Again, the rounded forms of the clouds that face the sun, show their edges dark because they lie against the light background; and to see that this is true, you may look at the top of any cloud that is wholly light because it lies against the blue of the atmosphere, which is darker than the cloud.
[Footnote: A drawing in red chalk from the Windsor collection (see Pl. XXIX), representing a landscape with storm-clouds, may serve to illustrate this section as well as the following one.]
OF CLOUDS, SMOKE AND DUST AND THE FLAMES OF A FURNACE OR OF A BURNING KILN.
The clouds do not show their rounded forms excepting on the sides which face the sun; on the others the roundness is imperceptible because they are in the shade. [Footnote: The text of this chapter is given in facsimile on Pls. XXXVI and XXXVII. The two halves of the leaf form but one in the original. On the margin close to lines 4 and 5 is the note: rossore d'aria inverso l'orizonte—(of the redness of the atmosphere near the horizon). The sketches on the lower portion of the page will be spoken of in No. 668.]
If the sun is in the East and the clouds in the West, the eye placed between the sun and the clouds sees the edges of the rounded forms composing these clouds as dark, and the portions which are surrounded by this dark [edge] are light. And this occurs because the edges of the rounded forms of these clouds are turned towards the upper or lateral sky, which is reflected in them.
Both the cloud and the tree display no roundness at all on their shaded side.
On images reflected in water.
Painters often deceive themselves, by representing water in which they make the water reflect the objects seen by the man. But the water reflects the object from one side and the man sees it from the other; and it often happens that the painter sees an object from below, and thus one and the same object is seen from hind part before and upside down, because the water shows the image of the object in one way, and the eye sees it in another.
Of rainbows and rain (479. 480).
The colours in the middle of the rainbow mingle together.
The bow in itself is not in the rain nor in the eye that sees it; though it is generated by the rain, the sun, and the eye. The rainbow is always seen by the eye that is between the rain and the body of the sun; hence if the sun is in the East and the rain is in the West it will appear on the rain in the West.
When the air is condensed into rain it would produce a vacuum if the rest of the air did not prevent this by filling its place, as it does with a violent rush; and this is the wind which rises in the summer time, accompanied by heavy rain.
Of flower seeds.
All the flowers which turn towards the sun perfect their seeds; but not the others; that is to say those which get only the reflection of the sun.
The Practice of Painting.
It is hardly necessary to offer any excuses for the division carried out in the arrangement of the text into practical suggestions and theoretical enquiries. It was evidently intended by Leonardo himself as we conclude from incidental remarks in the MSS. (for instance No 110). The fact that this arrangement was never carried out either in the old MS. copies or in any edition since, is easily accounted for by the general disorder which results from the provisional distribution of the various chapters in the old copies. We have every reason to believe that the earliest copyists, in distributing the materials collected by them, did not in the least consider the order in which the original MS.lay before them.
It is evident that almost all the chapters which refer to the calling and life of the painter—and which are here brought together in the first section (Nos. 482-508)—may be referred to two distinct periods in Leonardo's life; most of them can be dated as belonging to the year 1492 or to 1515. At about this later time Leonardo may have formed the project of completing his Libro della Pittura, after an interval of some years, as it would seem, during which his interest in the subject had fallen somewhat into the background.
In the second section, which treats first of the artist's studio, the construction of a suitable window forms the object of careful investigations; the special importance attached to this by Leonardo is sufficiently obvious. His theory of the incidence of light which was fully discussed in a former part of this work, was to him by no means of mere abstract value, but, being deduced, as he says, from experience (or experiment) was required to prove its utility in practice. Connected with this we find suggestions for the choice of a light with practical hints as to sketching a picture and some other precepts of a practical character which must come under consideration in the course of completing the painting. In all this I have followed the same principle of arrangement in the text as was carried out in the Theory of Painting, thus the suggestions for the Perspective of a picture, (Nos. 536-569), are followed by the theory of light and shade for the practical method of optics (Nos. 548—566) and this by the practical precepts or the treatment of aerial perspective (567—570).
In the passage on Portrait and Figure Painting the principles of painting as applied to a bust and head are separated and placed first, since the advice to figure painters must have some connection with the principles of the treatment of composition by which they are followed.
But this arrangement of the text made it seem advisable not to pick out the practical precepts as to the representation of trees and landscape from the close connection in which they were originally placed—unlike the rest of the practical precepts—with the theory of this branch of the subject. They must therefore be sought under the section entitled Botany for Painters.
As a supplement to the Libro di Pittura I have here added those texts which treat of the Painter's materials,—as chalk, drawing paper, colours and their preparation, of the management of oils and varnishes; in the appendix are some notes on chemical substances. Possibly some of these, if not all, may have stood in connection with the preparation of colours. It is in the very nature of things that Leonardo's incidental indications as to colours and the like should be now-a-days extremely obscure and could only be explained by professional experts—by them even in but few instances. It might therefore have seemed advisable to reproduce exactly the original text without offering any translation. The rendering here given is merely an attempt to suggest what Leonardo's meaning may have been.
LOMAZZO tells us in his Trattato dell'arte della Pittura, Scultura ed Architettura (Milano 1584, libro II, Cap. XIV): "Va discorrendo ed argomentando Leonardo Vinci in un suo libro letto da me (?) questi anni passati, ch'egli scrisse di mano stanca ai prieghi di LUDOVICO SFORZA duca di Milano, in determinazione di questa questione, se e piu nobile la pittura o la scultura; dicendo che quanto piu un'arte porta seco fatica di corpo, e sudore, tanto piu e vile, e men pregiata". But the existence of any book specially written for Lodovico il Moro on the superiority of Painting over sculpture is perhaps mythical. The various passages in praise of Painting as compared not merely with Sculpture but with Poetry, are scattered among MSS. of very different dates.
Besides, the way, in which the subject is discussed appears not to support the supposition, that these texts were prepared at a special request of the Duke.
MORAL PRECEPTS FOR THE STUDENT OF PAINTING.
How to ascertain the dispositions for an artistic career.
A WARNING CONCERNING YOUTHS WISHING TO BE PAINTERS.
Many are they who have a taste and love for drawing, but no talent; and this will be discernible in boys who are not diligent and never finish their drawings with shading.
The course of instruction for an artist (483-485).
The youth should first learn perspective, then the proportions of objects. Then he may copy from some good master, to accustom himself to fine forms. Then from nature, to confirm by practice the rules he has learnt. Then see for a time the works of various masters. Then get the habit of putting his art into practice and work.
[Footnote: The Vatican copy and numerous abridgements all place this chapter at the beginning of the Trattato, and in consequence DUFRESNE and all subsequent editors have done the same. In the Vatican copy however all the general considerations on the relation of painting to the other arts are placed first, as introductory.]
OF THE ORDER OF LEARNING TO DRAW.
First draw from drawings by good masters done from works of art and from nature, and not from memory; then from plastic work, with the guidance of the drawing done from it; and then from good natural models and this you must put into practice.
PRECEPTS FOR DRAWING.
The artist ought first to exercise his hand by copying drawings from the hand of a good master. And having acquired that practice, under the criticism of his master, he should next practise drawing objects in relief of a good style, following the rules which will presently be given.
The study of the antique (486. 487).
Which is best, to draw from nature or from the antique? and which is more difficult to do outlines or light and shade?
It is better to imitate [copy] the antique than modern work.
