The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Complete
by Leonardo Da Vinci
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A n will be darker than c r in proportion to the number of times that a b goes into c d.


The shadow cast by an object on a plane will be smaller in proportion as that object is lighted by feebler rays. Let d e be the object and d c the plane surface; the number of times that d e will go into f g gives the proportion of light at f h to d c. The ray of light will be weaker in proportion to its distance from the hole through which it falls.


Principles of reflection (203. 204).



If the object is the mountain here figured, and the light is at the point a, I say that from b d and also from c f there will be no light but from reflected rays. And this results from the fact that rays of light can only act in straight lines; and the same is the case with the secondary or reflected rays.


The edges of the derived shadow are defined by the hues of the illuminated objects surrounding the luminous body which produces the shadow.

On reverberation.



Reverberation is caused by bodies of a bright nature with a flat and semi opaque surface which, when the light strikes upon them, throw it back again, like the rebound of a ball, to the former object.


All dense bodies have their surfaces occupied by various degrees of light and shade. The lights are of two kinds, one called original, the other borrowed. Original light is that which is inherent in the flame of fire or the light of the sun or of the atmosphere. Borrowed light will be reflected light; but to return to the promised definition: I say that this luminous reverberation is not produced by those portions of a body which are turned towards darkened objects, such as shaded spots, fields with grass of various height, woods whether green or bare; in which, though that side of each branch which is turned towards the original light has a share of that light, nevertheless the shadows cast by each branch separately are so numerous, as well as those cast by one branch on the others, that finally so much shadow is the result that the light counts for nothing. Hence objects of this kind cannot throw any reflected light on opposite objects.

Reflection on water (206. 207).



The shadow or object mirrored in water in motion, that is to say in small wavelets, will always be larger than the external object producing it.


It is impossible that an object mirrored on water should correspond in form to the object mirrored, since the centre of the eye is above the surface of the water.

This is made plain in the figure here given, which demonstrates that the eye sees the surface a b, and cannot see it at l f, and at r t; it sees the surface of the image at r t, and does not see it in the real object c d. Hence it is impossible to see it, as has been said above unless the eye itself is situated on the surface of the water as is shown below [13].

[Footnote: A stands for ochio [eye], B for aria [air], C for acqua [water], D for cateto [cathetus].—In the original MS. the second diagram is placed below line 13.]

Experiments with the mirror (208-210).



If the illuminated object is of the same size as the luminous body and as that in which the light is reflected, the amount of the reflected light will bear the same proportion to the intermediate light as this second light will bear to the first, if both bodies are smooth and white.


Describe how it is that no object has its limitation in the mirror but in the eye which sees it in the mirror. For if you look at your face in the mirror, the part resembles the whole in as much as the part is everywhere in the mirror, and the whole is in every part of the same mirror; and the same is true of the whole image of any object placed opposite to this mirror, &c.


No man can see the image of another man in a mirror in its proper place with regard to the objects; because every object falls on [the surface of] the mirror at equal angles. And if the one man, who sees the other in the mirror, is not in a direct line with the image he will not see it in the place where it really falls; and if he gets into the line, he covers the other man and puts himself in the place occupied by his image. Let n o be the mirror, b the eye of your friend and d your own eye. Your friend's eye will appear to you at a, and to him it will seem that yours is at c, and the intersection of the visual rays will occur at m, so that either of you touching m will touch the eye of the other man which shall be open. And if you touch the eye of the other man in the mirror it will seem to him that you are touching your own.

Appendix:—On shadows in movement (211. 212).



When two bodies casting shadows, and one in front of the other, are between a window and the wall with some space between them, the shadow of the body which is nearest to the plane of the wall will move if the body nearest to the window is put in transverse motion across the window. To prove this let a and b be two bodies placed between the window n m and the plane surface o p with sufficient space between them as shown by the space a b. I say that if the body a is moved towards s the shadow of the body b which is at c will move towards d.



The motion of a shadow is always more rapid than that of the body which produces it if the light is stationary. To prove this let a be the luminous body, and b the body casting the shadow, and d the shadow. Then I say that in the time while the solid body moves from b to c, the shadow d will move to e; and this proportion in the rapidity of the movements made in the same space of time, is equal to that in the length of the space moved over. Thus, given the proportion of the space moved over by the body b to c, to that moved over by the shadow d to e, the proportion in the rapidity of their movements will be the same.

But if the luminous body is also in movement with a velocity equal to that of the solid body, then the shadow and the body that casts it will move with equal speed. And if the luminous body moves more rapidly than the solid body, the motion of the shadow will be slower than that of the body casting it.

But if the luminous body moves more slowly than the solid body, then the shadow will move more rapidly than that body.


The effect of rays passing through holes (213. 214).



If you transmit the rays of the sun through a hole in the shape of a star you will see a beautiful effect of perspective in the spot where the sun's rays fall.

[Footnote: In this and the following chapters of MS. C the order of the original paging has been adhered to, and is shown in parenthesis. Leonardo himself has but rarely worked out the subject of these propositions. The space left for the purpose has occasionally been made use of for quite different matter. Even the numerous diagrams, most of them very delicately sketched, lettered and numbered, which occur on these pages, are hardly ever explained, with the exception of those few which are here given.]


No small hole can so modify the convergence of rays of light as to prevent, at a long distance, the transmission of the true form of the luminous body causing them. It is impossible that rays of light passing through a parallel [slit], should not display the form of the body causing them, since all the effects produced by a luminous body are [in fact] the reflection of that body: The moon, shaped like a boat, if transmitted through a hole is figured in the surface [it falls on] as a boatshaped object. [Footnote 8: In the MS. a blank space is left after this question.] Why the eye sees bodies at a distance, larger than they measure on the vertical plane?.

[Footnote: This chapter, taken from another MS. may, as an exception, be placed here, as it refers to the same subject as the preceding section.]

On gradation of shadows (215. 216).


Although the breadth and length of lights and shadow will be narrower and shorter in foreshortening, the quality and quantity of the light and shade is not increased nor diminished.

[3]The function of shade and light when diminished by foreshortening, will be to give shadow and to illuminate an object opposite, according to the quality and quantity in which they fall on the body.

[5]In proportion as a derived shadow is nearer to its penultimate extremities the deeper it will appear, g z beyond the intersection faces only the part of the shadow [marked] y z; this by intersection takes the shadow from m n but by direct line it takes the shadow a m hence it is twice as deep as g z. Y x, by intersection takes the shadow n o, but by direct line the shadow n m a, therefore x y is three times as dark as z g; x f, by intersection faces o b and by direct line o n m a, therefore we must say that the shadow between f x will be four times as dark as the shadow z g, because it faces four times as much shadow.

Let a b be the side where the primary shadow is, and b c the primary light, d will be the spot where it is intercepted,f g the derived shadow and f e the derived light.

And this must be at the beginning of the explanation.

[Footnote: In the original MS. the text of No. 252 precedes the one given here. In the text of No. 215 there is a blank space of about four lines between the lines 2 and 3. The diagram given on Pl. VI, No. 2 is placed between lines 4 and 5. Between lines 5 and 6 there is another space of about three lines and one line left blank between lines 8 and 9. The reader will find the meaning of the whole passage much clearer if he first reads the final lines 11—13. Compare also line 4 of No. 270.]

On relative proportion of light and shadows (216—221).


That part of the surface of a body on which the images [reflection] from other bodies placed opposite fall at the largest angle will assume their hue most strongly. In the diagram below, 8 is a larger angle than 4, since its base a n is larger than e n the base of 4. This diagram below should end at a n 4 8. [4]That portion of the illuminated surface on which a shadow is cast will be brightest which lies contiguous to the cast shadow. Just as an object which is lighted up by a greater quantity of luminous rays becomes brighter, so one on which a greater quantity of shadow falls, will be darker.

Let 4 be the side of an illuminated surface 4 8, surrounding the cast shadow g e 4. And this spot 4 will be lighter than 8, because less shadow falls on it than on 8. Since 4 faces only the shadow i n; and 8 faces and receives the shadow a e as well as i n which makes it twice as dark. And the same thing happens when you put the atmosphere and the sun in the place of shade and light.

[12] The distribution of shadow, originating in, and limited by, plane surfaces placed near to each other, equal in tone and directly opposite, will be darker at the ends than at the beginning, which will be determined by the incidence of the luminous rays. You will find the same proportion in the depth of the derived shadows a n as in the nearness of the luminous bodies m b, which cause them; and if the luminous bodies were of equal size you would still farther find the same proportion in the light cast by the luminous circles and their shadows as in the distance of the said luminous bodies.

