m is to m n so will n m be to n s.

If a n goes 3 times into f b, m p will do the same into p g. Then go backwards so far as that c d goes twice into a n and p g will be equal to g h. And m p will go into h p as often as d c into o p.

[Footnote: The first three lines are unfortunately very obscure.]



Although the objects seen by the eye do, in fact, touch each other as they recede, I will nevertheless found my rule on spaces of 20 braccia each; as a musician does with notes, which, though they can be carried on one into the next, he divides into degrees from note to note calling them 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th; and has affixed a name to each degree in raising or lowering the voice.



Let f be the level and distance of the eye; and a the vertical plane, as high as a man; let e be a man, then I say that on the plane this will be the distance from the plane to the 2nd man.


The differences in the diminution of objects of equal size in consequence of their various remoteness from the eye will bear among themselves the same proportions as those of the spaces between the eye and the different objects.

Find out how much a man diminishes at a certain distance and what its length is; and then at twice that distance and at 3 times, and so make your general rule.


The eye cannot judge where an object high up ought to descend.



If two similar and equal objects are placed one beyond the other at a given distance the difference in their size will appear greater in proportion as they are nearer to the eye that sees them. And conversely there will seem to be less difference in their size in proportion as they are remote from the eve.

This is proved by the proportions of their distances among themselves; for, if the first of these two objects were as far from the eye, as the 2nd from the first this would be called the second proportion: since, if the first is at 1 braccia from the eye and the 2nd at two braccia, two being twice as much as one, the first object will look twice as large as the second. But if you place the first at a hundred braccia from you and the second at a hundred and one, you will find that the first is only so much larger than the second as 100 is less than 101; and the converse is equally true. And again, the same thing is proved by the 4th of this book which shows that among objects that are equal, there is the same proportion in the diminution of the size as in the increase in the distance from the eye of the spectator.

On natural perspective (107—109).



The practice of perspective may be divided into ... parts [Footnote 4: in ... parte. The space for the number is left blank in the original.], of which the first treats of objects seen by the eye at any distance; and it shows all these objects just as the eye sees them diminished, without obliging a man to stand in one place rather than another so long as the plane does not produce a second foreshortening.

But the second practice is a combination of perspective derived partly from art and partly from nature and the work done by its rules is in every portion of it, influenced by natural perspective and artificial perspective. By natural perspective I mean that the plane on which this perspective is represented is a flat surface, and this plane, although it is parallel both in length and height, is forced to diminish in its remoter parts more than in its nearer ones. And this is proved by the first of what has been said above, and its diminution is natural. But artificial perspective, that is that which is devised by art, does the contrary; for objects equal in size increase on the plane where it is foreshortened in proportion as the eye is more natural and nearer to the plane, and as the part of the plane on which it is figured is farther from the eye.

And let this plane be d e on which are seen 3 equal circles which are beyond this plane d e, that is the circles a b c. Now you see that the eye h sees on the vertical plane the sections of the images, largest of those that are farthest and smallest of the nearest.


Here follows what is wanting in the margin at the foot on the other side of this page.

Natural perspective acts in a contrary way; for, at greater distances the object seen appears smaller, and at a smaller distance the object appears larger. But this said invention requires the spectator to stand with his eye at a small hole and then, at that small hole, it will be very plain. But since many (men's) eyes endeavour at the same time to see one and the same picture produced by this artifice only one can see clearly the effect of this perspective and all the others will see confusion. It is well therefore to avoid such complex perspective and hold to simple perspective which does not regard planes as foreshortened, but as much as possible in their proper form. This simple perspective, in which the plane intersects the pyramids by which the images are conveyed to the eye at an equal distance from the eye is our constant experience, from the curved form of the pupil of the eye on which the pyramids are intersected at an equal distance from the visual virtue.

[Footnote 24: la prima di sopra i. e. the first of the three diagrams which, in the original MS., are placed in the margin at the beginning of this chapter.]



This diagram distinguishes natural from artificial perspective. But before proceeding any farther I will define what is natural and what is artificial perspective. Natural perspective says that the more remote of a series of objects of equal size will look the smaller, and conversely, the nearer will look the larger and the apparent size will diminish in proportion to the distance. But in artificial perspective when objects of unequal size are placed at various distances, the smallest is nearer to the eye than the largest and the greatest distance looks as though it were the least of all; and the cause of this is the plane on which the objects are represented; and which is at unequal distances from the eye throughout its length. And this diminution of the plane is natural, but the perspective shown upon it is artificial since it nowhere agrees with the true diminution of the said plane. Whence it follows, that when the eye is somewhat removed from the [station point of the] perspective that it has been gazing at, all the objects represented look monstrous, and this does not occur in natural perspective, which has been defined above. Let us say then, that the square a b c d figured above is foreshortened being seen by the eye situated in the centre of the side which is in front. But a mixture of artificial and natural perspective will be seen in this tetragon called el main [Footnote 20: el main is quite legibly written in the original; the meaning and derivation of the word are equally doubtful.], that is to say e f g h which must appear to the eye of the spectator to be equal to a b c d so long as the eye remains in its first position between c and d. And this will be seen to have a good effect, because the natural perspective of the plane will conceal the defects which would [otherwise] seem monstrous.


Six books on Light and Shade.

Linear Perspective cannot be immediately followed by either the "prospettiva de' perdimenti" or the "prospettiva de' colori" or the aerial perspective; since these branches of the subject presuppose a knowledge of the principles of Light and Shade. No apology, therefore, is here needed for placing these immediately after Linear Perspective.

We have various plans suggested by Leonardo for the arrangement of the mass of materials treating of this subject. Among these I have given the preference to a scheme propounded in No. III, because, in all probability, we have here a final and definite purpose expressed. Several authors have expressed it as their opinion that the Paris Manuscript C is a complete and finished treatise on Light and Shade. Certainly, the Principles of Light and Shade form by far the larger portion of this MS. which consists of two separate parts; still, the materials are far from being finally arranged. It is also evident that he here investigates the subject from the point of view of the Physicist rather than from that of the Painter.

The plan of a scheme of arrangement suggested in No. III and adopted by me has been strictly adhered to for the first four Books. For the three last, however, few materials have come down to us; and it must be admitted that these three Books would find a far more appropriate place in a work on Physics than in a treatise on Painting. For this reason I have collected in Book V all the chapters on Reflections, and in Book VI I have put together and arranged all the sections of MS. C that belong to the book on Painting, so far as they relate to Light and Shade, while the sections of the same MS. which treat of the "Prospettiva de' perdimenti" have, of course, been excluded from the series on Light and Shade.