[Footnote 486, 487: These are the only two passages in which Leonardo alludes to the importance of antique art in the training of an artist. The question asked in No. 486 remains unanswered by him and it seems to me very doubtful whether the opinion stated in No. 487 is to be regarded as a reply to it. This opinion stands in the MS. in a connection—as will be explained later on—which seems to require us to limit its application to a single special case. At any rate we may suspect that when Leonardo put the question, he felt some hesitation as to the answer. Among his very numerous drawings I have not been able to find a single study from the antique, though a drawing in black chalk, at Windsor, of a man on horseback (PI. LXXIII) may perhaps be a reminiscence of the statue of Marcus Aurelius at Rome. It seems to me that the drapery in a pen and ink drawing of a bust, also at Windsor, has been borrowed from an antique model (Pl. XXX). G. G. Rossi has, I believe, correctly interpreted Leonardo's feeling towards the antique in the following note on this passage in manzi's edition, p. 501: "Sappiamo dalla storia, che i valorosi artisti Toscani dell'et dell'oro dell'arte studiarono sugli antichi marmi raccolti dal Magnifico LORENZO DE' MEDICI. Pare che il Vinci a tali monumenti non si accostasse. Quest' uomo sempre riconosce per maestra la natura, e questo principio lo stringeva alla sola imitazione d essa"—Compare No. 10, 26—28 footnote.]
The necessity of anatomical knowledge (488. 489).
It is indispensable to a Painter who would be thoroughly familiar with the limbs in all the positions and actions of which they are capable, in the nude, to know the anatomy of the sinews, bones, muscles and tendons so that, in their various movements and exertions, he may know which nerve or muscle is the cause of each movement and show those only as prominent and thickened, and not the others all over [the limb], as many do who, to seem great draughtsmen, draw their nude figures looking like wood, devoid of grace; so that you would think you were looking at a sack of walnuts rather than the human form, or a bundle of radishes rather than the muscles of figures.
HOW IT IS NECESSARY TO A PAINTER THAT HE SHOULD KNOW THE INTRINSIC FORMS [STRUCTURE] OF MAN.
The painter who is familiar with the nature of the sinews, muscles, and tendons, will know very well, in giving movement to a limb, how many and which sinews cause it; and which muscle, by swelling, causes the contraction of that sinew; and which sinews, expanded into the thinnest cartilage, surround and support the said muscle. Thus he will variously and constantly demonstrate the different muscles by means of the various attitudes of his figures, and will not do, as many who, in a variety of movements, still display the very same things [modelling] in the arms, back, breast and legs. And these things are not to be regarded as minor faults.
How to acquire practice.
OF STUDY AND THE ORDER OF STUDY.
I say that first you ought to learn the limbs and their mechanism, and having this knowledge, their actions should come next, according to the circumstances in which they occur in man. And thirdly to compose subjects, the studies for which should be taken from natural actions and made from time to time, as circumstances allow; and pay attention to them in the streets and piazze and fields, and note them down with a brief indication of the forms; [Footnote 5: Lines 5-7 explained by the lower portion of the sketch No. 1 on Pl. XXXI.] thus for a head make an o, and for an arm a straight or a bent line, and the same for the legs and the body, [Footnote 7: Lines 5-7 explained by the lower portion of the sketch No. 1 on Pl. XXXI.] and when you return home work out these notes in a complete form. The Adversary says that to acquire practice and do a great deal of work it is better that the first period of study should be employed in drawing various compositions done on paper or on walls by divers masters, and that in this way practice is rapidly gained, and good methods; to which I reply that the method will be good, if it is based on works of good composition and by skilled masters. But since such masters are so rare that there are but few of them to be found, it is a surer way to go to natural objects, than to those which are imitated from nature with great deterioration, and so form bad methods; for he who can go to the fountain does not go to the water-jar.
[Footnote: This passage has been published by Dr. M. JORDAN, Das Malerbuck des L. da Vinci, p. 89; his reading however varies slightly from mine.]
Industry and thoroughness the first conditions (491-493.)
WHAT RULES SHOULD BE GIVEN TO BOYS LEARNING TO PAINT.
We know for certain that sight is one of the most rapid actions we can perform. In an instant we see an infinite number of forms, still we only take in thoroughly one object at a time. Supposing that you, Reader, were to glance rapidly at the whole of this written page, you would instantly perceive that it was covered with various letters; but you could not, in the time, recognise what the letters were, nor what they were meant to tell. Hence you would need to see them word by word, line by line to be able to understand the letters. Again, if you wish to go to the top of a building you must go up step by step; otherwise it will be impossible that you should reach the top. Thus I say to you, whom nature prompts to pursue this art, if you wish to have a sound knowledge of the forms of objects begin with the details of them, and do not go on to the second [step] till you have the first well fixed in memory and in practice. And if you do otherwise you will throw away your time, or certainly greatly prolong your studies. And remember to acquire diligence rather than rapidity.
HOW THAT DILIGENCE [ACCURACY] SHOULD FIRST BE LEARNT RATHER THAN RAPID EXECUTION.
If you, who draw, desire to study well and to good purpose, always go slowly to work in your drawing; and discriminate in. the lights, which have the highest degree of brightness, and to what extent and likewise in the shadows, which are those that are darker than the others and in what way they intermingle; then their masses and the relative proportions of one to the other. And note in their outlines, which way they tend; and which part of the lines is curved to one side or the other, and where they are more or less conspicuous and consequently broad or fine; and finally, that your light and shade blend without strokes and borders [but] looking like smoke. And when you have thus schooled your hand and your judgment by such diligence, you will acquire rapidity before you are aware.
The artist's private life and choice of company (493-494).
OF THE LIFE OF THE PAINTER IN THE COUNTRY.
A painter needs such mathematics as belong to painting. And the absence of all companions who are alienated from his studies; his brain must be easily impressed by the variety of objects, which successively come before him, and also free from other cares [Footnote 6: Leonardo here seems to be speaking of his own method of work as displayed in his MSS. and this passage explains, at least in part, the peculiarities in their arrangement.]. And if, when considering and defining one subject, a second subject intervenes—as happens when an object occupies the mind, then he must decide which of these cases is the more difficult to work out, and follow that up until it becomes quite clear, and then work out the explanation of the other [Footnote 11: Leonardo here seems to be speaking of his own method of work as displayed in his MSS. and this passage explains, at least in part, the peculiarities in their arrangement.]. And above all he must keep his mind as clear as the surface of a mirror, which assumes colours as various as those of the different objects. And his companions should be like him as to their studies, and if such cannot be found he should keep his speculations to himself alone, so that at last he will find no more useful company [than his own].
[Footnote: In the title line Leonardo had originally written del pictore filosofo (the philosophical painter), but he himself struck outfilosofo. Compare in No. 363 pictora notomista (anatomical painter). The original text is partly reproduced on Pl. CI.]
OF THE LIFE OF THE PAINTER IN HIS STUDIO.
To the end that well-being of the body may not injure that of the mind, the painter or draughtsman must remain solitary, and particularly when intent on those studies and reflections which will constantly rise up before his eye, giving materials to be well stored in the memory. While you are alone you are entirely your own [master] and if you have one companion you are but half your own, and the less so in proportion to the indiscretion of his behaviour. And if you have many companions you will fall deeper into the same trouble. If you should say: "I will go my own way and withdraw apart, the better to study the forms of natural objects", I tell you, you will not be able to help often listening to their chatter. And so, since one cannot serve two masters, you will badly fill the part of a companion, and carry out your studies of art even worse. And if you say: "I will withdraw so far that their words cannot reach me and they cannot disturb me", I can tell you that you will be thought mad. But, you see, you will at any rate be alone. And if you must have companions ship find it in your studio. This may assist you to have the advantages which arise from various speculations. All other company may be highly mischievous.