[Footnote: The diagram originally placed between lines 3 and 4 is on Pl. VI, No. 3. In the diagram given above line 14 of the original, and here printed in the text, the words corpo luminoso [luminous body] are written in the circle m, luminoso in the circle b and ombroso [body in shadow] in the circle o.]



[2] The darkness occasioned by the casting of combined shadows will be in conformity with its cause, which will originate and terminate between two plane surfaces near together, alike in tone and directly opposite each other.

[4] In proportion as the source of light is larger, the luminous and shadow rays will be more mixed together. This result is produced because wherever there is a larger quantity of luminous rays, there is most light, but where there are fewer there is least light, consequently the shadow rays come in and mingle with them.

[Footnote: Diagrams are inserted before lines 2 and 4.]


In all the proportions I lay down it must be understood that the medium between the bodies is always the same. [2] The smaller the luminous body the more distinct will the transmission of the shadows be.

[3] When of two opposite shadows, produced by the same body, one is twice as dark as the other though similar in form, one of the two lights causing them must have twice the diameter that the other has and be at twice the distance from the opaque body. If the object is lowly moved across the luminous body, and the shadow is intercepted at some distance from the object, there will be the same relative proportion between the motion of the derived shadow and the motion of the primary shadow, as between the distance from the object to the light, and that from the object to the spot where the shadow is intercepted; so that though the object is moved slowly the shadow moves fast.

[Footnote: There are diagrams inserted before lines 2 and 3 but they are not reproduced here. The diagram above line 6 is written upon as follows: at A lume (light), at B obbietto (body), at C ombra d'obbietto (shadow of the object).]


A luminous body will appear less brilliant when surrounded by a bright background.

[2] I have found that the stars which are nearest to the horizon look larger than the others because light falls upon them from a larger proportion of the solar body than when they are above us; and having more light from the sun they give more light, and the bodies which are most luminous appear the largest. As may be seen by the sun through a mist, and overhead; it appears larger where there is no mist and diminished through mist. No portion of the luminous body is ever visible from any spot within the pyramid of pure derived shadow.

[Footnote: Between lines 1 and 2 there is in the original a large diagram which does not refer to this text. ]


A body on which the solar rays fall between the thin branches of trees far apart will cast but a single shadow.

[2] If an opaque body and a luminous one are (both) spherical the base of the pyramid of rays will bear the same proportion to the luminous body as the base of the pyramid of shade to the opaque body.

[4] When the transmitted shadow is intercepted by a plane surface placed opposite to it and farther away from the luminous body than from the object [which casts it] it will appear proportionately darker and the edges more distinct.

[Footnote: The diagram which, in the original, is placed above line 2, is similar to the one, here given on page 73 (section 120).—The diagram here given in the margin stands, in the original, between lines 3 and 4.]


A body illuminated by the solar rays passing between the thick branches of trees will produce as many shadows as there are branches between the sun and itself.

Where the shadow-rays from an opaque pyramidal body are intercepted they will cast a shadow of bifurcate outline and various depth at the points. A light which is broader than the apex but narrower than the base of an opaque pyramidal body placed in front of it, will cause that pyramid to cast a shadow of bifurcate form and various degrees of depth.

If an opaque body, smaller than the light, casts two shadows and if it is the same size or larger, casts but one, it follows that a pyramidal body, of which part is smaller, part equal to, and part larger than, the luminous body, will cast a bifurcate shadow.

[Footnote: Between lines 2 and 3 there are in the original two large diagrams.]


Perspective of Disappearance.

The theory of the "Prospettiva de' perdimenti" would, in many important details, be quite unintelligible if it had not been led up by the principles of light and shade on which it is based. The word "Prospettiva" in the language of the time included the principles of optics; what Leonardo understood by "Perdimenti" will be clearly seen in the early chapters, Nos. 222—224. It is in the very nature of the case that the farther explanations given in the subsequent chapters must be limited to general rules. The sections given as 227—231 "On indistinctness at short distances" have, it is true, only an indirect bearing on the subject; but on the other hand, the following chapters, 232—234, "On indistinctness at great distances," go fully into the matter, and in chapters 235—239, which treat "Of the importance of light and shade in the Perspective of Disappearance", the practical issues are distinctly insisted on in their relation to the theory. This is naturally followed by the statements as to "the effect of light or dark backgrounds on the apparent size of bodies" (Nos. 240—250). At the end I have placed, in the order of the original, those sections from the MS. C which treat of the "Perspective of Disappearance" and serve to some extent to complete the treatment of the subject (251—262).

Definition (222. 223).



If the real outlines of opaque bodies are indistinguishable at even a very short distance, they will be more so at long distances; and, since it is by its outlines that we are able to know the real form of any opaque body, when by its remoteness we fail to discern it as a whole, much more must we fail to discern its parts and outlines.



Among opaque objects of equal size the apparent diminution of size will be in proportion to their distance from the eye of the spectator; but it is an inverse proportion, since, where the distance is greater, the opaque body will appear smaller, and the less the distance the larger will the object appear. And this is the fundamental principle of linear perspective and it follows:—[11]every object as it becomes more remote loses first those parts which are smallest. Thus of a horse, we should lose the legs before the head, because the legs are thinner than the head; and the neck before the body for the same reason. Hence it follows that the last part of the horse which would be discernible by the eye would be the mass of the body in an oval form, or rather in a cylindrical form and this would lose its apparent thickness before its length—according to the 2nd rule given above, &c. [Footnote 23: Compare line 11.].

If the eye remains stationary the perspective terminates in the distance in a point. But if the eye moves in a straight [horizontal] line the perspective terminates in a line and the reason is that this line is generated by the motion of the point and our sight; therefore it follows that as we move our sight [eye], the point moves, and as we move the point, the line is generated, &c.

An illustration by experiment.


Every visible body, in so far as it affects the eye, includes three attributes; that is to say: mass, form and colour; and the mass is recognisable at a greater distance from the place of its actual existence than either colour or form. Again, colour is discernible at a greater distance than form, but this law does not apply to luminous bodies.

The above proposition is plainly shown and proved by experiment; because: if you see a man close to you, you discern the exact appearance of the mass and of the form and also of the colouring; if he goes to some distance you will not recognise who he is, because the character of the details will disappear, if he goes still farther you will not be able to distinguish his colouring, but he will appear as a dark object, and still farther he will appear as a very small dark rounded object. It appears rounded because distance so greatly diminishes the various details that nothing remains visible but the larger mass. And the reason is this: We know very well that all the images of objects reach the senses by a small aperture in the eye; hence, if the whole horizon a d is admitted through such an aperture, the object b c being but a very small fraction of this horizon what space can it fill in that minute image of so vast a hemisphere? And because luminous bodies have more power in darkness than any others, it is evident that, as the chamber of the eye is very dark, as is the nature of all colored cavities, the images of distant objects are confused and lost in the great light of the sky; and if they are visible at all, appear dark and black, as every small body must when seen in the diffused light of the atmosphere.

[Footnote: The diagram belonging to this passage is placed between lines 5 and 6; it is No. 4 on Pl. VI. ]

A guiding rule.



An object will appear more or less distinct at the same distance, in proportion as the atmosphere existing between the eye and that object is more or less clear. Hence, as I know that the greater or less quantity of the air that lies between the eye and the object makes the outlines of that object more or less indistinct, you must diminish the definiteness of outline of those objects in proportion to their increasing distance from the eye of the spectator.

An experiment.


When I was once in a place on the sea, at an equal distance from the shore and the mountains, the distance from the shore looked much greater than that from the mountains.

On indistinctness at short distances (227-231).


If you place an opaque object in front of your eye at a distance of four fingers' breadth, if it is smaller than the space between the two eyes it will not interfere with your seeing any thing that may be beyond it. No object situated beyond another object seen by the eye can be concealed by this [nearer] object if it is smaller than the space from eye to eye.


The eye cannot take in a luminous angle which is too close to it.


That part of a surface will be better lighted on which the light falls at the greater angle. And that part, on which the shadow falls at the greatest angle, will receive from those rays least of the benefit of the light.



The edges of an object placed in front of the pupil of the eye will be less distinct in proportion as they are closer to the eye. This is shown by the edge of the object n placed in front of the pupil d; in looking at this edge the pupil also sees all the space a c which is beyond the edge; and the images the eye receives from that space are mingled with the images of the edge, so that one image confuses the other, and this confusion hinders the pupil from distinguishing the edge.


The outlines of objects will be least clear when they are nearest to the eye, and therefore remoter outlines will be clearer. Among objects which are smaller than the pupil of the eye those will be less distinct which are nearer to the eye.

On indistinctness at great distances (232-234).


Objects near to the eye will appear larger than those at a distance.