[Footnote III: This text has already been published with some slight variations in Dozio's pamphlet Degli scritti e disegni di Leonardo da Vinci, Milan 1871, pp. 30—31. Dozio did not transcribe it from the original MS. which seems to have remained unknown to him, but from an old copy (MS. H. 227 in the Ambrosian Library).]




You must first explain the theory and then the practice. First you must describe the shadows and lights on opaque objects, and then on transparent bodies.

Scheme of the books on Light and shade.



[Having already treated of the nature of shadows and the way in which they are cast [Footnote 2: Avendo io tractato.—We may suppose that he here refers to some particular MS., possibly Paris C.], I will now consider the places on which they fall; and their curvature, obliquity, flatness or, in short, any character I may be able to detect in them.]

Shadow is the obstruction of light. Shadows appear to me to be of supreme importance in perspective, because, without them opaque and solid bodies will be ill defined; that which is contained within their outlines and their boundaries themselves will be ill-understood unless they are shown against a background of a different tone from themselves. And therefore in my first proposition concerning shadow I state that every opaque body is surrounded and its whole surface enveloped in shadow and light. And on this proposition I build up the first Book. Besides this, shadows have in themselves various degrees of darkness, because they are caused by the absence of a variable amount of the luminous rays; and these I call Primary shadows because they are the first, and inseparable from the object to which they belong. And on this I will found my second Book. From these primary shadows there result certain shaded rays which are diffused through the atmosphere and these vary in character according to that of the primary shadows whence they are derived. I shall therefore call these shadows Derived shadows because they are produced by other shadows; and the third Book will treat of these. Again these derived shadows, where they are intercepted by various objects, produce effects as various as the places where they are cast and of this I will treat in the fourth Book. And since all round the derived shadows, where the derived shadows are intercepted, there is always a space where the light falls and by reflected dispersion is thrown back towards its cause, it meets the original shadow and mingles with it and modifies it somewhat in its nature; and on this I will compose my fifth Book. Besides this, in the sixth Book I will investigate the many and various diversities of reflections resulting from these rays which will modify the original [shadow] by [imparting] some of the various colours from the different objects whence these reflected rays are derived. Again, the seventh Book will treat of the various distances that may exist between the spot where the reflected rays fall and that where they originate, and the various shades of colour which they will acquire in falling on opaque bodies.

Different principles and plans of treatment (112—116).


First I will treat of light falling through windows which I will call Restricted [Light] and then I will treat of light in the open country, to which I will give the name of diffused Light. Then I will treat of the light of luminous bodies.



The conditions of shadow and light [as seen] by the eye are 3. Of these the first is when the eye and the light are on the same side of the object seen; the 2nd is when the eye is in front of the object and the light is behind it. The 3rd is when the eye is in front of the object and the light is on one side, in such a way as that a line drawn from the object to the eye and one from the object to the light should form a right angle where they meet.



This is another section: that is, of the nature of a reflection (from) an object placed between the eye and the light under various aspects.



As regards all visible objects 3 things must be considered. These are the position of the eye which sees: that of the object seen [with regard] to the light, and the position of the light which illuminates the object, b is the eye, a the object seen, c the light, a is the eye, b the illuminating body, c is the illuminated object.


Let a be the light, b the eye, c the object seen by the eye and in the light. These show, first, the eye between the light and the body; the 2nd, the light between the eye and the body; the 3rd the body between the eye and the light, a is the eye, b the illuminated object, c the light.




The first kind of Light which may illuminate opaque bodies is called Direct light—as that of the sun or any other light from a window or flame. The second is Diffused [universal] light, such as we see in cloudy weather or in mist and the like. The 3rd is Subdued light, that is when the sun is entirely below the horizon, either in the evening or morning.



The lights which may illuminate opaque bodies are of 4 kinds. These are: diffused light as that of the atmosphere, within our horizon. And Direct, as that of the sun, or of a window or door or other opening. The third is Reflected light; and there is a 4th which is that which passes through [semi] transparent bodies, as linen or paper or the like, but not transparent like glass, or crystal, or other diaphanous bodies, which produce the same effect as though nothing intervened between the shaded object and the light that falls upon it; and this we will discuss fully in our discourse.

Definition of the nature of shadows (119—122).



Shadow is the absence of light, merely the obstruction of the luminous rays by an opaque body. Shadow is of the nature of darkness. Light [on an object] is of the nature of a luminous body; one conceals and the other reveals. They are always associated and inseparable from all objects. But shadow is a more powerful agent than light, for it can impede and entirely deprive bodies of their light, while light can never entirely expel shadow from a body, that is from an opaque body.


Shadow is the diminution of light by the intervention of an opaque body. Shadow is the counterpart of the luminous rays which are cut off by an opaque body.

This is proved because the shadow cast is the same in shape and size as the luminous rays were which are transformed into a shadow.


Shadow is the diminution alike of light and of darkness, and stands between darkness and light.

A shadow may be infinitely dark, and also of infinite degrees of absence of darkness.

The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form.

The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.



Shadow partakes of the nature of universal matter. All such matters are more powerful in their beginning and grow weaker towards the end, I say at the beginning, whatever their form or condition may be and whether visible or invisible. And it is not from small beginnings that they grow to a great size in time; as it might be a great oak which has a feeble beginning from a small acorn. Yet I may say that the oak is most powerful at its beginning, that is where it springs from the earth, which is where it is largest (To return:) Darkness, then, is the strongest degree of shadow and light is its least. Therefore, O Painter, make your shadow darkest close to the object that casts it, and make the end of it fading into light, seeming to have no end.

Of the various kinds of shadows. (123-125).


Darkness is absence of light. Shadow is diminution of light. Primitive shadow is that which is inseparable from a body not in the light. Derived shadow is that which is disengaged from a body in shadow and pervades the air. A cast transparent shadow is that which is surrounded by an illuminated surface. A simple shadow is one which receives no light from the luminous body which causes it. A simple shadow begins within the line which starts from the edge of the luminous body a b.


A simple shadow is one where no light at all interferes with it.

A compound shadow is one which is somewhat illuminated by one or more lights.



An inseparable shadow is that which is never absent from the illuminated body. As, for instance a ball, which so long as it is in the light always has one side in shadow which never leaves it for any movement or change of position in the ball. A separate shadow may be and may not be produced by the body itself. Suppose the ball to be one braccia distant from a wall with a light on the opposite side of it; this light will throw upon the wall exactly as broad a shadow as is to be seen on the side of the ball that is turned towards the wall. That portion of the cast shadow will not be visible when the light is below the ball and the shadow is thrown up towards the sky and finding no obstruction on its way is lost.