The distribution of time for studying (495-497).
OF WHETHER IT IS BETTER TO DRAW WITH COMPANIONS OR NOT.
I say and insist that drawing in company is much better than alone, for many reasons. The first is that you would be ashamed to be seen behindhand among the students, and such shame will lead you to careful study. Secondly, a wholesome emulation will stimulate you to be among those who are more praised than yourself, and this praise of others will spur you on. Another is that you can learn from the drawings of others who do better than yourself; and if you are better than they, you can profit by your contempt for their defects, while the praise of others will incite you to farther merits.
[Footnote: The contradiction by this passage of the foregoing chapter is only apparent. It is quite clear, from the nature of the reasoning which is here used to prove that it is more improving to work with others than to work alone, that the studies of pupils only are under consideration here.]
OF STUDYING, IN THE DARK, WHEN YOU WAKE, OR IN BED BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP.
I myself have proved it to be of no small use, when in bed in the dark, to recall in fancy the external details of forms previously studied, or other noteworthy things conceived by subtle speculation; and this is certainly an admirable exercise, and useful for impressing things on the memory.
OF THE TIME FOR STUDYING SELECTION OF SUBJECTS.
Winter evenings ought to be employed by young students in looking over the things prepared during the summer; that is, all the drawings from the nude done in the summer should be brought together and a choice made of the best [studies of] limbs and bodies among them, to apply in practice and commit to memory.
After this in the following summer you should select some one who is well grown and who has not been brought up in doublets, and so may not be of stiff carriage, and make him go through a number of agile and graceful actions; and if his muscles do not show plainly within the outlines of his limbs that does not matter at all. It is enough that you can see good attitudes and you can correct [the drawing of] the limbs by those you studied in the winter.
[Footnote: An injunction to study in the evening occurs also in No. 524.]
On the productive power of minor artists (498-501).
He is a poor disciple who does not excel his master.
Nor is the painter praiseworthy who does but one thing well, as the nude figure, heads, draperies, animals, landscapes or other such details, irrespective of other work; for there can be no mind so inept, that after devoting itself to one single thing and doing it constantly, it should fail to do it well.
[Footnote: In MANZI'S edition (p. 502) the painter G. G. Bossi indignantly remarks on this passage. "Parla il Vince in questo luogo come se tutti gli artisti avessero quella sublimita d'ingegno capace di abbracciare tutte le cose, di cui era egli dotato" And he then mentions the case of CLAUDE LORRAIN. But he overlooks the fact that in Leonardo's time landscape painting made no pretensions to independence but was reckoned among the details (particulari, lines 3, 4).]
THAT A PAINTER IS NOT ADMIRABLE UNLESS HE IS UNIVERSAL.
Some may distinctly assert that those persons are under a delusion who call that painter a good master who can do nothing well but a head or a figure. Certainly this is no great achievement; after studying one single thing for a life-time who would not have attained some perfection in it? But, since we know that painting embraces and includes in itself every object produced by nature or resulting from the fortuitous actions of men, in short, all that the eye can see, he seems to me but a poor master who can only do a figure well. For do you not perceive how many and various actions are performed by men only; how many different animals there are, as well as trees, plants, flowers, with many mountainous regions and plains, springs and rivers, cities with public and private buildings, machines, too, fit for the purposes of men, divers costumes, decorations and arts? And all these things ought to be regarded as of equal importance and value, by the man who can be termed a good painter.
OF THE MISERABLE PRETENCES MADE BY THOSE WHO FALSELY AND UNWORTHILY ACQUIRE THE NAME OF PAINTERS.
Now there is a certain race of painters who, having studied but little, must need take as their standard of beauty mere gold and azure, and these, with supreme conceit, declare that they will not give good work for miserable payment, and that they could do as well as any other if they were well paid. But, ye foolish folks! cannot such artists keep some good work, and then say: this is a costly work and this more moderate and this is average work and show that they can work at all prices?
A caution against one-sided study.
HOW, IN IMPORTANT WORKS, A MAN SHOULD NOT TRUST ENTIRELY TO HIS MEMORY WITHOUT CONDESCENDING TO DRAW FROM NATURE.
Any master who should venture to boast that he could remember all the forms and effects of nature would certainly appear to me to be graced with extreme ignorance, inasmuch as these effects are infinite and our memory is not extensive enough to retain them. Hence, O! painter, beware lest the lust of gain should supplant in you the dignity of art; for the acquisition of glory is a much greater thing than the glory of riches. Hence, for these and other reasons which might be given, first strive in drawing to represent your intention to the eye by expressive forms, and the idea originally formed in your imagination; then go on taking out or putting in, until you have satisfied yourself. Then have living men, draped or nude, as you may have purposed in your work, and take care that in dimensions and size, as determined by perspective, nothing is left in the work which is not in harmony with reason and the effects in nature. And this will be the way to win honour in your art.
How to acquire universality (503-506).
OF VARIETY IN THE FIGURES.
The painter should aim at universality, because there is a great want of self-respect in doing one thing well and another badly, as many do who study only the [rules of] measure and proportion in the nude figure and do not seek after variety; for a man may be well proportioned, or he may be fat and short, or tall and thin, or medium. And a painter who takes no account of these varieties always makes his figures on one pattern so that they might all be taken for brothers; and this is a defect that demands stern reprehension.
HOW SOMETHING MAY BE LEARNT EVERYWHERE.
Nature has beneficently provided that throughout the world you may find something to imitate.
OF THE MEANS OF ACQUIRING UNIVERSALITY.
It is an easy matter to men to acquire universality, for all terrestrial animals resemble each other as to their limbs, that is in their muscles, sinews and bones; and they do not vary excepting in length or in thickness, as will be shown under Anatomy. But then there are aquatic animals which are of great variety; I will not try to convince the painter that there is any rule for them for they are of infinite variety, and so is the insect tribe.
The mind of the painter must resemble a mirror, which always takes the colour of the object it reflects and is completely occupied by the images of as many objects as are in front of it. Therefore you must know, Oh Painter! that you cannot be a good one if you are not the universal master of representing by your art every kind of form produced by nature. And this you will not know how to do if you do not see them, and retain them in your mind. Hence as you go through the fields, turn your attention to various objects, and, in turn look now at this thing and now at that, collecting a store of divers facts selected and chosen from those of less value. But do not do like some painters who, when they are wearied with exercising their fancy dismiss their work from their thoughts and take exercise in walking for relaxation, but still keep fatigue in their mind which, though they see various objects [around them], does not apprehend them; but, even when they meet friends or relations and are saluted by them, although they see and hear them, take no more cognisance of them than if they had met so much empty air.
Useful games and exercises (507. 508).
OF GAMES TO BE PLAYED BY THOSE WHO DRAW.
When, Oh draughtsmen, you desire to find relaxation in games you should always practise such things as may be of use in your profession, by giving your eye good practice in judging accurately of the breadth and length of objects. Thus, to accustom your mind to such things, let one of you draw a straight line at random on a wall, and each of you, taking a blade of grass or of straw in his hand, try to cut it to the length that the line drawn appears to him to be, standing at a distance of 10 braccia; then each one may go up to the line to measure the length he has judged it to be. And he who has come nearest with his measure to the length of the pattern is the best man, and the winner, and shall receive the prize you have settled beforehand. Again you should take forshortened measures: that is take a spear, or any other cane or reed, and fix on a point at a certain distance; and let each one estimate how many times he judges that its length will go into that distance. Again, who will draw best a line one braccio long, which shall be tested by a thread. And such games give occasion to good practice for the eye, which is of the first importance in painting.