Objects seen with two eyes will appear rounder than if they are seen with only one.

Objects seen between light and shadow will show the most relief.



Our true perception of an object diminishes in proportion as its size is diminished by distance.



Why objects seen at a distance appear large to the eye and in the image on the vertical plane they appear small.


I ask how far away the eye can discern a non-luminous body, as, for instance, a mountain. It will be very plainly visible if the sun is behind it; and could be seen at a greater or less distance according to the sun's place in the sky.

[Footnote: The clue to the solution of this problem (lines 1-3) is given in lines 4-6, No. 232. Objects seen with both eyes appear solid since they are seen from two distinct points of sight separated by the distance between the eyes, but this solidity cannot be represented in a flat drawing. Compare No. 535.]

The importance of light and shade in the perspective of disappearance (235-239).


An opaque body seen in a line in which the light falls will reveal no prominences to the eye. For instance, let a be the solid body and c the light; c m and c n will be the lines of incidence of the light, that is to say the lines which transmit the light to the object a. The eye being at the point b, I say that since the light c falls on the whole part m n the portions in relief on that side will all be illuminated. Hence the eye placed at c cannot see any light and shade and, not seeing it, every portion will appear of the same tone, therefore the relief in the prominent or rounded parts will not be visible.



When you represent in your work shadows which you can only discern with difficulty, and of which you cannot distinguish the edges so that you apprehend them confusedly, you must not make them sharp or definite lest your work should have a wooden effect.



You will observe in drawing that among the shadows some are of undistinguishable gradation and form, as is shown in the 3rd [proposition] which says: Rounded surfaces display as many degrees of light and shade as there are varieties of brightness and darkness reflected from the surrounding objects.



You who draw from nature, look (carefully) at the extent, the degree, and the form of the lights and shadows on each muscle; and in their position lengthwise observe towards which muscle the axis of the central line is directed.


An object which is [so brilliantly illuminated as to be] almost as bright as light will be visible at a greater distance, and of larger apparent size than is natural to objects so remote.

The effect of light or dark backgrounds on the apparent size of objects (240-250).


A shadow will appear dark in proportion to the brilliancy of the light surrounding it and conversely it will be less conspicuous where it is seen against a darker background.



An object of equal breadth and colour throughout, seen against a background of various colours will appear unequal in breadth.

And if an object of equal breadth throughout, but of various colours, is seen against a background of uniform colour, that object will appear of various breadth. And the more the colours of the background or of the object seen against the ground vary, the greater will the apparent variations in the breadth be though the objects seen against the ground be of equal breadth [throughout].


A dark object seen against a bright background will appear smaller than it is.

A light object will look larger when it is seen against a background darker than itself.



A luminous body when obscured by a dense atmosphere will appear smaller; as may be seen by the moon or sun veiled by mists.


Of several luminous bodies of equal size and brilliancy and at an equal distance, that will look the largest which is surrounded by the darkest background.


I find that any luminous body when seen through a dense and thick mist diminishes in proportion to its distance from the eye. Thus it is with the sun by day, as well as the moon and the other eternal lights by night. And when the air is clear, these luminaries appear larger in proportion as they are farther from the eye.


That portion of a body of uniform breadth which is against a lighter background will look narrower [than the rest].

[4] e is a given object, itself dark and of uniform breadth; a b and c d are two backgrounds one darker than the other; b c is a bright background, as it might be a spot lighted by the sun through an aperture in a dark room. Then I say that the object e g will appear larger at e f than at g h; because e f has a darker background than g h; and again at f g it will look narrower from being seen by the eye o, on the light background b c. [Footnote 12: The diagram to which the text, lines 1-11, refers, is placed in the original between lines 3 and 4, and is given on Pl. XLI, No. 3. Lines 12 to 14 are explained by the lower of the two diagrams on Pl. XLI, No. 4. In the original these are placed after line 14.] That part of a luminous body, of equal breadth and brilliancy throughout, will look largest which is seen against the darkest background; and the luminous body will seem on fire.



If you look at a body of which the illuminated portion lies and ends against a dark background, that part of the light which will look brightest will be that which lies against the dark [background] at d. But if this brighter part lies against a light background, the edge of the object, which is itself light, will be less distinct than before, and the highest light will appear to be between the limit of the background m f and the shadow. The same thing is seen with regard to the dark [side], inasmuch as that edge of the shaded portion of the object which lies against a light background, as at l, it looks much darker than the rest. But if this shadow lies against a dark background, the edge of the shaded part will appear lighter than before, and the deepest shade will appear between the edge and the light at the point o.

[Footnote: In the original diagram o is inside the shaded surface at the level of d.]


An opaque body will appear smaller when it is surrounded by a highly luminous background, and a light body will appear larger when it is seen against a darker background. This may be seen in the height of buildings at night, when lightning flashes behind them; it suddenly seems, when it lightens, as though the height of the building were diminished. For the same reason such buildings look larger in a mist, or by night than when the atmosphere is clear and light.



When you are drawing any object, remember, in comparing the grades of light in the illuminated portions, that the eye is often deceived by seeing things lighter than they are. And the reason lies in our comparing those parts with the contiguous parts. Since if two [separate] parts are in different grades of light and if the less bright is conterminous with a dark portion and the brighter is conterminous with a light background—as the sky or something equally bright—, then that which is less light, or I should say less radiant, will look the brighter and the brighter will seem the darker.


Of objects equally dark in themselves and situated at a considerable and equal distance, that will look the darkest which is farthest above the earth.



If you place two lighted candles side by side half a braccio apart, and go from them to a distance 200 braccia you will see that by the increased size of each they will appear as a single luminous body with the light of the two flames, one braccio wide.


If you wish to see the real size of these luminous bodies, take a very thin board and make in it a hole no bigger than the tag of a lace and place it as close to your eye as possible, so that when you look through this hole, at the said light, you can see a large space of air round it. Then by rapidly moving this board backwards and forwards before your eye you will see the light increase [and diminish].

Propositions on perspective of disappearance from MS. C. (250-262).


Of several bodies of equal size and equally distant from the eye, those will look the smallest which are against the lightest background.

Every visible object must be surrounded by light and shade. A perfectly spherical body surrounded by light and shade will appear to have one side larger than the other in proportion as one is more highly lighted than the other.



No visible object can be well understood and comprehended by the human eye excepting from the difference of the background against which the edges of the object terminate and by which they are bounded, and no object will appear [to stand out] separate from that background so far as the outlines of its borders are concerned. The moon, though it is at a great distance from the sun, when, in an eclipse, it comes between our eyes and the sun, appears to the eyes of men to be close to the sun and affixed to it, because the sun is then the background to the moon.


A luminous body will appear more brilliant in proportion as it is surrounded by deeper shadow. [Footnote: The diagram which, in the original, is placed after this text, has no connection with it.]


The straight edges of a body will appear broken when they are conterminous with a dark space streaked with rays of light. [Footnote: Here again the diagrams in the original have no connection with the text.]


Of several bodies, all equally large and equally distant, that which is most brightly illuminated will appear to the eye nearest and largest. [Footnote: Here again the diagrams in the original have no connection with the text.]


If several luminous bodies are seen from a great distance although they are really separate they will appear united as one body.


If several objects in shadow, standing very close together, are seen against a bright background they will appear separated by wide intervals.


Of several bodies of equal size and tone, that which is farthest will appear the lightest and smallest.


Of several objects equal in size, brightness of background and length that which has the flattest surface will look the largest. A bar of iron equally thick throughout and of which half is red hot, affords an example, for the red hot part looks thicker than the rest.


Of several bodies of equal size and length, and alike in form and in depth of shade, that will appear smallest which is surrounded by the most luminous background.



The foregoing proposition can be clearly proved in this way. Let us say that m q is the luminous body, then f g will be the opaque body; and let a e be the above-mentioned plane on which the said angles fall, showing [plainly] the nature and character of their bases. Then: a will be more luminous than b; the base of the angle a is larger than that of b and it therefore makes a greater angle which will be a m q; and the pyramid b p m will be narrower and m o c will be still finer, and so on by degrees, in proportion as they are nearer to e, the pyramids will become narrower and darker. That portion of the wall will be the darkest where the breadth of the pyramid of shadow is greater than the breadth of the pyramid of light.

At the point a the pyramid of light is equal in strength to the pyramid of shadow, because the base f g is equal to the base r f. At the point d the pyramid of light is narrower than the pyramid of shadow by so much as the base s f is less than the base f g.

Divide the foregoing proposition into two diagrams, one with the pyramids of light and shadow, the other with the pyramids of light [only].


Among shadows of equal depth those which are nearest to the eye will look least deep.