Of the various kinds of light (126, 127).

Separate light is that which falls upon the body. Inseparable light is the side of the body that is illuminated by that light. One is called primary, the other derived. And, in the same way there are two kinds of shadow:—One primary and the other derived. The primary is that which is inseparable from the body, the derived is that which proceeds from the body conveying to the surface of the wall the form of the body causing it.


How there are 2 different kinds of light; one being called diffused, the other restricted. The diffused is that which freely illuminates objects. The restricted is that which being admitted through an opening or window illuminates them on that side only.

[Footnote: At the spot marked A in the first diagram Leonardo wrote lume costretto (restricted light). At the spot B on the second diagram he wrote lume libero (diffused light).]

General remarks (128. 129).


Light is the chaser away of darkness. Shade is the obstruction of light. Primary light is that which falls on objects and causes light and shade. And derived lights are those portions of a body which are illuminated by the primary light. A primary shadow is that side of a body on which the light cannot fall.

The general distribution of shadow and light is that sum total of the rays thrown off by a shaded or illuminated body passing through the air without any interference and the spot which intercepts and cuts off the distribution of the dark and light rays.

And the eye can best distinguish the forms of objects when it is placed between the shaded and the illuminated parts.



I ask to have this much granted me—to assert that every ray passing through air of equal density throughout, travels in a straight line from its cause to the object or place it falls upon.


On the nature of light (130. 131).


The reason by which we know that a light radiates from a single centre is this: We plainly see that a large light is often much broader than some small object which nevertheless—and although the rays [of the large light] are much more than twice the extent [of the small body]—always has its shadow cast on the nearest surface very visibly. Let c f be a broad light and n be the object in front of it, casting a shadow on the plane, and let a b be the plane. It is clear that it is not the broad light that will cast the shadow n on the plane, but that the light has within it a centre is shown by this experiment. The shadow falls on the plane as is shown at m o t r.

[Footnote 13: In the original MS. no explanatory text is placed after this title-line; but a space is left for it and the text beginning at line 15 comes next.] Why, to two [eyes] or in front of two eyes do 3 objects appear as two?

Why, when you estimate the direction of an object with two sights the nearer appears confused. I say that the eye projects an infinite number of lines which mingle or join those reaching it which come to it from the object looked at. And it is only the central and sensible line that can discern and discriminate colours and objects; all the others are false and illusory. And if you place 2 objects at half an arm's length apart if the nearer of the two is close to the eye its form will remain far more confused than that of the second; the reason is that the first is overcome by a greater number of false lines than the second and so is rendered vague.

Light acts in the same manner, for in the effects of its lines (=rays), and particularly in perspective, it much resembles the eye; and its central rays are what cast the true shadow. When the object in front of it is too quickly overcome with dim rays it will cast a broad and disproportionate shadow, ill defined; but when the object which is to cast the shadow and cuts off the rays near to the place where the shadow falls, then the shadow is distinct; and the more so in proportion as the light is far off, because at a long distance the central ray is less overcome by false rays; because the lines from the eye and the solar and other luminous rays passing through the atmosphere are obliged to travel in straight lines. Unless they are deflected by a denser or rarer air, when they will be bent at some point, but so long as the air is free from grossness or moisture they will preserve their direct course, always carrying the image of the object that intercepts them back to their point of origin. And if this is the eye, the intercepting object will be seen by its colour, as well as by form and size. But if the intercepting plane has in it some small perforation opening into a darker chamber—not darker in colour, but by absence of light—you will see the rays enter through this hole and transmitting to the plane beyond all the details of the object they proceed from both as to colour and form; only every thing will be upside down. But the size [of the image] where the lines are reconstructed will be in proportion to the relative distance of the aperture from the plane on which the lines fall [on one hand] and from their origin [on the other]. There they intersect and form 2 pyramids with their point meeting [a common apex] and their bases opposite. Let a b be the point of origin of the lines, d e the first plane, and c the aperture with the intersection of the lines; f g is the inner plane. You will find that a falls upon the inner plane below at g, and b which is below will go up to the spot f; it will be quite evident to experimenters that every luminous body has in itself a core or centre, from which and to which all the lines radiate which are sent forth by the surface of the luminous body and reflected back to it; or which, having been thrown out and not intercepted, are dispersed in the air.



Although the points of luminous pyramids may extend into shaded places and those of pyramids of shadow into illuminated places, and though among the luminous pyramids one may start from a broader base than another; nevertheless, if by reason of their various length these luminous pyramids acquire angles of equal size their light will be equal; and the case will be the same with the pyramids of shadow; as may be seen in the intersected pyramids a b c and d e f, which though their bases differ in size are equal as to breadth and light.

[Footnote: 51—55: This supplementary paragraph is indicated as being a continuation of line 45, by two small crosses.]

The difference between light and lustre (132—135).


Of the difference between light and lustre; and that lustre is not included among colours, but is saturation of whiteness, and derived from the surface of wet bodies; light partakes of the colour of the object which reflects it (to the eye) as gold or silver or the like.



Suppose the body to be the round object figured here and let the light be at the point a, and let the illuminated side of the object be b c and the eye at the point d: I say that, as lustre is every where and complete in each part, if you stand at the point d the lustre will appear at c, and in proportion as the eye moves from d to a, the lustre will move from c to n.



Heigh light or lustre on any object is not situated [necessarily] in the middle of an illuminated object, but moves as and where the eye moves in looking at it.



What is the difference between light and the lustre which is seen on the polished surface of opaque bodies?

The lights which are produced from the polished surface of opaque bodies will be stationary on stationary objects even if the eye on which they strike moves. But reflected lights will, on those same objects, appear in as many different places on the surface as different positions are taken by the eye.


Opaque bodies which have a hard and rough surface never display any lustre in any portion of the side on which the light falls.


Those bodies which are opaque and hard with a hard surface reflect light [lustre] from every spot on the illuminated side which is in a position to receive light at the same angle of incidence as they occupy with regard to the eye; but, as the surface mirrors all the surrounding objects, the illuminated [body] is not recognisable in these portions of the illuminated body.


The relations of luminous to illuminated bodies.

The middle of the light and shade on an object in light and shade is opposite to the middle of the primary light. All light and shadow expresses itself in pyramidal lines. The middle of the shadow on any object must necessarily be opposite the middle of its light, with a direct line passing through the centre of the body. The middle of the light will be at a, that of the shadow at b. [Again, in bodies shown in light and shade the middle of each must coincide with the centre of the body, and a straight line will pass through both and through that centre.]