A WAY OF DEVELOPING AND AROUSING THE MIND TO VARIOUS INVENTIONS.
I cannot forbear to mention among these precepts a new device for study which, although it may seem but trivial and almost ludicrous, is nevertheless extremely useful in arousing the mind to various inventions. And this is, when you look at a wall spotted with stains, or with a mixture of stones, if you have to devise some scene, you may discover a resemblance to various landscapes, beautified with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, wide valleys and hills in varied arrangement; or again you may see battles and figures in action; or strange faces and costumes, and an endless variety of objects, which you could reduce to complete and well drawn forms. And these appear on such walls confusedly, like the sound of bells in whose jangle you may find any name or word you choose to imagine.
THE ARTIST'S STUDIO.—INSTRUMENTS AND HELPS FOR THE APPLICATION OF PERSPECTIVE.—ON JUDGING OF A PICTURE.
On the size of the studio.
Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.
On the construction of windows (510-512).
The larger the wall the less the light will be.
The different kinds of light afforded in cellars by various forms of windows. The least useful and the coldest is the window at a. The most useful, the lightest and warmest and most open to the sky is the window at b. The window at c is of medium utility.
[Footnote: From a reference to the notes on the right light for painting it becomes evident that the observations made on cellar-windows have a direct bearing on the construction of the studio-window. In the diagram b as well as in that under No. 510 the window-opening is reduced to a minimum, but only, it would seem, in order to emphasize the advantage of walls constructed on the plan there shown.]
OF THE PAINTER'S WINDOW AND ITS ADVANTAGE.
The painter who works from nature should have a window, which he can raise and lower. The reason is that sometimes you will want to finish a thing you are drawing, close to the light.
Let a b c d be the chest on which the work may be raised or lowered, so that the work moves up and down and not the painter. And every evening you can let down the work and shut it up above so that in the evening it may be in the fashion of a chest which, when shut up, may serve the purpose of a bench.
[Footnote: See Pl. XXXI, No. 2. In this plate the lines have unfortunately lost their sharpness, for the accidental loss of the negative has necessitated a reproduction from a positive. But having formerly published this sketch by another process, in VON LUTZOW'S Zeitschrift fur bildende Kunst (Vol. XVII, pg. 13) I have reproduced it here in the text. The sharpness of the outline in the original sketch is here preserved but it gives it from the reversed side.]
On the best light for painting (513-520).
Which light is best for drawing from nature; whether high or low, or large or small, or strong and broad, or strong and small, or broad and weak or small and weak?
[Footnote: The question here put is unanswered in the original MS.]
OF THE QUALITY OF THE LIGHT.
A broad light high up and not too strong will render the details of objects very agreeable.
THAT THE LIGHT FOR DRAWING FROM NATURE SHOULD BE HIGH UP.
The light for drawing from nature should come from the North in order that it may not vary. And if you have it from the South, keep the window screened with cloth, so that with the sun shining the whole day the light may not vary. The height of the light should be so arranged as that every object shall cast a shadow on the ground of the same length as itself.
THE KIND OF LIGHT REQUISITE FOR PAINTING LIGHT AND SHADE.
An object will display the greatest difference of light and shade when it is seen in the strongest light, as by sunlight, or, at night, by the light of a fire. But this should not be much used in painting because the works remain crude and ungraceful.
An object seen in a moderate light displays little difference in the light and shade; and this is the case towards evening or when the day is cloudy, and works then painted are tender and every kind of face becomes graceful. Thus, in every thing extremes are to be avoided: Too much light gives crudeness; too little prevents our seeing. The medium is best.
OF SMALL LIGHTS.
Again, lights cast from a small window give strong differences of light and shade, all the more if the room lighted by it be large, and this is not good for painting.
The luminous air which enters by passing through orifices in walls into dark rooms will render the place less dark in proportion as the opening cuts into the walls which surround and cover in the pavement.
OF THE QUALITY OF LIGHT.
In proportion to the number of times that a b goes into c d will it be more luminous than c d. And similarly, in proportion as the point e goes into c d will it be more luminous than c d; and this light is useful for carvers of delicate work. [Footnote 5: For the same reason a window thus constructed would be convenient for an illuminator or a miniature painter.]
[Footnote: M. RAVAISSON in his edition of the Paris MS. A remarks on this passage: "La figure porte les lettres f et g, auxquelles rien ne renvoie dans l'explication; par consequent, cette explication est incomplete. La figure semblerait, d'ailleurs, se rapporter a l'effet de la reflexion par un miroir concave." So far as I can see the text is not imperfect, nor is the sense obscure. It is hardly necessary to observe that c d here indicate the wall of the room opposite to the window e and the semicircle described by f g stands for the arch of the sky; this occurs in various diagrams, for example under 511. A similar semicircle, Pl III, No. 2 (and compare No. 149) is expressly called 'orizonte' in writing.]
That the light should fall upon a picture from one window only. This may be seen in the case of objects in this form. If you want to represent a round ball at a certain height you must make it oval in this shape, and stand so far off as that by foreshortening it appears round.
OF SELECTING THE LIGHT WHICH GIVES MOST GRACE TO FACES.
If you should have a court yard that you can at pleasure cover with a linen awning that light will be good. Or when you want to take a portrait do it in dull weather, or as evening falls, making the sitter stand with his back to one of the walls of the court yard. Note in the streets, as evening falls, the faces of the men and women, and when the weather is dull, what softness and delicacy you may perceive in them. Hence, Oh Painter! have a court arranged with the walls tinted black and a narrow roof projecting within the walls. It should be 10 braccia wide and 20 braccia long and 10 braccia high and covered with a linen awning; or else paint a work towards evening or when it is cloudy or misty, and this is a perfect light.
On various helps in preparing a picture (521-530).
To draw a nude figure from nature, or any thing else, hold in your hand a plumb-line to enable you to judge of the relative position of objects.
OF DRAWING AN OBJECT.
When you draw take care to set up a principal line which you must observe all throughout the object you are drawing; every thing should bear relation to the direction of this principal line.
OF A MODE OF DRAWING A PLACE ACCURATELY.
Have a piece of glass as large as a half sheet of royal folio paper and set thus firmly in front of your eyes that is, between your eye and the thing you want to draw; then place yourself at a distance of 2/3 of a braccia from the glass fixing your head with a machine in such a way that you cannot move it at all. Then shut or entirely cover one eye and with a brush or red chalk draw upon the glass that which you see beyond it; then trace it on paper from the glass, afterwards transfer it onto good paper, and paint it if you like, carefully attending to the arial perspective.
HOW TO LEARN TO PLACE YOUR FIGURES CORRECTLY.
If you want to acquire a practice of good and correct attitudes for your figures, make a square frame or net, and square it out with thread; place this between your eye and the nude model you are drawing, and draw these same squares on the paper on which you mean to draw the figure, but very delicately. Then place a pellet of wax on a spot of the net which will serve as a fixed point, which, whenever you look at your model, must cover the pit of the throat; or, if his back is turned, it may cover one of the vertebrae of the neck. Thus these threads will guide you as to each part of the body which, in any given attitude will be found below the pit of the throat, or the angles of the shoulders, or the nipples, or hips and other parts of the body; and the transverse lines of the net will show you how much the figure is higher over the leg on which it is posed than over the other, and the same with the hips, and the knees and the feet. But always fix the net perpendicularly so that all the divisions that you see the model divided into by the net work correspond with your drawing of the model on the net work you have sketched. The squares you draw may be as much smaller than those of the net as you wish that your figure should be smaller than nature. Afterwards remember when drawing figures, to use the rule of the corresponding proportions of the limbs as you have learnt it from the frame and net. This should be 3 braccia and a half high and 3 braccia wide; 7 braccia distant from you and 1 braccio from the model.