The more brilliant the light given by a luminous body, the deeper will the shadows be cast by the objects it illuminates.


Theory of colours.

Leonardo's theory of colours is even more intimately connected with his principles of light and shade than his Perspective of Disappearance and is in fact merely an appendix or supplement to those principles, as we gather from the titles to sections 264, 267, and 276, while others again (Nos. 281, 282) are headed Prospettiva.

A very few of these chapters are to be found in the oldest copies and editions of the Treatise on Painting, and although the material they afford is but meager and the connection between them but slight, we must still attribute to them a special theoretical value as well as practical utility—all the more so because our knowledge of the theory and use of colours at the time of the Renaissance is still extremely limited.

The reciprocal effects of colours on objects placed opposite each other (263-272).



The hue of an illuminated object is affected by that of the luminous body.



The surface of any opaque body is affected by the colour of surrounding objects.


A shadow is always affected by the colour of the surface on which it is cast.


An image produced in a mirror is affected by the colour of the mirror.



Every portion of the surface of a body is varied [in hue] by the [reflected] colour of the object that may be opposite to it.


If you place a spherical body between various objects that is to say with [direct] sunlight on one side of it, and on the other a wall illuminated by the sun, which wall may be green or of any other colour, while the surface on which it is placed may be red, and the two lateral sides are in shadow, you will see that the natural colour of that body will assume something of the hue reflected from those objects. The strongest will be [given by] the luminous body; the second by the illuminated wall, the third by the shadows. There will still be a portion which will take a tint from the colour of the edges.


The surface of every opaque body is affected by the colour of the objects surrounding it. But this effect will be strong or weak in proportion as those objects are more or less remote and more or less strongly [coloured].



The surface of every opaque body assumes the hues reflected from surrounding objects.

The surface of an opaque body assumes the hues of surrounding objects more strongly in proportion as the rays that form the images of those objects strike the surface at more equal angles.

And the surface of an opaque body assumes a stronger hue from the surrounding objects in proportion as that surface is whiter and the colour of the object brighter or more highly illuminated.



All the minutest parts of the image intersect each other without interfering with each other. To prove this let r be one of the sides of the hole, opposite to which let s be the eye which sees the lower end o of the line n o. The other extremity cannot transmit its image to the eye s as it has to strike the end r and it is the same with regard to m at the middle of the line. The case is the same with the upper extremity n and the eye u. And if the end n is red the eye u on that side of the holes will not see the green colour of o, but only the red of n according to the 7th of this where it is said: Every form projects images from itself by the shortest line, which necessarily is a straight line, &c.

[Footnote: 13. This probably refers to the diagram given under No. 66.]



The surface of a body assumes in some degree the hue of those around it. The colours of illuminated objects are reflected from the surfaces of one to the other in various spots, according to the various positions of those objects. Let o be a blue object in full light, facing all by itself the space b c on the white sphere a b e d e f, and it will give it a blue tinge, m is a yellow body reflected onto the space a b at the same time as o the blue body, and they give it a green colour (by the 2nd [proposition] of this which shows that blue and yellow make a beautiful green &c.) And the rest will be set forth in the Book on Painting. In that Book it will be shown, that, by transmitting the images of objects and the colours of bodies illuminated by sunlight through a small round perforation and into a dark chamber onto a plane surface, which itself is quite white, &c.

But every thing will be upside down.

Combination of different colours in cast shadows.


That which casts the shadow does not face it, because the shadows are produced by the light which causes and surrounds the shadows. The shadow caused by the light e, which is yellow, has a blue tinge, because the shadow of the body a is cast upon the pavement at b, where the blue light falls; and the shadow produced by the light d, which is blue, will be yellow at c, because the yellow light falls there and the surrounding background to these shadows b c will, besides its natural colour, assume a hue compounded of yellow and blue, because it is lighted by the yellow light and by the blue light both at once.

Shadows of various colours, as affected by the lights falling on them. That light which causes the shadow does not face it.

[Footnote: In the original diagram we find in the circle e "giallo" (yellow) and the cirle d "azurro" (blue) and also under the circle of shadow to the left "giallo" is written and under that to the right "azurro".

In the second diagram where four circles are placed in a row we find written, beginning at the left hand, "giallo" (yellow), "azurro" (blue), "verde" (green), "rosso" (red).]

The effect of colours in the camera obscura (273-274).


The edges of a colour(ed object) transmitted through a small hole are more conspicuous than the central portions.

The edges of the images, of whatever colour, which are transmitted through a small aperture into a dark chamber will always be stronger than the middle portions.



The intersections of the images as they enter the pupil do not mingle in confusion in the space where that intersection unites them; as is evident, since, if the rays of the sun pass through two panes of glass in close contact, of which one is blue and the other yellow, the rays, in penetrating them, do not become blue or yellow but a beautiful green. And the same thing would happen in the eye, if the images which were yellow or green should mingle where they [meet and] intersect as they enter the pupil. As this does not happen such a mingling does not exist.


The directness of the rays which transmit the forms and colours of the bodies whence they proceed does not tinge the air nor can they affect each other by contact where they intersect. They affect only the spot where they vanish and cease to exist, because that spot faces and is faced by the original source of these rays, and no other object, which surrounds that original source can be seen by the eye where these rays are cut off and destroyed, leaving there the spoil they have conveyed to it. And this is proved by the 4th [proposition], on the colour of bodies, which says: The surface of every opaque body is affected by the colour of surrounding objects; hence we may conclude that the spot which, by means of the rays which convey the image, faces—and is faced by the cause of the image, assumes the colour of that object.

On the colours of derived shadows (275. 276).



Let n be the source of the shadow e f; it will assume its hue. Let o be the source of h e which will in the same way be tinged by its hue and so also the colour of v h will be affected by p which causes it; and the shadow of the triangle z k y will be affected by the colour of q, because it is produced by it. [7] In proportion as c d goes into a d, will n r s be darker than m; and the rest of the space will be shadowless [11]. f g is the highest light, because here the whole light of the window a d falls; and thus on the opaque body m e is in equally high light; z k y is a triangle which includes the deepest shadow, because the light a d cannot reach any part of it. x h is the 2nd grade of shadow, because it receives only 1/3 of the light from the window, that is c d. The third grade of shadow is h e, where two thirds of the light from the window is visible. The last grade of shadow is b d e f, because the highest grade of light from the window falls at f.

[Footnote: The diagram Pl. III, No. 1 belongs to this chapter as well as the text given in No. 148. Lines 7-11 (compare lines 8-12 of No. 148) which are written within the diagram, evidently apply to both sections and have therefore been inserted in both.]



The colour of derived shadows is always affected by that of the body towards which they are cast. To prove this: let an opaque body be placed between the plane s c t d and the blue light d e and the red light a b, then I say that d e, the blue light, will fall on the whole surface s c t d excepting at o p which is covered by the shadow of the body q r, as is shown by the straight lines d q o e r p. And the same occurs with the light a b which falls on the whole surface s c t d excepting at the spot obscured by the shadow q r; as is shown by the lines d q o, and e r p. Hence we may conclude that the shadow n m is exposed to the blue light d e; but, as the red light a b cannot fall there, n m will appear as a blue shadow on a red background tinted with blue, because on the surface s c t d both lights can fall. But in the shadows only one single light falls; for this reason these shadows are of medium depth, since, if no light whatever mingled with the shadow, it would be of the first degree of darkness &c. But in the shadow at o p the blue light does not fall, because the body q r interposes and intercepts it there. Only the red light a b falls there and tinges the shadow of a red hue and so a ruddy shadow appears on the background of mingled red and blue.

The shadow of q r at o p is red, being caused by the blue light d e; and the shadow of q r at o' p' is blue being caused by the red light a b. Hence we say that the blue light in this instance causes a red derived shadow from the opaque body q' r', while the red light causes the same body to cast a blue derived shadow; but the primary shadow [on the dark side of the body itself] is not of either of those hues, but a mixture of red and blue.

The derived shadows will be equal in depth if they are produced by lights of equal strength and at an equal distance; this is proved. [Footnote 53: The text is unfinished in the original.]

[Footnote: In the original diagram Leonardo has written within the circle q r corpo obroso (body in shadow); at the spot marked A, luminoso azzurro (blue luminous body); at B, luminoso rosso (red luminous body). At E we read ombra azzurra (blue tinted shadow) and at D ombra rossa (red tinted shadow).]

On the nature of colours (277. 278).


No white or black is transparent.