[Footnote: In the original MS., at the spot marked a of the first diagram Leonardo wrote primitiuo, and at the spot marked cprimitiva (primary); at the spot marked b he wrote dirivatiuo and at d deriuatiua (derived).]

Experiments on the relation of light and shadow within a room (137—140).



Although the balls a b c are lighted from one window, nevertheless, if you follow the lines of their shadows you will see they intersect at a point forming the angle n.

[Footnote: The diagram belonging to this passage is slightly sketched on Pl. XXXII; a square with three balls below it. The first three lines of the text belonging to it are written above the sketch and the six others below it.]


Every shadow cast by a body has a central line directed to a single point produced by the intersection of luminous lines in the middle of the opening and thickness of the window. The proposition stated above, is plainly seen by experiment. Thus if you draw a place with a window looking northwards, and let this be s f, you will see a line starting from the horizon to the east, which, touching the 2 angles of the window o f, reaches d; and from the horizon on the west another line, touching the other 2 angles r s, and ending at c; and their intersection falls exactly in the middle of the opening and thickness of the window. Again, you can still better confirm this proof by placing two sticks, as shown at g h; and you will see the line drawn from the centre of the shadow directed to the centre m and prolonged to the horizon n f.

[Footnote: B here stands for cerchio del' orizonte tramontano on the original diagram (the circle of the horizon towards the North); A for levante (East) and C for ponete (West).]


Every shadow with all its variations, which becomes larger as its distance from the object is greater, has its external lines intersecting in the middle, between the light and the object. This proposition is very evident and is confirmed by experience. For, if a b is a window without any object interposed, the luminous atmosphere to the right hand at a is seen to the left at d. And the atmosphere at the left illuminates on the right at c, and the lines intersect at the point m.

[Footnote: A here stands for levante (East), B for ponente (West).]


Every body in light and shade is situated between 2 pyramids one dark and the other luminous, one is visible the other is not. But this only happens when the light enters by a window. Supposing a b to be the window and r the body in light and shade, the light to the right hand z will pass the object to the left and go on to p; the light to the left at k will pass to the right of the object at i and go on to m and the two lines will intersect at c and form a pyramid. Then again a b falls on the shaded body at i g and forms a pyramid f i g. f will be dark because the light a b can never fall there; i g c will be illuminated because the light falls upon it.

Light and shadow with regard to the position of the eye (141—145).


Every shaded body that is larger than the pupil and that interposes between the luminous body and the eye will be seen dark.

When the eye is placed between the luminous body and the objects illuminated by it, these objects will be seen without any shadow.

[Footnote: The diagram which in the original stands above line 1 is given on Plate II, No 2. Then, after a blank space of about eight lines, the diagram Plate II No 3 is placed in the original. There is no explanation of it beyond the one line written under it.]


Why the 2 lights one on each side of a body having two pyramidal sides of an obtuse apex leave it devoid of shadow.

[Footnote: The sketch illustrating this is on Plate XLI No 1.]


A body in shadow situated between the light and the eye can never display its illuminated portion unless the eye can see the whole of the primary light.

[Footnote: A stands for corpo (body), B for lume (light).]


The eye which looks (at a spot) half way between the shadow and the light which surrounds the body in shadow will see that the deepest shadows on that body will meet the eye at equal angles, that is at the same angle as that of sight.

[Footnote: In both these diagrams A stands for lume (light) B for ombra (shadow).]



If the sun is in the East and you look towards the West you will see every thing in full light and totally without shadow because you see them from the same side as the sun: and if you look towards the South or North you will see all objects in light and shade, because you see both the side towards the sun and the side away from it; and if you look towards the coming of the sun all objects will show you their shaded side, because on that side the sun cannot fall upon them.

The law of the incidence of light.


The edges of a window which are illuminated by 2 lights of equal degrees of brightness will not reflect light of equal brightness into the chamber within.

If b is a candle and a c our hemisphere both will illuminate the edges of the window m n, but light b will only illuminate f g and the hemisphere a will light all of d e.



That part of a body which receives the luminous rays at equal angles will be in a higher light than any other part of it.

And the part which the luminous rays strike between less equal angles will be less strongly illuminated.


Gradations of strength in the shadows (148. 149).



That part of the object which is marked m is in the highest light because it faces the window a d 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 by the line d v; q is the deepest shadow for no light falls on it from any part of the window.

In proportion as c d goes into a d so will n r s be darker than m, and all the rest is space without shadow.

[Footnote: The diagram belonging to this chapter is No. 1 on Plate III. The letters a b e d and r are not reproduced in facsimile of the original, but have been replaced by ordinary type in the margin. 5-12. The original text of these lines is reproduced within the diagram.—Compare No 275.]


The light which falls on a shaded body at the acutest angle receives the highest light, and the darkest portion is that which receives it at an obtuse angle and both the light and the shadow form pyramids. The angle c receives the highest grade of light because it is directly in front of the window a b and the whole horizon of the sky m x. The angle a differs but little from c because the angles which divide it are not so unequal as those below, and only that portion of the horizon is intercepted which lies between y and x. Although it gains as much on the other side its line is nevertheless not very strong because one angle is smaller than its fellow. The angles e i will have less light because they do not see much of the light m s and the light v x and their angles are very unequal. Yhe angle k and the angle f are each placed between very unequal angles and therefore have but little light, because at k it has only the light p t, and at f only t q; o g is the lowest grade of light because this part has no light at all from the sky; and thence come the lines which will reconstruct a pyramid that is the counterpart of the pyramid c; and this pyramid l is in the first grade of shadow; for this too is placed between equal angles directly opposite to each other on either side of a straight line which passes through the centre of the body and goes to the centre of the light. The several luminous images cast within the frame of the window at the points a and b make a light which surrounds the derived shadow cast by the solid body at the points 4 and 6. The shaded images increase from o g and end at 7 and 8.

[Footnote: The diagram belonging to this chapter is No. 2 on Plate III. In the original it is placed between lines 3 and 4, and in the reproduction these are shown in part. The semi circle above is marked orizonte (horizon). The number 6 at the left hand side, outside the facsimile, is in the place of a figure which has become indistinct in the original.]

On the intensity of shadows as dependent on the distance from the light (150-152).


The smaller the light that falls upon an object the more shadow it will display. And the light will illuminate a smaller portion of the object in proportion as it is nearer to it; and conversely, a larger extent of it in proportion as it is farther off.