[Footnote: Leonardo is commonly credited with the invention of the arrangement of a plate of glass commonly known as the "vertical plane." Professor E. VON BRUCKE in his "Bruchstucke aus der Theorie der bildenden Kunste," Leipzig 1877, pg. 3, writes on this contrivance. "Unsere Glastafel ist die sogenannte Glastafel des Leonardo da Vinci, die in Gestalt einer Glastafel vorgestellte Bildflache."]
A METHOD OF DRAWING AN OBJECT IN RELIEF AT NIGHT.
Place a sheet of not too transparent paper between the relievo and the light and you can draw thus very well.
[Footnote: Bodies thus illuminated will show on the surface of the paper how the copyist has to distribute light and shade.]
If you want to represent a figure on a wall, the wall being foreshortened, while the figure is to appear in its proper form, and as standing free from the wall, you must proceed thus: have a thin plate of iron and make a small hole in the centre; this hole must be round. Set a light close to it in such a position as that it shines through the central hole, then place any object or figure you please so close to the wall that it touches it and draw the outline of the shadow on the wall; then fill in the shade and add the lights; place the person who is to see it so that he looks through that same hole where at first the light was; and you will never be able to persuade yourself that the image is not detached from the wall.
[Footnote: uno piccolo spiracelo nel mezzo. M. RAVAISSON, in his edition of MS. A (Paris), p. 52, reads nel muro—evidently a mistake for nel mezzo which is quite plainly written; and he translates it "fait lui une petite ouverture dans le mur," adding in a note: "les mots 'dans le mur' paraissent etre de trop. Leonardo a du les ecrire par distraction" But 'nel mezzo' is clearly legible even on the photograph facsimile given by Ravaisson himself, and the objection he raises disappears at once. It is not always wise or safe to try to prove our author's absence of mind or inadvertence by apparent difficulties in the sense or connection of the text.]
TO DRAW A FIGURE ON A WALL 12 BRACCIA HIGH WHICH SHALL LOOK 24 BRACCIA HIGH.
If you wish to draw a figure or any other object to look 24 braccia high you must do it in this way. First, on the surface m r draw half the man you wish to represent; then the other half; then put on the vault m n [the rest of] the figure spoken of above; first set out the vertical plane on the floor of a room of the same shape as the wall with the coved part on which you are to paint your figure. Then, behind it, draw a figure set out in profile of whatever size you please, and draw lines from it to the point f and, as these lines cut m n on the vertical plane, so will the figure come on the wall, of which the vertical plane gives a likeness, and you will have all the [relative] heights and prominences of the figure. And the breadth or thickness which are on the upright wall m n are to be drawn in their proper form, since, as the wall recedes the figure will be foreshortened by itself; but [that part of] the figure which goes into the cove you must foreshorten, as if it were standing upright; this diminution you must set out on a flat floor and there must stand the figure which is to be transferred from the vertical plane r n[Footnote 17: che leverai dalla pariete r n. The letters refer to the larger sketch, No. 3 on Pl. XXXI.] in its real size and reduce it once more on a vertical plane; and this will be a good method [Footnote 18: Leonardo here says nothing as to how the image foreshortened by perspective and thus produced on the vertical plane is to be transferred to the wall; but from what is said in Nos. 525 and 523 we may conclude that he was familiar with the process of casting the enlarged shadow of a squaring net on the surface of a wall to guide him in drawing the figure.
Pariete di rilieuo; "sur une parai en relief" (RAVAISSON). "Auf einer Schnittlinie zum Aufrichten" (LUDWIG). The explanation of this puzzling expression must be sought in No. 545, lines 15-17.].
[Footnote: See Pl. XXXI. 3. The second sketch, which in the plate is incomplete, is here reproduced and completed from the original to illustrate the text. In the original the larger diagram is placed between lines 5 and 6.
1. 2. C. A. 157a; 463a has the similar heading: 'del cressciere della figura', and the text begins: "Se voli fare 1a figura grande b c" but here it breaks off. The translation here given renders the meaning of the passage as I think it must be understood. The MS. is perfectly legible and the construction of the sentence is simple and clear; difficulties can only arise from the very fullness of the meaning, particularly towards the end of the passage.]
If you would to draw a cube in an angle of a wall, first draw the object in its own proper shape and raise it onto a vertical plane until it resembles the angle in which the said object is to be represented.
Why are paintings seen more correctly in a mirror than out of it?
HOW THE MIRROR IS THE MASTER [AND GUIDE] OF PAINTERS.
When you want to see if your picture corresponds throughout with the objects you have drawn from nature, take a mirror and look in that at the reflection of the real things, and compare the reflected image with your picture, and consider whether the subject of the two images duly corresponds in both, particularly studying the mirror. You should take the mirror for your guide—that is to say a flat mirror—because on its surface the objects appear in many respects as in a painting. Thus you see, in a painting done on a flat surface, objects which appear in relief, and in the mirror—also a flat surface—they look the same. The picture has one plane surface and the same with the mirror. The picture is intangible, in so far as that which appears round and prominent cannot be grasped in the hands; and it is the same with the mirror. And since you can see that the mirror, by means of outlines, shadows and lights, makes objects appear in relief, you, who have in your colours far stronger lights and shades than those in the mirror, can certainly, if you compose your picture well, make that also look like a natural scene reflected in a large mirror.
[Footnote: I understand the concluding lines of this passage as follows: If you draw the upper half a figure on a large sheet of paper laid out on the floor of a room (sala be piana) to the same scale (con le sue vere grosseze) as the lower half, already drawn upon the wall (lines 10, 11)you must then reduce them on a 'pariete di rilievo,' a curved vertical plane which serves as a model to reproduce the form of the vault.]
OF JUDGING YOUR OWN PICTURES.
We know very well that errors are better recognised in the works of others than in our own; and that often, while reproving little faults in others, you may ignore great ones in yourself. To avoid such ignorance, in the first place make yourself a master of perspective, then acquire perfect knowledge of the proportions of men and other animals, and also, study good architecture, that is so far as concerns the forms of buildings and other objects which are on the face of the earth; these forms are infinite, and the better you know them the more admirable will your work be. And in cases where you lack experience do not shrink from drawing them from nature. But, to carry out my promise above [in the title]—I say that when you paint you should have a flat mirror and often look at your work as reflected in it, when you will see it reversed, and it will appear to you like some other painter's work, so you will be better able to judge of its faults than in any other way. Again, it is well that you should often leave off work and take a little relaxation, because, when you come back to it you are a better judge; for sitting too close at work may greatly deceive you. Again, it is good to retire to a distance because the work looks smaller and your eye takes in more of it at a glance and sees more easily the discords or disproportion in the limbs and colours of the objects.
On the management of works (531. 532).
OF A METHOD OF LEARNING WELL BY HEART.