[Footnote 2: See Footnote 3] Since white is not a colour but the neutral recipient of every colour [Footnote 3: il bianco non e colore ma e inpotentia ricettiva d'ogni colore (white is not a colour, but the neutral recipient of every colour). LEON BATT. ALBERTI "Della pittura" libro I, asserts on the contrary: "Il bianco e'l nero non sono veri colori, ma sono alteratione delli altri colori" (ed. JANITSCHEK, p. 67; Vienna 1877).], when it is seen in the open air and high up, all its shadows are bluish; and this is caused, according to the 4th [prop.], which says: the surface of every opaque body assumes the hue of the surrounding objects. Now this white [body] being deprived of the light of the sun by the interposition of some body between the sun and itself, all that portion of it which is exposed to the sun and atmosphere assumes the colour of the sun and atmosphere; the side on which the sun does not fall remains in shadow and assumes the hue of the atmosphere. And if this white object did not reflect the green of the fields all the way to the horizon nor get the brightness of the horizon itself, it would certainly appear simply of the same hue as the atmosphere.

On gradations in the depth of colours (279. 280).


Since black, when painted next to white, looks no blacker than when next to black; and white when next to black looks no whiter than white, as is seen by the images transmitted through a small hole or by the edges of any opaque screen ...



Of several colours, all equally white, that will look whitest which is against the darkest background. And black will look intensest against the whitest background.

And red will look most vivid against the yellowest background; and the same is the case with all colours when surrounded by their strongest contrasts.

On the reflection of colours (281-283).



Every object devoid of colour in itself is more or less tinged by the colour [of the object] placed opposite. This may be seen by experience, inasmuch as any object which mirrors another assumes the colour of the object mirrored in it. And if the surface thus partially coloured is white the portion which has a red reflection will appear red, or any other colour, whether bright or dark.


Every opaque and colourless body assumes the hue of the colour reflected on it; as happens with a white wall.



That side of an object in light and shade which is towards the light transmits the images of its details more distinctly and immediately to the eye than the side which is in shadow.


The solar rays reflected on a square mirror will be thrown back to distant objects in a circular form.


Any white and opaque surface will be partially coloured by reflections from surrounding objects.

[Footnote 281. 282: The title line of these chapters is in the original simply "pro", which may be an abbreviation for either Propositione or Prospettiva—taking Prospettiva of course in its widest sense, as we often find it used in Leonardo's writings. The title "pro" has here been understood to mean Prospettiva, in accordance with the suggestion afforded by page 10b of this same MS., where the first section is headed Prospettiva in full (see No. 94), while the four following sections are headed merely "pro" (see No. 85).]



If a is the light, and b illuminated by it in a direct line, c, on which the light cannot fall, is lighted only by reflection from b which, let us say, is red. Hence the light reflected from it, will be affected by the hue of the surface causing it and will tinge the surface c with red. And if c is also red you will see it much more intense than b; and if it were yellow you would see there a colour between yellow and red.

On the use of dark and light colours in painting (284—286).



Since we see that the quality of colour is known [only] by means of light, it is to be supposed that where there is most light the true character of a colour in light will be best seen; and where there is most shadow the colour will be affected by the tone of that. Hence, O Painter! remember to show the true quality of colours in bright lights.


An object represented in white and black will display stronger relief than in any other way; hence I would remind you O Painter! to dress your figures in the lightest colours you can, since, if you put them in dark colours, they will be in too slight relief and inconspicuous from a distance. And the reason is that the shadows of all objects are dark. And if you make a dress dark there is little variety in the lights and shadows, while in light colours there are many grades.



Colours seen in shadow will display more or less of their natural brilliancy in proportion as they are in fainter or deeper shadow.

But if these same colours are situated in a well-lighted place, they will appear brighter in proportion as the light is more brilliant.


The variety of colours in shadow must be as great as that of the colours in the objects in that shadow.


Colours seen in shadow will display less variety in proportion as the shadows in which they lie are deeper. And evidence of this is to be had by looking from an open space into the doorways of dark and shadowy churches, where the pictures which are painted in various colours all look of uniform darkness.

Hence at a considerable distance all the shadows of different colours will appear of the same darkness.

It is the light side of an object in light and shade which shows the true colour.

On the colours of the rainbow (287. 288).


Treat of the rainbow in the last book on Painting, but first write the book on colours produced by the mixture of other colours, so as to be able to prove by those painters' colours how the colours of the rainbow are produced.



The colours of the rainbow are not produced by the sun, for they occur in many ways without the sunshine; as may be seen by holding a glass of water up to the eye; when, in the glass—where there are those minute bubbles always seen in coarse glass—each bubble, even though the sun does not fall on it, will produce on one side all the colours of the rainbow; as you may see by placing the glass between the day light and your eye in such a way as that it is close to the eye, while on one side the glass admits the [diffused] light of the atmosphere, and on the other side the shadow of the wall on one side of the window; either left or right, it matters not which. Then, by turning the glass round you will see these colours all round the bubbles in the glass &c. And the rest shall be said in its place.


In the experiment just described, the eye would seem to have some share in the colours of the rainbow, since these bubbles in the glass do not display the colours except through the medium of the eye. But, if you place the glass full of water on the window sill, in such a position as that the outer side is exposed to the sun's rays, you will see the same colours produced in the spot of light thrown through the glass and upon the floor, in a dark place, below the window; and as the eye is not here concerned in it, we may evidently, and with certainty pronounce that the eye has no share in producing them.


There are many birds in various regions of the world on whose feathers we see the most splendid colours produced as they move, as we see in our own country in the feathers of peacocks or on the necks of ducks or pigeons, &c.

Again, on the surface of antique glass found underground and on the roots of turnips kept for some time at the bottom of wells or other stagnant waters [we see] that each root displays colours similar to those of the real rainbow. They may also be seen when oil has been placed on the top of water and in the solar rays reflected from the surface of a diamond or beryl; again, through the angular facet of a beryl every dark object against a background of the atmosphere or any thing else equally pale-coloured is surrounded by these rainbow colours between the atmosphere and the dark body; and in many other circumstances which I will not mention, as these suffice for my purpose.


'Prospettiva de' colri' (Perspective of Colour)


'Prospettiva aerea' (Aerial Perspective).

Leonardo distinctly separates these branches of his subject, as may be seen in the beginning of No. 295. Attempts have been made to cast doubts on the results which Leonardo arrived at by experiment on the perspective of colour, but not with justice, as may be seen from the original text of section 294.

The question as to the composition of the atmosphere, which is inseparable from a discussion on Aerial Perspective, forms a separate theory which is treated at considerable length. Indeed the author enters into it so fully that we cannot escape the conviction that he must have dwelt with particular pleasure on this part of his subject, and that he attached great importance to giving it a character of general applicability.

General rules (289—291).


The variety of colour in objects cannot be discerned at a great distance, excepting in those parts which are directly lighted up by the solar rays.


As to the colours of objects: at long distances no difference is perceptible in the parts in shadow.



Which colour strikes most? An object at a distance is most conspicuous, when it is lightest, and the darkest is least visible.

An exceptional case.


Of the edges [outlines] of shadows. Some have misty and ill defined edges, others distinct ones.

No opaque body can be devoid of light and shade, except it is in a mist, on ground covered with snow, or when snow is falling on the open country which has no light on it and is surrounded with darkness.

And this occurs [only] in spherical bodies, because in other bodies which have limbs and parts, those sides of limbs which face each other reflect on each other the accidental [hue and tone] of their surface.

An experiment.



All colours at a distance are undistinguishable in shadow, because an object which is not in the highest light is incapable of transmitting its image to the eye through an atmosphere more luminous than itself; since the lesser brightness must be absorbed by the greater. For instance: We, in a house, can see that all the colours on the surface of the walls are clearly and instantly visible when the windows of the house are open; but if we were to go out of the house and look in at the windows from a little distance to see the paintings on those walls, instead of the paintings we should see an uniform deep and colourless shadow.

The practice of the prospettiva de colori.



In order to put into practice this perspective of the variation and loss or diminution of the essential character of colours, observe at every hundred braccia some objects standing in the landscape, such as trees, houses, men and particular places. Then in front of the first tree have a very steady plate of glass and keep your eye very steady, and then, on this plate of glass, draw a tree, tracing it over the form of that tree. Then move it on one side so far as that the real tree is close by the side of the tree you have drawn; then colour your drawing in such a way as that in colour and form the two may be alike, and that both, if you close one eye, seem to be painted on the glass and at the same distance. Then, by the same method, represent a second tree, and a third, with a distance of a hundred braccia between each. And these will serve as a standard and guide whenever you work on your own pictures, wherever they may apply, and will enable you to give due distance in those works. [14] But I have found that as a rule the second is 4/5 of the first when it is 20 braccia beyond it.