A light which is smaller than the object on which it falls will light up a smaller extent of it in proportion as it is nearer to it, and the converse, as it is farther from it. But when the light is larger than the object illuminated it will light a larger extent of the object in proportion as it is nearer and the converse when they are farther apart.


That portion of an illuminated object which is nearest to the source of light will be the most strongly illuminated.


That portion of the primary shadow will be least dark which is farthest from the edges.

The derived shadow will be darker than the primary shadow where it is contiguous with it.

On the proportion of light and shade (153-157).


That portion of an opaque body will be more in shade or more in light, which is nearer to the dark body, by which it is shaded, or to the light that illuminates it.

Objects seen in light and shade show in greater relief than those which are wholly in light or in shadow.



The shaded and illuminated sides of opaque objects will display the same proportion of light and darkness as their objects [Footnote 6: The meaning of obbietti (objects) is explained in no 153, lines 1-4.—Between the title-line and the next there is, in the original, a small diagram representing a circle described round a square.].



The outlines and form of any part of a body in light and shade are indistinct in the shadows and in the high lights; but in the portions between the light and the shadows they are highly conspicuous.



Among objects in various degrees of shade, when the light proceeds from a single source, there will be the same proportion in their shadows as in the natural diminution of the light and the same must be understood of the degrees of light.


A single and distinct luminous body causes stronger relief in the object than a diffused light; as may be seen by comparing one side of a landscape illuminated by the sun, and one overshadowed by clouds, and so illuminated only by the diffused light of the atmosphere.


Definition of derived shadow (158. 159).


Derived shadow cannot exist without primary shadow. This is proved by the first of this which says: Darkness is the total absence of light, and shadow is an alleviation of darkness and of light, and it is more or less dark or light in proportion as the darkness is modified by the light.


Shadow is diminution of light.

Darkness is absence of light.

Shadow is divided into two kinds, of which the first is called primary shadow, the second is derived shadow. The primary shadow is always the basis of the derived shadow.

The edges of the derived shadow are straight lines.

[Footnote: The theory of the _ombra_ dirivativa_—a technical expression for which there is no precise English equivalent is elaborately treated by Leonardo. But both text and diagrams (as Pl. IV, 1-3 and Pl. V) must at once convince the student that the distinction he makes between _ombra primitiva_ and _ombra dirivativa_ is not merely justifiable but scientific. _Ombra dirivativa_ is by no means a mere abstract idea. This is easily proved by repeating the experiment made by Leonardo, and by filling with smoke the room in which the existence of the _ombra dirivativa_ is investigated, when the shadow becomes visible. Nor is it difficult to perceive how much of Leonardo's teaching depended on this theory. The recognised, but extremely complicated science of cast shadows—_percussione dell' ombre dirivative_ as Leonardo calls them—is thus rendered more intelligible if not actually simpler, and we must assume this theory as our chief guide through the investigations which follow.]

The darkness of the derived shadow diminishes in proportion as it is remote from the primary shadow.

Different sorts of derived shadows (160-162).



The forms of shadows are three: inasmuch as if the solid body which casts the shadow is equal (in size) to the light, the shadow resembles a column without any termination (in length). If the body is larger than the light the shadow resembles a truncated and inverted pyramid, and its length has also no defined termination. But if the body is smaller than the light, the shadow will resemble a pyramid and come to an end, as is seen in eclipses of the moon.



The simple derived shadow is of two kinds: one kind which has its length defined, and two kinds which are undefined; and the defined shadow is pyramidal. Of the two undefined, one is a column and the other spreads out; and all three have rectilinear outlines. But the converging, that is the pyramidal, shadow proceeds from a body that is smaller than the light, and the columnar from a body equal in size to the light, and the spreading shadow from a body larger than the light; &c.


Compound derived shadows are of two kinds; that is columnar and spreading.



Derived shadows are of three kinds of which one is spreading, the second columnar, the third converging to the point where the two sides meet and intersect, and beyond this intersection the sides are infinitely prolonged or straight lines. And if you say, this shadow must terminate at the angle where the sides meet and extend no farther, I deny this, because above in the first on shadow I have proved: that a thing is completely terminated when no portion of it goes beyond its terminating lines. Now here, in this shadow, we see the converse of this, in as much as where this derived shadow originates we obviously have the figures of two pyramids of shadow which meet at their angles. Hence, if, as [my] opponent says, the first pyramid of shadow terminates the derivative shadow at the angle whence it starts, then the second pyramid of shadow—so says the adversary—must be caused by the angle and not from the body in shadow; and this is disproved with the help of the 2nd of this which says: Shadow is a condition produced by a body casting a shadow, and interposed between this shadow and the luminous body. By this it is made clear that the shadow is not produced by the angle of the derived shadow but only by the body casting the shadow; &c. If a spherical solid body is illuminated by a light of elongated form the shadow produced by the longest portion of this light will have less defined outlines than that which is produced by the breadth of the same light. And this is proved by what was said before, which is: That a shadow will have less defined outlines in proportion as the light which causes it is larger, and conversely, the outlines are clearer in proportion as it is smaller.

[Footnote: The two diagrams to this chapter are on Plate IV, No. 1.]

On the relation of derived and primary shadow (163-165).


The derived shadow can never resemble the body from which it proceeds unless the light is of the same form and size as the body causing the shadow.

The derived shadow cannot be of the same form as the primary shadow unless it is intercepted by a plane parallel to it.



If the rays of light proceed, as experience shows, from a single point and are diffused in a sphere round this point, radiating and dispersed through the air, the farther they spread the wider they must spread; and an object placed between the light and a wall is always imaged larger in its shadow, because the rays that strike it [Footnote: 7. The following lines are wanting to complete the logical connection.] would, by the time they have reached the wall, have become larger.


Any shadow cast by a body in light and shade is of the same nature and character as that which is inseparable from the body. The centre of the length of a shadow always corresponds to that of the luminous body [Footnote 6: This second statement of the same idea as in the former sentence, but in different words, does not, in the original, come next to the foregoing; sections 172 and 127 are placed between them.]. It is inevitable that every shadow must have its centre in a line with the centre of the light.

On the shape of derived shadows (166-174).



The pyramidal shadow produced by a columnar body will be narrower than the body itself in proportion as the simple derived shadow is intersected farther from the body which casts it.

[Footnote 166: Compare the first diagram to No. 161. If we here conceive of the outlines of the pyramid of shadow on the ground as prolonged beyond its apex this gives rise to a second pyramid; this is what is spoken of at the beginning of No. 166.]


The cast shadow will be longest when the light is lowest.

The cast shadow will be shortest when the light is highest.