When you want to know a thing you have studied in your memory proceed in this way: When you have drawn the same thing so many times that you think you know it by heart, test it by drawing it without the model; but have the model traced on flat thin glass and lay this on the drawing you have made without the model, and note carefully where the tracing does not coincide with your drawing, and where you find you have gone wrong; and bear in mind not to repeat the same mistakes. Then return to the model, and draw the part in which you were wrong again and again till you have it well in your mind. If you have no flat glass for tracing on, take some very thin kidts-kin parchment, well oiled and dried. And when you have used it for one drawing you can wash it clean with a sponge and make a second.
THAT A PAINTER OUGHT TO BE CURIOUS TO HEAR THE OPINIONS OF EVERY ONE ON HIS WORK.
Certainly while a man is painting he ought not to shrink from hearing every opinion. For we know very well that a man, though he may not be a painter, is familiar with the forms of other men and very capable of judging whether they are hump backed, or have one shoulder higher or lower than the other, or too big a mouth or nose, and other defects; and, as we know that men are competent to judge of the works of nature, how much more ought we to admit that they can judge of our errors; since you know how much a man may be deceived in his own work. And if you are not conscious of this in yourself study it in others and profit by their faults. Therefore be curious to hear with patience the opinions of others, consider and weigh well whether those who find fault have ground or not for blame, and, if so amend; but, if not make as though you had not heard, or if he should be a man you esteem show him by argument the cause of his mistake.
On the limitations of painting (533-535)
HOW IN SMALL OBJECTS ERRORS ARE LESS EVIDENT THAN IN LARGE ONES.
In objects of minute size the extent of error is not so perceptible as in large ones; and the reason is that if this small object is a representation of a man or of some other animal, from the immense diminution the details cannot be worked out by the artist with the finish that is requisite. Hence it is not actually complete; and, not being complete, its faults cannot be determined. For instance: Look at a man at a distance of 300 braccia and judge attentively whether he be handsome or ugly, or very remarkable or of ordinary appearance. You will find that with the utmost effort you cannot persuade yourself to decide. And the reason is that at such a distance the man is so much diminished that the character of the details cannot be determined. And if you wish to see how much this man is diminished [by distance] hold one of your fingers at a span's distance from your eye, and raise or lower it till the top joint touches the feet of the figure you are looking at, and you will see an incredible reduction. For this reason we often doubt as to the person of a friend at a distance.
WHY A PAINTING CAN NEVER APPEAR DETACHED AS NATURAL OBJECTS DO.
Painters often fall into despair of imitating nature when they see their pictures fail in that relief and vividness which objects have that are seen in a mirror; while they allege that they have colours which for brightness or depth far exceed the strength of light and shade in the reflections in the mirror, thus displaying their own ignorance rather than the real cause, because they do not know it. It is impossible that painted objects should appear in such relief as to resemble those reflected in the mirror, although both are seen on a flat surface, unless they are seen with only one eye; and the reason is that two eyes see one object behind another as a and b see m and n. m cannot exactly occupy [the space of] n because the base of the visual lines is so broad that the second body is seen beyond the first. But if you close one eye, as at s the body f will conceal r, because the line of sight proceeds from a single point and makes its base in the first body, whence the second, of the same size, can never be seen.
[Footnote: This passage contains the solution of the problem proposed in No. 29, lines 10-14. Leonardo was evidently familiar with the law of optics on which the construction of the stereoscope depends. Compare E. VON BRUCKE, Bruchstucke aus der Theorie der bildenden Kunste, pg. 69: "Schon Leonardo da Vinci wusste, dass ein noch so gut gemaltes Bild nie den vollen Eindruck der Korperlichkeit geben kann, wie ihn die Natur selbst giebt. Er erklart dies auch in Kap. LIII und Kap. CCCXLI (ed. DU FRESNE) des 'Trattato' in sachgemasser Weise aus dem Sehen mit beiden Augen."
Chap. 53 of DU FRESNE'S edition corresponds to No. 534 of this work.]
WHY OF TWO OBJECTS OF EQUAL SIZE A PAINTED ONE WILL LOOK LARGER THAN A SOLID ONE.
The reason of this is not so easy to demonstrate as many others. Still I will endeavour to accomplish it, if not wholly, at any rate in part. The perspective of diminution demonstrates by reason, that objects diminish in proportion as they are farther from the eye, and this reasoning is confirmed by experience. Hence, the lines of sight that extend between the object and the eye, when they are directed to the surface of a painting are all intersected at uniform limits, while those lines which are directed towards a piece of sculpture are intersected at various limits and are of various lengths. The lines which are longest extend to a more remote limb than the others and therefore that limb looks smaller. As there are numerous lines each longer than the others—since there are numerous parts, each more remote than the others and these, being farther off, necessarily appear smaller, and by appearing smaller it follows that their diminution makes the whole mass of the object look smaller. But this does not occur in painting; since the lines of sight all end at the same distance there can be no diminution, hence the parts not being diminished the whole object is undiminished, and for this reason painting does not diminish, as a piece of sculpture does.
On the choice of a position (536-537)
HOW HIGH THE POINT OF SIGHT SHOULD BE PLACED.
The point of sight must be at the level of the eye of an ordinary man, and the farthest limit of the plain where it touches the sky must be placed at the level of that line where the earth and sky meet; excepting mountains, which are independent of it.
OF THE WAY TO DRAW FIGURES FOR HISTORICAL PICTURES.
The painter must always study on the wall on which he is to picture a story the height of the position where he wishes to arrange his figures; and when drawing his studies for them from nature he must place himself with his eye as much below the object he is drawing as, in the picture, it will have to be above the eye of the spectator. Otherwise the work will look wrong.
The apparent size of figures in a picture (538-539)
OF PLACING A FIGURE IN THE FOREGROUND OF A HISTORICAL PICTURE.
You must make the foremost figure in the picture less than the size of nature in proportion to the number of braccia at which you place it from the front line, and make the others in proportion by the above rule.
You are asked, O Painter, why the figures you draw on a small scale according to the laws of perspective do not appear—notwithstanding the demonstration of distance—as large as real ones—their height being the same as in those painted on the wall.
And why [painted] objects seen at a small distance appear larger than the real ones?
The right position of the artist, when painting, and of the spectator (540-547)
When you draw from nature stand at a distance of 3 times the height of the object you wish to draw.
OF DRAWING FROM RELIEF.
In drawing from the round the draughtsman should so place himself that the eye of the figure he is drawing is on a level with his own. This should be done with any head he may have to represent from nature because, without exception, the figures or persons you meet in the streets have their eyes on the same level as your own; and if you place them higher or lower you will see that your drawing will not be true.
WHY GROUPS OF FIGURES ONE ABOVE ANOTHER ARE TO BE AVOIDED.
The universal practice which painters adopt on the walls of chapels is greatly and reasonably to be condemned. Inasmuch as they represent one historical subject on one level with a landscape and buildings, and then go up a step and paint another, varying the point [of sight], and then a third and a fourth, in such a way as that on one wall there are 4 points of sight, which is supreme folly in such painters. We know that the point of sight is opposite the eye of the spectator of the scene; and if you would [have me] tell you how to represent the life of a saint divided into several pictures on one and the same wall, I answer that you must set out the foreground with its point of sight on a level with the eye of the spectator of the scene, and upon this plane represent the more important part of the story large and then, diminishing by degrees the figures, and the buildings on various hills and open spaces, you can represent all the events of the history. And on the remainder of the wall up to the top put trees, large as compared with the figures, or angels if they are appropriate to the story, or birds or clouds or similar objects; otherwise do not trouble yourself with it for your whole work will be wrong.
A PICTURE OF OBJECTS IN PERSPECTIVE WILL LOOK MORE LIFELIKE WHEN SEEN FROM THE POINT FROM WHICH THE OBJECTS WERE DRAWN.