[Footnote: This chapter is one of those copied in the Manuscript of the Vatican library Urbinas 1270, and the original text is rendered here with no other alterations, but in the orthography. H. LUDWIG, in his edition of this copy translates lines 14 and 15 thus: "Ich finde aber als Regel, dass der zweite um vier Funftel des ersten abnimmt, wenn er namlich zwanzig Ellen vom ersten entfernt ist (?)". He adds in his commentary: "Das Ende der Nummer ist wohl jedenfalls verstummelt". However the translation given above shows that it admits of a different rendering.]

The rules of aerial perspective (295—297).



There is another kind of perspective which I call Aerial Perspective, because by the atmosphere we are able to distinguish the variations in distance of different buildings, which appear placed on a single line; as, for instance, when we see several buildings beyond a wall, all of which, as they appear above the top of the wall, look of the same size, while you wish to represent them in a picture as more remote one than another and to give the effect of a somewhat dense atmosphere. You know that in an atmosphere of equal density the remotest objects seen through it, as mountains, in consequence of the great quantity of atmosphere between your eye and them—appear blue and almost of the same hue as the atmosphere itself [Footnote 10: quado il sole e per leuante (when the sun is in the East). Apparently the author refers here to morning light in general. H. LUDWIG however translates this passage from the Vatican copy "wenn namlich die Sonne (dahinter) im Osten steht".] when the sun is in the East [Footnote 11: See Footnote 10]. Hence you must make the nearest building above the wall of its real colour, but the more distant ones make less defined and bluer. Those you wish should look farthest away you must make proportionately bluer; thus, if one is to be five times as distant, make it five times bluer. And by this rule the buildings which above a [given] line appear of the same size, will plainly be distinguished as to which are the more remote and which larger than the others.


The medium lying between the eye and the object seen, tinges that object with its colour, as the blueness of the atmosphere makes the distant mountains appear blue and red glass makes objects seen beyond it, look red. The light shed round them by the stars is obscured by the darkness of the night which lies between the eye and the radiant light of the stars.


Take care that the perspective of colour does not disagree with the size of your objects, hat is to say: that the colours diminish from their natural [vividness] in proportion as the objects at various distances dimmish from their natural size.

On the relative density of the atmosphere (298—290).



Because the atmosphere is dense near the earth, and the higher it is the rarer it becomes. When the sun is in the East if you look towards the West and a little way to the South and North, you will see that this dense atmosphere receives more light from the sun than the rarer; because the rays meet with greater resistance. And if the sky, as you see it, ends on a low plain, that lowest portion of the sky will be seen through a denser and whiter atmosphere, which will weaken its true colour as seen through that medium, and there the sky will look whiter than it is above you, where the line of sight travels through a smaller space of air charged with heavy vapour. And if you turn to the East, the atmosphere will appear darker as you look lower down because the luminous rays pass less freely through the lower atmosphere.



It is easy to perceive that the atmosphere which lies closest to the level ground is denser than the rest, and that where it is higher up, it is rarer and more transparent. The lower portions of large and lofty objects which are at a distance are not much seen, because you see them along a line which passes through a denser and thicker section of the atmosphere. The summits of such heights are seen along a line which, though it starts from your eye in a dense atmosphere, still, as it ends at the top of those lofty objects, ceases in a much rarer atmosphere than exists at their base; for this reason the farther this line extends from your eye, from point to point the atmosphere becomes more and more rare. Hence, O Painter! when you represent mountains, see that from hill to hill the bases are paler than the summits, and in proportion as they recede beyond each other make the bases paler than the summits; while, the higher they are the more you must show of their true form and colour.

On the colour of the atmosphere (300-307).



I say that the blueness we see in the atmosphere is not intrinsic colour, but is caused by warm vapour evaporated in minute and insensible atoms on which the solar rays fall, rendering them luminous against the infinite darkness of the fiery sphere which lies beyond and includes it. And this may be seen, as I saw it by any one going up [Footnote 5: With regard to the place spoken of as M'oboso (compare No. 301 line 20) its identity will be discussed under Leonardo's Topographical notes in Vol. II.] Monboso, a peak of the Alps which divide France from Italy. The base of this mountain gives birth to the four rivers which flow in four different directions through the whole of Europe. And no mountain has its base at so great a height as this, which lifts itself almost above the clouds; and snow seldom falls there, but only hail in the summer, when the clouds are highest. And this hail lies [unmelted] there, so that if it were not for the absorption of the rising and falling clouds, which does not happen twice in an age, an enormous mass of ice would be piled up there by the hail, and in the middle of July I found it very considerable. There I saw above me the dark sky, and the sun as it fell on the mountain was far brighter here than in the plains below, because a smaller extent of atmosphere lay between the summit of the mountain and the sun. Again as an illustration of the colour of the atmosphere I will mention the smoke of old and dry wood, which, as it comes out of a chimney, appears to turn very blue, when seen between the eye and the dark distance. But as it rises, and comes between the eye and the bright atmosphere, it at once shows of an ashy grey colour; and this happens because it no longer has darkness beyond it, but this bright and luminous space. If the smoke is from young, green wood, it will not appear blue, because, not being transparent and being full of superabundant moisture, it has the effect of condensed clouds which take distinct lights and shadows like a solid body. The same occurs with the atmosphere, which, when overcharged with moisture appears white, and the small amount of heated moisture makes it dark, of a dark blue colour; and this will suffice us so far as concerns the colour of the atmosphere; though it might be added that, if this transparent blue were the natural colour of the atmosphere, it would follow that wherever a larger mass air intervened between the eye and the element of fire, the azure colour would be more intense; as we see in blue glass and in sapphires, which are darker in proportion as they are larger. But the atmosphere in such circumstances behaves in an opposite manner, inasmuch as where a greater quantity of it lies between the eye and the sphere of fire, it is seen much whiter. This occurs towards the horizon. And the less the extent of atmosphere between the eye and the sphere of fire, the deeper is the blue colour, as may be seen even on low plains. Hence it follows, as I say, that the atmosphere assumes this azure hue by reason of the particles of moisture which catch the rays of the sun. Again, we may note the difference in particles of dust, or particles of smoke, in the sun beams admitted through holes into a dark chamber, when the former will look ash grey and the thin smoke will appear of a most beautiful blue; and it may be seen again in in the dark shadows of distant mountains when the air between the eye and those shadows will look very blue, though the brightest parts of those mountains will not differ much from their true colour. But if any one wishes for a final proof let him paint a board with various colours, among them an intense black; and over all let him lay a very thin and transparent [coating of] white. He will then see that this transparent white will nowhere show a more beautiful blue than over the black—but it must be very thin and finely ground.

[Footnote 7: reta here has the sense of malanno.]


Experience shows us that the air must have darkness beyond it and yet it appears blue. If you produce a small quantity of smoke from dry wood and the rays of the sun fall on this smoke, and if you then place behind the smoke a piece of black velvet on which the sun does not shine, you will see that all the smoke which is between the eye and the black stuff will appear of a beautiful blue colour. And if instead of the velvet you place a white cloth smoke, that is too thick smoke, hinders, and too thin smoke does not produce, the perfection of this blue colour. Hence a moderate amount of smoke produces the finest blue. Water violently ejected in a fine spray and in a dark chamber where the sun beams are admitted produces these blue rays and the more vividly if it is distilled water, and thin smoke looks blue. This I mention in order to show that the blueness of the atmosphere is caused by the darkness beyond it, and these instances are given for those who cannot confirm my experience on Monboso.


When the smoke from dry wood is seen between the eye of the spectator and some dark space [or object], it will look blue. Thus the sky looks blue by reason of the darkness beyond it. And if you look towards the horizon of the sky, you will see the atmosphere is not blue, and this is caused by its density. And thus at each degree, as you raise your eyes above the horizon up to the sky over your head, you will see the atmosphere look darker [blue] and this is because a smaller density of air lies between your eye and the [outer] darkness. And if you go to the top of a high mountain the sky will look proportionately darker above you as the atmosphere becomes rarer between you and the [outer] darkness; and this will be more visible at each degree of increasing height till at last we should find darkness.

That smoke will look bluest which rises from the driest wood and which is nearest to the fire and is seen against the darkest background, and with the sunlight upon it.


A dark object will appear bluest in proportion as it has a greater mass of luminous atmosphere between it and the eye. As may be seen in the colour of the sky.


The atmosphere is blue by reason of the darkness above it because black and white make blue.


In the morning the mist is denser above than below, because the sun draws it upwards; hence tall buildings, even if the summit is at the same distance as the base have the summit invisible. Therefore, also, the sky looks darkest [in colour] overhead, and towards the horizon it is not blue but rather between smoke and dust colour.