Both the primary and derived shadow will be larger when caused by the light of a candle than by diffused light. The difference between the larger and smaller shadows will be in inverse proportion to the larger and smaller lights causing them.

[Footnote: In the diagrams A stands for celo (sky), B for cadela (candle).]



Among bodies of equal size, that one which is illuminated by the largest light will have the shortest shadow. Experiment confirms this proposition. Thus the body m n is surrounded by a larger amount of light than the body p q, as is shown above. Let us say that v c a b d x is the sky, the source of light, and that s t is a window by which the luminous rays enter, and so m n and p q are bodies in light and shade as exposed to this light; m n will have a small derived shadow, because its original shadow will be small; and the derivative light will be large, again, because the original light c d will be large and p q will have more derived shadow because its original shadow will be larger, and its derived light will be smaller than that of the body m n because that portion of the hemisphere a b which illuminates it is smaller than the hemisphere c d which illuminates the body m n.

[Footnote: The diagram, given on Pl. IV, No. 2, stands in the original between lines 2 and 7, while the text of lines 3 to 6 is written on its left side. In the reproduction of this diagram the letter v at the outer right-hand end has been omitted.]


The shadow m bears the same proportion to the shadow n as the line b c to the line f c.



Of different shadows of equal strength that which is nearest the eye will seem the least strong.

Why is the shadow e a b in the first grade of strength, b c in the second; c d in the third? The reason is that as from e a b the sky is nowhere visible, it gets no light whatever from the sky, and so has no direct [primary] light. b c faces the portion of the sky f g and is illuminated by it. c d faces the sky at h k. c d, being exposed to a larger extent of sky than b c, it is reasonable that it should be more lighted. And thus, up to a certain distance, the wall a d will grow lighter for the reasons here given, until the darkness of the room overpowers the light from the window.


When the light of the atmosphere is restricted [by an opening] and illuminates bodies which cast shadows, these bodies being equally distant from the centre of the window, that which is most obliquely placed will cast the largest shadow beyond it.


These bodies standing apart in a room lighted by a single window will have derivative shadows more or less short according as they are more or less opposite to the window. Among the shadows cast by bodies of equal mass but at unequal distances from the opening by which they are illuminated, that shadow will be the longest of the body which is least in the light. And in proportion as one body is better illuminated than another its shadow will be shorter than another. The proportion n m and e v k bear to r t and v x corresponds with that of the shadow x to 4 and y.

The reason why those bodies which are placed most in front of the middle of the window throw shorter shadows than those obliquely situated is:—That the window appears in its proper form and to the obliquely placed ones it appears foreshortened; to those in the middle, the window shows its full size, to the oblique ones it appears smaller; the one in the middle faces the whole hemisphere that is e f and those on the side have only a strip; that is q r faces a b; and m n faces c d; the body in the middle having a larger quantity of light than those at the sides is lighted from a point much below its centre, and thus the shadow is shorter. And the pyramid g 4 goes into l y exactly as often as a b goes into e f. The axis of every derivative shadow passes through 6 1/2 [Footnote 31: passa per 6 1/2 (passes through 6 1/2). The meaning of these words is probably this: Each of the three axes of the derived shadow intersects the centre (mezzo) of the primary shadow (ombra originale) and, by prolongation upwards crosses six lines.

This is self evident only in the middle diagram; but it is equally true of the side figures if we conceive of the lines 4 f, x n v m, y l k v, and 4 e, as prolonged beyond the semicircle of the horizon.] and is in a straight line with the centre of the primary shadow, with the centre of the body casting it and of the derivative light and with the centre of the window and, finally, with the centre of that portion of the source of light which is the celestial hemisphere, y h is the centre of the derived shade, l h of the primary shadow, l of the body throwing it, l k of the derived light, v is the centre of the window, e is the final centre of the original light afforded by that portion of the hemisphere of the sky which illuminates the solid body.

[Footnote: Compare the diagram on Pl. IV, No. 3. In the original this drawing is placed between lines 3 and 22; the rest, from line 4 to line 21, is written on the left hand margin.]



You will find that the proportion of the diameter of the derived shadow to that of the primary shadow will be the same as that between the darkness of the primary shadow and that of the derived shadow.

[Footnote 6: Compare No. 177.] Let a b be the diameter of the primary shadow and c d that of the derived shadow, I say that a b going, as you see, three times into d c, the shadow d c will be three times as light as the shadow a b. [Footnote 8: Compare No. 177.]

If the size of the illuminating body is larger than that of the illuminated body an intersection of shadow will occur, beyond which the shadows will run off in two opposite directions as if they were caused by two separate lights.

On the relative intensity of derived shadows (175-179).



The derived shadow is stronger in proportion as it is nearer to its place of origin.



Shadows fade and are lost at long distances because the larger quantity of illuminated air which lies between the eye and the object seen tints the shadow with its own colour.


a b will be darker than c d in proportion as c d is broader than a b.

[Footnote: In the original MS. the word lume (light) is written at the apex of the pyramid.]


It can be proved why the shadow o p c h is darker in proportion as it is nearer to the line p h and is lighter in proportion as it is nearer to the line o c. Let the light a b, be a window, and let the dark wall in which this window is, be b s, that is, one of the sides of the wall.

Then we may say that the line p h is darker than any other part of the space o p c h, because this line faces the whole surface in shadow of [Footnote: In the original the diagram is placed between lines 27 and 28.] the wall b s. The line o c is lighter than the other part of this space o p c h, because this line faces the luminous space a b.

Where the shadow is larger, or smaller, or equal the body which casts it.

[First of the character of divided lights. [Footnote 14: lumi divisi. The text here breaks off abruptly.]


The shadow f r c h is under such conditions as that where it is farthest from its inner side it loses depth in proportion. To prove this:

Let d a, be the light and f n the solid body, and let a e be one of the side walls of the window that is d a. Then I say—according to the 2nd [proposition]: that the surface of any body is affected by the tone of the objects surrounding it,—that the side r c, which faces the dark wall a e must participate of its darkness and, in the same way that the outer surface which faces the light d a participates of the light; thus we get the outlines of the extremes on each side of the centre included between them.]

This is divided into four parts. The first the extremes, which include the compound shadow, secondly the compound shadow between these extremes.



If it were the whole of the light that caused the shadows beyond the bodies placed in front of it, it would follow that any body much smaller than the light would cast a pyramidal shadow; but experience not showing this, it must be the centre of the light that produces this effect.