If you want to represent an object near to you which is to have the effect of nature, it is impossible that your perspective should not look wrong, with every false relation and disagreement of proportion that can be imagined in a wretched work, unless the spectator, when he looks at it, has his eye at the very distance and height and direction where the eye or the point of sight was placed in doing this perspective. Hence it would be necessary to make a window, or rather a hole, of the size of your face through which you can look at the work; and if you do this, beyond all doubt your work, if it is correct as to light and shade, will have the effect of nature; nay you will hardly persuade yourself that those objects are painted; otherwise do not trouble yourself about it, unless indeed you make your view at least 20 times as far off as the greatest width or height of the objects represented, and this will satisfy any spectator placed anywhere opposite to the picture.
If you want the proof briefly shown, take a piece of wood in the form of a little column, eight times as high as it is thick, like a column without any plinth or capital; then mark off on a flat wall 40 equal spaces, equal to its width so that between them they make 40 columns resembling your little column; you then must fix, opposite the centre space, and at 4 braccia from the wall, a thin strip of iron with a small round hole in the middle about as large as a big pearl. Close to this hole place a light touching it. Then place your column against each mark on the wall and draw the outline of its shadow; afterwards shade it and look through the hole in the iron plate.
[Footnote: In the original there is a wide space between lines 3 and 4 in which we find two sketches not belonging to the text. It is unnecessary to give prominence to the points in which my reading differs from that of M. RAVAISSON or to justify myself, since they are all of secondary importance and can also be immediately verified from the photograph facsimile in his edition.]
A diminished object should be seen from the same distance, height and direction as the point of sight of your eye, or else your knowledge will produce no good effect.
And if you will not, or cannot, act on this principle—because as the plane on which you paint is to be seen by several persons you would need several points of sight which would make it look discordant and wrong—place yourself at a distance of at least 10 times the size of the objects.
The lesser fault you can fall into then, will be that of representing all the objects in the foreground of their proper size, and on whichever side you are standing the objects thus seen will diminish themselves while the spaces between them will have no definite ratio. For, if you place yourself in the middle of a straight row [of objects], and look at several columns arranged in a line you will see, beyond a few columns separated by intervals, that the columns touch; and beyond where they touch they cover each other, till the last column projects but very little beyond the last but one. Thus the spaces between the columns are by degrees entirely lost. So, if your method of perspective is good, it will produce the same effect; this effect results from standing near the line in which the columns are placed. This method is not satisfactory unless the objects seen are viewed from a small hole, in the middle of which is your point of sight; but if you proceed thus your work will be perfect and will deceive the beholder, who will see the columns as they are here figured.
Here the eye is in the middle, at the point a and near to the columns.
[Footnote: The diagram which stands above this chapter in the original with the note belonging to it: "a b e la ripruova" (a b is the proof) has obviously no connection with the text. The second sketch alone is reproduced and stands in the original between lines 22 and 23.]
If you cannot arrange that those who look at your work should stand at one particular point, when constructing your work, stand back until your eye is at least 20 times as far off as the greatest height and width of your work. This will make so little difference when the eye of the spectator moves, that it will be hardly appreciable, and it will look very good.
If the point of sight is at t you would make the figures on the circle d b e all of one size, as each of them bears the same relation to the point t. But consider the diagram given below and you will see that this is wrong, and why I shall make b smaller than d e [Footnote 8: The second diagram of this chapter stands in the original between lines 8 and 9.].
It is easy to understand that if 2 objects equal to each other are placed side by side the one at 3 braccia distance looks smaller than that placed at 2 braccia. This however is rather theoretical than for practice, because you stand close by [Footnote 11: Instead of 'se preso' (=sie presso) M. RAVAISSON reads 'sempre se' which gives rise to the unmeaning rendering: 'parceque toujours ...'].
All the objects in the foreground, whether large or small, are to be drawn of their proper size, and if you see them from a distance they will appear just as they ought, and if you see them close they will diminish of themselves.
[Footnote 15: Compare No. 526 line 18.] Take care that the vertical plan on which you work out the perspective of the objects seen is of the same form as the wall on which the work is to be executed.
The size of the figures represented ought to show you the distance they are seen from. If you see a figure as large as nature you know it appears to be close to the eye.
WHERE A SPECTATOR SHOULD STAND TO LOOK AT A PICTURE.
Supposing a b to be the picture and d to be the light, I say that if you place yourself between c and e you will not understand the picture well and particularly if it is done in oils, or still more if it is varnished, because it will be lustrous and somewhat of the nature of a mirror. And for this reason the nearer you go towards the point c, the less you will see, because the rays of light falling from the window on the picture are reflected to that point. But if you place yourself between e and d you will get a good view of it, and the more so as you approach the point d, because that spot is least exposed to these reflected rays of light.
THE PRACTICAL METHODS OF LIGHT AND SHADE AND AERIAL PERSPECTIVE.
Gradations of light and shade.
OF PAINTING: OF THE DARKNESS OF THE SHADOWS, OR I MAY SAY, THE BRIGHTNESS OF THE LIGHTS.
Although practical painters attribute to all shaded objects—trees, fields, hair, beards and skin—four degrees of darkness in each colour they use: that is to say first a dark foundation, secondly a spot of colour somewhat resembling the form of the details, thirdly a somewhat brighter and more defined portion, fourthly the lights which are more conspicuous than other parts of the figure; still to me it appears that these gradations are infinite upon a continuous surface which is in itself infinitely divisible, and I prove it thus:—[Footnote 7: See Pl. XXXI, No. 1; the two upper sketches.] Let a g be a continuous surface and let d be the light which illuminates it; I say—by the 4th [proposition] which says that that side of an illuminated body is most highly lighted which is nearest to the source of light—that therefore g must be darker than c in proportion as the line d g is longer than the line d c, and consequently that these gradations of light—or rather of shadow, are not 4 only, but may be conceived of as infinite, because c d is a continuous surface and every continuous surface is infinitely divisible; hence the varieties in the length of lines extending between the light and the illuminated object are infinite, and the proportion of the light will be the same as that of the length of the lines between them; extending from the centre of the luminous body to the surface of the illuminated object.
On the choice of light for a picture (549-554).
HOW THE PAINTER MUST PLACE HIMSELF WITH REFERENCE TO THE LIGHT, TO GIVE THE EFFECT OF RELIEF.
Let a b be the window, m the point of light. I say that on whichever side the painter places himself he will be well placed if only his eye is between the shaded and the illuminated portions of the object he is drawing; and this place you will find by putting yourself between the point m and the division between the shadow and the light on the object to be drawn.
THAT SHADOWS CAST BY A PARTICULAR LIGHT SHOULD BE AVOIDED, BECAUSE THEY ARE EQUALLY STRONG AT THE ENDS AND AT THE BEGINNING.
The shadows cast by the sun or any other particular light have not a pleasing effect on the body to which they belong, because the parts remain confuse, being divided by distinct outlines of light and shade. And the shadows are of equal strength at the end and at the beginning.
HOW LIGHT SHOULD BE THROWN UPON FIGURES.