The atmosphere, when full of mist, is quite devoid of blueness, and only appears of the colour of clouds, which shine white when the weather is fine. And the more you turn to the west the darker it will be, and the brighter as you look to the east. And the verdure of the fields is bluish in a thin mist, but grows grey in a dense one.

The buildings in the west will only show their illuminated side, where the sun shines, and the mist hides the rest. When the sun rises and chases away the haze, the hills on the side where it lifts begin to grow clearer, and look blue, and seem to smoke with the vanishing mists; and the buildings reveal their lights and shadows; through the thinner vapour they show only their lights and through the thicker air nothing at all. This is when the movement of the mist makes it part horizontally, and then the edges of the mist will be indistinct against the blue of the sky, and towards the earth it will look almost like dust blown up. In proportion as the atmosphere is dense the buildings of a city and the trees in a landscape will look fewer, because only the tallest and largest will be seen.

Darkness affects every thing with its hue, and the more an object differs from darkness, the more we see its real and natural colour. The mountains will look few, because only those will be seen which are farthest apart; since, at such a distance, the density increases to such a degree that it causes a brightness by which the darkness of the hills becomes divided and vanishes indeed towards the top. There is less [mist] between lower and nearer hills and yet little is to be distinguished, and least towards the bottom.


The surface of an object partakes of the colour of the light which illuminates it; and of the colour of the atmosphere which lies between the eye and that object, that is of the colour of the transparent medium lying between the object and the eye; and among colours of a similar character the second will be of the same tone as the first, and this is caused by the increased thickness of the colour of the medium lying between the object and the eye.


Of various colours which are none of them blue that which at a great distance will look bluest is the nearest to black; and so, conversely, the colour which is least like black will at a great distance best preserve its own colour.

Hence the green of fields will assume a bluer hue than yellow or white will, and conversely yellow or white will change less than green, and red still less.


On the Proportions and on the Movements of the Human Figure.

Leonardo's researches on the proportions and movements of the human figure must have been for the most part completed and written before the year 1498; for LUCA PACIOLO writes, in the dedication to Ludovico il Moro, of his book Divina Proportione, which was published in that year: "Leonardo da venci ... hauedo gia co tutta diligetia al degno libro de pictura e movimenti humani posto fine".

The selection of Leonardo's axioms contained in the Vatican copy attributes these words to the author: "e il resto si dira nella universale misura del huomo". (MANZI, p. 147; LUDWIG, No. 264). LOMAZZO, again, in his Idea del Tempio della Pittura Milano 1590, cap. IV, says: "Lionardo Vinci ... dimostro anco in figura tutte le proporzioni dei membri del corpo umano".

_The Vatican copy includes but very few sections of the_ "Universale misura del huomo" _and until now nothing has been made known of the original MSS. on the subject which have supplied the very extensive materials for this portion of the work. The collection at Windsor, belonging to her Majesty the Queen, includes by far the most important part of Leonardo's investigations on this subject, constituting about half of the whole of the materials here published; and the large number of original drawings adds greatly to the interest which the subject itself must command. Luca Paciolo would seem to have had these MSS. (which I have distinguished by the initials W. P.) in his mind when he wrote the passage quoted above. Still, certain notes of a later date—such as Nos. 360, 362 and 363, from MS. E, written in 1513—14, sufficiently prove that Leonardo did not consider his earlier studies on the Proportions and Movements of the Human Figure final and complete, as we might suppose from Luca Paciolo's statement. Or else he took the subject up again at a subsequent period, since his former researches had been carried on at Milan between 1490 and 1500. Indeed it is highly probable that the anatomical studies which he was pursuing with so much zeal between 1510—16 should have led him to reconsider the subject of Proportion.

Preliminary observations (308. 309).


Every man, at three years old is half the full height he will grow to at last.


If a man 2 braccia high is too small, one of four is too tall, the medium being what is admirable. Between 2 and 4 comes 3; therefore take a man of 3 braccia in height and measure him by the rule I will give you. If you tell me that I may be mistaken, and judge a man to be well proportioned who does not conform to this division, I answer that you must look at many men of 3 braccia, and out of the larger number who are alike in their limbs choose one of those who are most graceful and take your measurements. The length of the hand is 1/3 of a braccio [8 inches] and this is found 9 times in man. And the face [Footnote 7: The account here given of the braccio is of importance in understanding some of the succeeding chapters. Testa must here be understood to mean the face. The statements in this section are illustrated in part on Pl. XI.] is the same, and from the pit of the throat to the shoulder, and from the shoulder to the nipple, and from one nipple to the other, and from each nipple to the pit of the throat.

Proportions of the head and face (310-318).


The space between the parting of the lips [the mouth] and the base of the nose is one-seventh of the face.

The space from the mouth to the bottom of the chin c d is the fourth part of the face and equal to the width of the mouth.

The space from the chin to the base of the nose e f is the third part of the face and equal to the length of the nose and to the forehead.

The distance from the middle of the nose to the bottom of the chin g h, is half the length of the face.

The distance from the top of the nose, where the eyebrows begin, to the bottom of the chin, i k, is two thirds of the face.

The space from the parting of the lips to the top of the chin l m, that is where the chin ends and passes into the lower lip of the mouth, is the third of the distance from the parting of the lips to the bottom of the chin and is the twelfth part of the face. From the top to the bottom of the chin m n is the sixth part of the face and is the fifty fourth part of a man's height.

From the farthest projection of the chin to the throat o p is equal to the space between the mouth and the bottom of the chin, and a fourth of the face.

The distance from the top of the throat to the pit of the throat below q r is half the length of the face and the eighteenth part of a man's height.

From the chin to the back of the neck s t, is the same distance as between the mouth and the roots of the hair, that is three quarters of the head.

From the chin to the jaw bone v x is half the head and equal to the thickness of the neck in profile.

The thickness of the head from the brow to the nape is once and 3/4 that of the neck.

[Footnote: The drawings to this text, lines 1-10 are on Pl. VII, No. I. The two upper sketches of heads, Pl. VII, No. 2, belong to lines 11-14, and in the original are placed immediately below the sketches reproduced on Pl. VII, No. 1.]


The distance from the attachment of one ear to the other is equal to that from the meeting of the eyebrows to the chin, and in a fine face the width of the mouth is equal to the length from the parting of the lips to the bottom of the chin.


The cut or depression below the lower lip of the mouth is half way between the bottom of the nose and the bottom of the chin.

The face forms a square in itself; that is its width is from the outer corner of one eye to the other, and its height is from the very top of the nose to the bottom of the lower lip of the mouth; then what remains above and below this square amounts to the height of such another square, a b is equal to the space between c d; d n in the same way to n c, and likewise s r, q p, h k are equal to each other.

It is as far between _m_ and _s_ as from the bottom of the nose to the chin. The ear is exactly as long as the nose. It is as far from _x_ to _j_ as from the nose to the chin. The parting of the mouth seen in profile slopes to the angle of the jaw. The ear should be as high as from the bottom of the nose to the top of the eye-lid. The space between the eyes is equal to the width of an eye. The ear is over the middle of the neck, when seen in profile. The distance from 4 to 5 is equal to that from s_ to _r_.

[Footnote: See Pl. VIII, No. I, where the text of lines 3-13 is also given in facsimile.]


(a b) is equal to (c d).

[Footnote: See Pl. VII, No. 3. Reference may also be made here to two pen and ink drawings of heads in profile with figured measurements, of which there is no description in the MS. These are given on Pl. XVII, No. 2.—A head, to the left, with part of the torso [W. P. 5a], No. 1 on the same plate is from MS. A 2b and in the original occurs on a page with wholly irrelevant text on matters of natural history. M. RAVAISSON in his edition of the Paris MS. A has reproduced this head and discussed it fully [note on page 12]; he has however somewhat altered the original measurements. The complicated calculations which M. RAVAISSON has given appear to me in no way justified. The sketch, as we see it, can hardly have been intended for any thing more than an experimental attempt to ascertain relative proportions. We do not find that Leonardo made use of circular lines in any other study of the proportions of the human head. At the same time we see that the proportions of this sketch are not in accordance with the rules which he usually observed (see for instance No. 310).]

The head a f 1/6 larger than n f.


From the eyebrow to the junction of the lip with the chin, and the angle of the jaw and the upper angle where the ear joins the temple will be a perfect square. And each side by itself is half the head.

The hollow of the cheek bone occurs half way between the tip of the nose and the top of the jaw bone, which is the lower angle of the setting on of the ear, in the frame here represented.

From the angle of the eye-socket to the ear is as far as the length of the ear, or the third of the face.