[Footnote: The diagram belonging to this passage is between lines 4 and 5 in the original. Comp. the reproduction Pl. IV, No. 4. The text and drawing of this chapter have already been published with tolerable accuracy. See M. JORDAN: "Das Malerbuch des Leonardo da Vinci". Leipzig 1873, P. 90.]


Let a b be the width of the light from a window, which falls on a stick set up at one foot from a c [Footnote 6: bastone (stick). The diagram has a sphere in place of a stick.]. And let a d be the space where all the light from the window is visible. At c e that part of the window which is between l b cannot be seen. In the same way a m cannot be seen from d f and therefore in these two portions the light begins to fail.

Shadow as produced by two lights of different size (180. 181).


A body in light and shade placed between two equal lights side by side will cast shadows in proportion to the [amount of] light. And the shadows will be one darker than the other in proportion as one light is nearer to the said body than the other on the opposite side.

A body placed at an equal distance between two lights will cast two shadows, one deeper than the other in proportion, as the light which causes it is brighter than the other.

[Footnote: In the MS. the larger diagram is placed above the first line; the smaller one between l. 4 & 5.]


A light which is smaller than the body it illuminates produces shadows of which the outlines end within [the surface of] the body, and not much compound shadow; and falls on less than half of it. A light which is larger than the body it illuminates, falls on more than half of it, and produces much compound shadow.

The effect of light at different distances.



A body placed between 2 equal lights will cast 2 shadows of itself in the direction of the lines of the 2 lights; and if you move this body placing it nearer to one of the lights the shadow cast towards the nearer light will be less deep than that which falls towards the more distant one.

Further complications in the derived shadows (183-187).


The greatest depth of shadow is in the simple derived shadow because it is not lighted by either of the two lights a b, c d.

The next less deep shadow is the derived shadow e f n; and in this the shadow is less by half, because it is illuminated by a single light, that is c d.

This is uniform in natural tone because it is lighted throughout by one only of the two luminous bodies [10]. But it varies with the conditions of shadow, inasmuch as the farther it is away from the light the less it is illuminated by it [13].

The third degree of depth is the middle shadow [Footnote 15: We gather from what follows that q g r here means ombra media (the middle shadow).]. But this is not uniform in natural tone; because the nearer it gets to the simple derived shadow the deeper it is [Footnote 18: Compare lines 10-13], and it is the uniformly gradual diminution by increase of distance which is what modifies it [Footnote 20: See Footnote 18]: that is to say the depth of a shadow increases in proportion to the distance from the two lights.

The fourth is the shadow k r s and this is all the darker in natural tone in proportion as it is nearer to k s, because it gets less of the light a o, but by the accident [of distance] it is rendered less deep, because it is nearer to the light c d, and thus is always exposed to both lights.

The fifth is less deep in shadow than either of the others because it is always entirely exposed to one of the lights and to the whole or part of the other; and it is less deep in proportion as it is nearer to the two lights, and in proportion as it is turned towards the outer side x t; because it is more exposed to the second light a b.

[Footnote: The diagram to this section is given on Pl. V. To the left is the facsimile of the beginning of the text belonging to it.]



Why, at the intersections a, b of the two compound shadows e f and m e, is a simple shadow pfoduced as at e h and m g, while no such simple shadow is produced at the other two intersections c d made by the very same compound shadows?


Compound shadow are a mixture of light and shade and simple shadows are simply darkness. Hence, of the two lights n and o, one falls on the compound shadow from one side, and the other on the compound shadow from the other side, but where they intersect no light falls, as at a b; therefore it is a simple shadow. Where there is a compound shadow one light or the other falls; and here a difficulty arises for my adversary since he says that, where the compound shadows intersect, both the lights which produce the shadows must of necessity fall and therefore these shadows ought to be neutralised; inasmuch as the two lights do not fall there, we say that the shadow is a simple one and where only one of the two lights falls, we say the shadow is compound, and where both the lights fall the shadow is neutralised; for where both lights fall, no shadow of any kind is produced, but only a light background limiting the shadow. Here I shall say that what my adversary said was true: but he only mentions such truths as are in his favour; and if we go on to the rest he must conclude that my proposition is true. And that is: That if both lights fell on the point of intersection, the shadows would be neutralised. This I confess to be true if [neither of] the two shadows fell in the same spot; because, where a shadow and a light fall, a compound shadow is produced, and wherever two shadows or two equal lights fall, the shadow cannot vary in any part of it, the shadows and the lights both being equal. And this is proved in the eighth [proposition] on proportion where it is said that if a given quantity has a single unit of force and resistance, a double quantity will have double force and double resistance.


The intersection n is produced by the shadows caused by the light b, because this light b produces the shadow x b, and the shadow s b, but the intersection m is produced by the light a which causes the shadow s a, and the shadow x a.

But if you uncover both the lights a b, then you get the two shadows n m both at once, and besides these, two other, simple shadows are produced at r o where neither of the two lights falls at all. The grades of depth in compound shadows are fewer in proportion as the lights falling on, and crossing them are less numerous.


Why the intersections at n being composed of two compound derived shadows, forms a compound shadow and not a simple one, as happens with other intersections of compound shadows. This occurs, according to the 2nd [diagram] of this [prop.] which says:—The intersection of derived shadows when produced by the intersection of columnar shadows caused by a single light does not produce a simple shadow. And this is the corollary of the 1st [prop.] which says:—The intersection of simple derived shadows never results in a deeper shadow, because the deepest shadows all added together cannot be darker than one by itself. Since, if many deepest shadows increased in depth by their duplication, they could not be called the deepest shadows, but only part-shadows. But if such intersections are illuminated by a second light placed between the eye and the intersecting bodies, then those shadows would become compound shadows and be uniformly dark just as much at the intersection as throughout the rest. In the 1st and 2nd above, the intersections i k will not be doubled in depth as it is doubled in quantity. But in this 3rd, at the intersections g n they will be double in depth and in quantity.



The derived shadow of the dark walls on each side of the bright light of the window are what mingle their various degrees of shade with the light derived from the window; and these various depths of shade modify every portion of the light, except where it is strongest, at c. To prove this let d a be the primary shadow which is turned towards the point e, and darkens it by its derived shadow; as may be seen by the triangle a e d, in which the angle e faces the darkened base d a e; the point v faces the dark shadow a s which is part of a d, and as the whole is greater than a part, e which faces the whole base [of the triangle], will be in deeper shadow than v which only faces part of it. In consequence of the conclusion [shown] in the above diagram, t will be less darkened than v, because the base of the t is part of the base of the v; and in the same way it follows that p is less in shadow than t, because the base of the p is part of the base of the t. And c is the terminal point of the derived shadow and the chief beginning of the highest light.