[Footnote: See Pl. IX. The text, in the original is written behind the head. The handwriting would seem to indicate a date earlier than 1480. On the same leaf there is a drawing in red chalk of two horsemen of which only a portion of the upper figure is here visible. The whole leaf measures 22 1/2 centimetres wide by 29 long, and is numbered 127 in the top right-hand corner.]


From a to b—that is to say from the roots of the hair in front to the top of the head—ought to be equal to c d;—that is from the bottom of the nose to the meeting of the lips in the middle of the mouth. From the inner corner of the eye m to the top of the head a is as far as from m down to the chin s. s c f b are all at equal distances from each other.

[Footnote: The drawing in silver-point on bluish tinted paper—Pl. X—which belongs to this chapter has been partly drawn over in ink by Leonardo himself.]


From the top of the head to the bottom of the chin is 1/9, and from the roots of the hair to the chin is 1/9 of the distance from the roots of the hair to the ground. The greatest width of the face is equal to the space between the mouth and the roots of the hair and is 1/12 of the whole height. From the top of the ear to the top of the head is equal to the distance from the bottom of the chin to the lachrymatory duct of the eye; and also equal to the distance from the angle of the chin to that of the jaw; that is the 1/16 of the whole. The small cartilage which projects over the opening of the ear towards the nose is half-way between the nape and the eyebrow; the thickness of the neck in profile is equal to the space between the chin and the eyes, and to the space between the chin and the jaw, and it is 1/18 of the height of the man.


a b, c d, e f, g h, i k are equal to each other in size excepting that d f is accidental.

[Footnote: See Pl. XI.]

Proportions of the head seen in front (319-321).


a n o f are equal to the mouth.

a c and a f are equal to the space between one eye and the other.

n m o f q r are equal to half the width of the eye lids, that is from the inner [lachrymatory] corner of the eye to its outer corner; and in like manner the division between the chin and the mouth; and in the same way the narrowest part of the nose between the eyes. And these spaces, each in itself, is the 19th part of the head, n o is equal to the length of the eye or of the space between the eyes.

m c is 1/3 of n m measuring from the outer corner of the eyelids to the letter c. b s will be equal to the width of the nostril.

[Footnote: See Pl. XII.]


The distance between the centres of the pupils of the eyes is 1/3 of the face. The space between the outer corners of the eyes, that is where the eye ends in the eye socket which contains it, thus the outer corners, is half the face.

The greatest width of the face at the line of the eyes is equal to the distance from the roots of the hair in front to the parting of the lips.

[Footnote: There are, with this section, two sketches of eyes, not reproduced here.]


The nose will make a double square; that is the width of the nose at the nostrils goes twice into the length from the tip of the nose to the eyebrows. And, in the same way, in profile the distance from the extreme side of the nostril where it joins the cheek to the tip of the nose is equal to the width of the nose in front from one nostril to the other. If you divide the whole length of the nose—that is from the tip to the insertion of the eyebrows, into 4 equal parts, you will find that one of these parts extends from the tip of the nostrils to the base of the nose, and the upper division lies between the inner corner of the eye and the insertion of the eyebrows; and the two middle parts [together] are equal to the length of the eye from the inner to the outer corner.

[Footnote: The two bottom sketches on Pl. VII, No. 4 face the six lines of this section,—With regard to the proportions of the head in profile see No. 312.]


The great toe is the sixth part of the foot, taking the measure in profile, on the inside of the foot, from where this toe springs from the ball of the sole of the foot to its tip a b; and it is equal to the distance from the mouth to the bottom of the chin. If you draw the foot in profile from the outside, make the little toe begin at three quarters of the length of the foot, and you will find the same distance from the insertion of this toe as to the farthest prominence of the great toe.


For each man respectively the distance between a b is equal to c d.


Relative proportion of the hand and foot.

The foot is as much longer than the hand as the thickness of the arm at the wrist where it is thinnest seen facing.

Again, you will find that the foot is as much longer than the hand as the space between the inner angle of the little toe to the last projection of the big toe, if you measure along the length of the foot.

The palm of the hand without the fingers goes twice into the length of the foot without the toes.

If you hold your hand with the fingers straight out and close together you will find it to be of the same width as the widest part of the foot, that is where it is joined onto the toes.

And if you measure from the prominence of the inner ancle to the end of the great toe you will find this measure to be as long as the whole hand.

From the top angle of the foot to the insertion of the toes is equal to the hand from wrist joint to the tip of the thumb.

The smallest width of the hand is equal to the smallest width of the foot between its joint into the leg and the insertion of the toes.

The width of the heel at the lower part is equal to that of the arm where it joins the hand; and also to the leg where it is thinnest when viewed in front.

The length of the longest toe, from its first division from the great toe to its tip is the fourth of the foot from the centre of the ancle bone to the tip, and it is equal to the width of the mouth. The distance between the mouth and the chin is equal to that of the knuckles and of the three middle fingers and to the length of their first joints if the hand is spread, and equal to the distance from the joint of the thumb to the outset of the nails, that is the fourth part of the hand and of the face.

The space between the extreme poles inside and outside the foot called the ancle or ancle bone a b is equal to the space between the mouth and the inner corner of the eye.


The foot, from where it is attached to the leg, to the tip of the great toe is as long as the space between the upper part of the chin and the roots of the hair a b; and equal to five sixths of the face.


a d is a head's length, c b is a head's length. The four smaller toes are all equally thick from the nail at the top to the bottom, and are 1/13 of the foot.

[Footnote: See Pl. XIV, No. 1, a drawing of a foot with the text in three lines below it.]


The whole length of the foot will lie between the elbow and the wrist and between the elbow and the inner angle of the arm towards the breast when the arm is folded. The foot is as long as the whole head of a man, that is from under the chin to the topmost part of the head[Footnote 2: nel modo che qui i figurato. See Pl. VII, No. 4, the upper figure. The text breaks off at the end of line 2 and the text given under No. 321 follows below. It may be here remarked that the second sketch on W. P. 311 has in the original no explanatory text.] in the way here figured.

Proportions of the leg (328-331).


The greatest thickness of the calf of the leg is at a third of its height a b, and is a twentieth part thicker than the greatest thickness of the foot.

a c is half of the head, and equal to d b and to the insertion of the five toes e f. d k diminishes one sixth in the leg g h. g h is 1/3 of the head; m n increases one sixth from a e and is 7/12 of the head, o p is 1/10 less than d k and is 6/17 of the head. a is at half the distance between b q, and is 1/4 of the man. r is half way between s and b[Footnote 11: b is here and later on measured on the right side of the foot as seen by the spectator.]. The concavity of the knee outside r is higher than that inside a. The half of the whole height of the leg from the foot r, is half way between the prominence s and the ground b. v is half way between t and b. The thickness of the thigh seen in front is equal to the greatest width of the face, that is 2/3 of the length from the chin to the top of the head; z r is 5/6 of 7 to v; m n is equal to 7 v and is 1/4 of r b, x y goes 3 times into r b, and into r s.

[Footnote 22-35: The sketch illustrating these lines is on Pl. XIII, No. 2.]

[Footnote 22: a b _entra in_ c f 6 _e_ 6 _in_ c n. Accurate measurement however obliges us to read 7 for 6.] _a b_ goes six times into _c f_ and six times into _c n_ and is equal to _g h_; _i k l m_ goes 4 times into _d f_, and 4 times into _d n_ and is 3/7 of the foot; _p q r s_ goes 3 times into _d f, and 3 times into _b n_; [Footnote: 25. _y_ is not to be found on the diagram and _x_ occurs twice; this makes the passage very obscure.] _x y_ is 1/8 of _x f_ and is equal to _n q_. 3 7 is 1/9 of _n f_; 4 5 is 1/10 of _n f_ [Footnote: 22-27. Compare with this lines 18-24 of No. 331, and the sketch of a leg in profile Pl. XV.].

I want to know how much a man increases in height by standing on tip-toe and how much p g diminishes by stooping; and how much it increases at n q likewise in bending the foot.

[Footnote 34: e f 4 dal cazo. By reading i for e the sense of this passage is made clear.] e f is four times in the distance between the genitals and the sole of the foot; [Footnote 35: 2 is not to be found in the sketch which renders the passage obscure. The two last lines are plainly legible in the facsimile.] 3 7 is six times from 3 to 2 and is equal to g h and i k.

[Footnote: The drawing of a leg seen in front Pl. XIII, No. 1 belongs to the text from lines 3-21. The measurements in this section should be compared with the text No. 331, lines 1-13, and the sketch of a leg seen in front on Pl. XV.]


The length of the foot from the end of the toes to the heel goes twice into that from the heel to the knee, that is where the leg bone [fibula] joins the thigh bone [femur].

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