[Footnote: The diagram on Pl. IV, No. 5 belongs to this passage; but it must be noted that the text explains only the figure on the right-hand side.]


On the shape of the cast shadows (188-191).


The form of the shadow cast by any body of uniform density can never be the same as that of the body producing it. [Footnote: Comp. the drawing on PI. XXVIII, No. 5.]


No cast shadow can produce the true image of the body which casts it on a vertical plane unless the centre of the light is equally distant from all the edges of that body.


If a window a b admits the sunlight into a room, the sunlight will magnify the size of the window and diminish the shadow of a man in such a way as that when the man makes that dim shadow of himself, approach to that which defines the real size of the window, he will see the shadows where they come into contact, dim and confused from the strength of the light, shutting off and not allowing the solar rays to pass; the effect of the shadow of the man cast by this contact will be exactly that figured above.

[Footnote: It is scarcely possible to render the meaning of this sentence with strict accuracy; mainly because the grammatical construction is defective in the most important part—line 4. In the very slight original sketch the shadow touches the upper arch of the window and the correction, here given is perhaps not justified.]


A shadow is never seen as of uniform depth on the surface which intercepts it unless every portion of that surface is equidistant from the luminous body. This is proved by the 7th which says:—The shadow will appear lighter or stronger as it is surrounded by a darker or a lighter background. And by the 8th of this:—The background will be in parts darker or lighter, in proportion as it is farther from or nearer to the luminous body. And:—Of various spots equally distant from the luminous body those will always be in the highest light on which the rays fall at the smallest angles: The outline of the shadow as it falls on inequalities in the surface will be seen with all the contours similar to those of the body that casts it, if the eye is placed just where the centre of the light was.

The shadow will look darkest where it is farthest from the body that casts it. The shadow c d, cast by the body in shadow a b which is equally distant in all parts, is not of equal depth because it is seen on a back ground of varying brightness. [Footnote: Compare the three diagrams on Pl. VI, no 1 which, in the original accompany this section.]

On the outlines of cast shadows (192-195).


The edges of a derived shadow will be most distinct where it is cast nearest to the primary shadow.


As the derived shadow gets more distant from the primary shadow, the more the cast shadow differs from the primary shadow.



The greater the difference between a light and the body lighted by it, the light being the larger, the more vague will be the outlines of the shadow of that object.

The derived shadow will be most confused towards the edges of its interception by a plane, where it is remotest from the body casting it.


What is the cause which makes the outlines of the shadow vague and confused?

Whether it is possible to give clear and definite outlines to the edges of shadows.

On the relative size of shadows (196. 197).



If an object placed in front of a single light is very close to it you will see that it casts a very large shadow on the opposite wall, and the farther you remove the object from the light the smaller will the image of the shadow become.


The disproportion of a shadow which is larger than the body producing it, results from the light being smaller than the body, so that it cannot be at an equal distance from the edges of the body [Footnote 11: H. LUDWIG in his edition of the old copies, in the Vatican library—in which this chapter is included under Nos. 612, 613 and 614 alters this passage as follows: quella parte ch'e piu propinqua piu cresce che le distanti, although the Vatican copy agrees with the original MS. in having distante in the former and propinque in the latter place. This supposed amendment seems to me to invert the facts. Supposing for instance, that on Pl. XXXI No. 3. f is the spot where the light is that illuminates the figure there represented, and that the line behind the figure represents a wall on which the shadow of the figure is thrown. It is evident, that in that case the nearest portion, in this case the under part of the thigh, is very little magnified in the shadow, and the remoter parts, for instance the head, are more magnified.]; and the portions which are most remote are made larger than the nearer portions for this reason [Footnote 12: See Footnote 11].


The atmosphere which surrounds a light is almost like light itself for brightness and colour; but the farther off it is the more it loses this resemblance. An object which casts a large shadow and is near to the light, is illuminated both by that light by the luminous atmosphere; hence this diffused light gives the shadow ill-defined edges.


A luminous body which is long and narrow in shape gives more confused outlines to the derived shadow than a spherical light, and this contradicts the proposition next following: A shadow will have its outlines more clearly defined in proportion as it is nearer to the primary shadow or, I should say, the body casting the shadow; [Footnote 14: The lettering refers to the lower diagram, Pl. XLI, No. 5.] the cause of this is the elongated form of the luminous body a c, &c. [Footnote 16: See Footnote 14].

Effects on cast shadows by the tone of the back ground.



Modified shadows are those which are cast on light walls or other illuminated objects.

A shadow looks darkest against a light background. The outlines of a derived shadow will be clearer as they are nearer to the primary shadow. A derived shadow will be most defined in shape where it is intercepted, where the plane intercepts it at the most equal angle.

Those parts of a shadow will appear darkest which have darker objects opposite to them. And they will appear less dark when they face lighter objects. And the larger the light object opposite, the more the shadow will be lightened.

And the larger the surface of the dark object the more it will darken the derived shadow where it is intercepted.

A disputed proposition.



Certain mathematicians have maintained that a triangle, of which the base is turned to the light, casts no shadow on a plane; and this they prove by saying [5] that no spherical body smaller than the light can reach the middle with the shadow. The lines of radiant light are straight lines [6]; therefore, suppose the light to be g h and the triangle l m n, and let the plane be i k; they say the light g falls on the side of the triangle l n, and the portion of the plane i q. Thus again h like g falls on the side l m, and then on m n and the plane p k; and if the whole plane thus faces the lights g h, it is evident that the triangle has no shadow; and that which has no shadow can cast none. This, in this case appears credible. But if the triangle n p g were not illuminated by the two lights g and h, but by i p and g and k neither side is lighted by more than one single light: that is i p is invisible to h g and k will never be lighted by g; hence p q will be twice as light as the two visible portions that are in shadow.

[Footnote: 5—6. This passage is so obscure that it would be rash to offer an explanation. Several words seem to have been omitted.]

On the relative depth of cast shadows (200-202).


A spot is most in the shade when a large number of darkened rays fall upon it. The spot which receives the rays at the widest angle and by darkened rays will be most in the dark; a will be twice as dark as b, because it originates from twice as large a base at an equal distance. A spot is most illuminated when a large number of luminous rays fall upon it. d is the beginning of the shadow d f, and tinges c but a little; d e is half of the shadow d f and gives a deeper tone where it is cast at b than at f. And the whole shaded space e gives its tone to the spot a. [Footnote: The diagram here referred to is on Pl. XLI, No. 2.]

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