The light must be arranged in accordance with the natural conditions under which you wish to represent your figures: that is, if you represent them in the sunshine make the shadows dark with large spaces of light, and mark their shadows and those of all the surrounding objects strongly on the ground. And if you represent them as in dull weather give little difference of light and shade, without any shadows at their feet. If you represent them as within doors, make a strong difference between the lights and shadows, with shadows on the ground. If the window is screened and the walls white, there will be little difference of light. If it is lighted by firelight make the high lights ruddy and strong, and the shadows dark, and those cast on the walls and on the floor will be clearly defined and the farther they are from the body the broader and longer will they be. If the light is partly from the fire and partly from the outer day, that of day will be the stronger and that of the fire almost as red as fire itself. Above all see that the figures you paint are broadly lighted and from above, that is to say all living persons that you paint; for you will see that all the people you meet out in the street are lighted from above, and you must know that if you saw your most intimate friend with a light [on his face] from below you would find it difficult to recognise him.
OF HELPING THE APPARENT RELIEF OF A PICTURE BY GIVING IT ARTIFICIAL LIGHT AND SHADE.
To increase relief of a picture you may place, between your figure and the solid object on which its shadow falls, a line of bright light, dividing the figure from the object in shadow. And on the same object you shall represent two light parts which will surround the shadow cast upon the wall by the figure placed opposite ; and do this frequently with the limbs which you wish should stand out somewhat from the body they belong to; particularly when the arms cross the front of the breast show, between the shadow cast by the arms on the breast and the shadow on the arms themselves, a little light seeming to fall through a space between the breast and the arms; and the more you wish the arm to look detached from the breast the broader you must make the light; always contrive also to arrange the figures against the background in such a way as that the parts in shadow are against a light background and the illuminated portions against a dark background.
[Footnote 6: Compare the two diagrams under No. 565.]
Remember [to note] the situation of your figures; for the light and shade will be one thing if the object is in a dark place with a particular light, and another thing if it is in a light place with direct sunlight; one thing in a dark place with a diffused evening light or a cloudy sky, and another in the diffused light of the atmosphere lighted by the sun.
OF THE JUDGMENT TO BE MADE OF A PAINTER'S WORK.
First you must consider whether the figures have the relief required by their situation and the light which illuminates them; for the shadows should not be the same at the extreme ends of the composition as in the middle, because it is one thing when figures are surrounded by shadows and another when they have shadows only on one side. Those which are in the middle of the picture are surrounded by shadows, because they are shaded by the figures which stand between them and the light. And those are lighted on one side only which stand between the principal group and the light, because where they do not look towards the light they face the group and the darkness of the group is thrown on them: and where they do not face the group they face the brilliant light and it is their own darkness shadowing them, which appears there.
In the second place observe the distribution or arrangement of figures, and whether they are distributed appropriately to the circumstances of the story. Thirdly, whether the figures are actively intent on their particular business.
OF THE TREATMENT OF THE LIGHTS.
First give a general shadow to the whole of that extended part which is away from the light. Then put in the half shadows and the strong shadows, comparing them with each other and, in the same way give the extended light in half tint, afterwards adding the half lights and the high lights, likewise comparing them together.
The distribution of light and shade (556-559)
OF SHADOWS ON BODIES.
When you represent the dark shadows in bodies in light and shade, always show the cause of the shadow, and the same with reflections; because the dark shadows are produced by dark objects and the reflections by objects only moderately lighted, that is with diminished light. And there is the same proportion between the highly lighted part of a body and the part lighted by a reflection as between the origin of the lights on the body and the origin of the reflections.
OF LIGHTS AND SHADOWS.
I must remind you to take care that every portion of a body, and every smallest detail which is ever so little in relief, must be given its proper importance as to light and shade.
OF THE WAY TO MAKE THE SHADOW ON FIGURES CORRESPOND TO THE LIGHT AND TO [THE COLOUR] OF THE BODY.
When you draw a figure and you wish to see whether the shadow is the proper complement to the light, and neither redder nor yellower than is the nature of the colour you wish to represent in shade, proceed thus. Cast a shadow with your finger on the illuminated portion, and if the accidental shadow that you have made is like the natural shadow cast by your finger on your work, well and good; and by putting your finger nearer or farther off, you can make darker or lighter shadows, which you must compare with your own.
OF SURROUNDING BODIES BY VARIOUS FORMS OF SHADOW.
Take care that the shadows cast upon the surface of the bodies by different objects must undulate according to the various curves of the limbs which cast the shadows, and of the objects on which they are cast.
The juxtaposition of light and shade (560, 561).
The comparison of the various qualities of shadows and lights not infrequently seems ambiguous and confused to the painter who desires to imitate and copy the objects he sees. The reason is this: If you see a white drapery side by side with a black one, that part of the white drapery which lies against the black one will certainly look much whiter than the part which lies against something whiter than itself. [Footnote: It is evident from this that so early as in 1492 Leonardo's writing in perspective was so far advanced that he could quote his own statements.—As bearing on this subject compare what is said in No. 280.] And the reason of this is shown in my [book on] perspective.
Where a shadow ends in the light, note carefully where it is paler or deeper and where it is more or less indistinct towards the light; and, above all, in [painting] youthful figures I remind you not to make the shadow end like a stone, because flesh has a certain transparency, as may be seen by looking at a hand held between the eye and the sun, which shines through it ruddy and bright. Place the most highly coloured part between the light and shadow. And to see what shadow tint is needed on the flesh, cast a shadow on it with your finger, and according as you wish to see it lighter or darker hold your finger nearer to or farther from your picture, and copy that [shadow].
On the lighting of the background (562-565).
OF THE BACKGROUNDS FOR PAINTED FIGURES.
The ground which surrounds the forms of any object you paint should be darker than the high lights of those figures, and lighter than their shadowed part: &c.
OF THE BACKGROUND THAT THE PAINTER SHOULD ADOPT IN HIS WORKS.
Since experience shows us that all bodies are surrounded by light and shade it is necessary that you, O Painter, should so arrange that the side which is in light shall terminate against a dark body and likewise that the shadow side shall terminate against a light body. And by [following] this rule you will add greatly to the relief of your figures.
A most important part of painting consists in the backgrounds of the objects represented; against these backgrounds the outlines of those natural objects which are convex are always visible, and also the forms of these bodies against the background, even though the colours of the bodies should be the same as that of the background. This is caused by the convex edges of the objects not being illuminated in the same way as, by the same light, the background is illuminated, since these edges will often be lighter or darker than the background. But if the edge is of the same colour as the background, beyond a doubt it will in that part of the picture interfere with your perception of the outline, and such a choice in a picture ought to be rejected by the judgment of good painters, inasmuch as the purpose of the painter is to make his figures appear detached from the background; while in the case here described the contrary occurs, not only in the picture, but in the objects themselves.
That you ought, when representing objects above the eye and on one side—if you wish them to look detached from the wall—to show, between the shadow on the object and the shadow it casts a middle light, so that the body will appear to stand away from the wall.
On the lighting of white objects.
HOW WHITE BODIES SHOULD BE REPRESENTED.
If you are representing a white body let it be surrounded by ample space, because as white has no colour of its own, it is tinged and altered in some degree by the colour of the objects surrounding it. If you see a woman dressed in white in the midst of a landscape, that side which is towards the sun is bright in colour, so much so that in some portions it will dazzle the eyes like the sun itself; and the side which is towards the atmosphere,—luminous through being interwoven with the sun's rays and penetrated by them—since the atmosphere itself is blue, that side of the woman's figure will appear steeped in blue. If the surface of the ground about her be meadows and if she be standing between a field lighted up by the sun and the sun itself, you will see every portion of those folds which are towards the meadow tinged by the reflected rays with the colour of that meadow. Thus the white is transmuted into the colours of the luminous and of the non-luminous objects near it.
The methods of aerial (567—570).
WHY FACES [SEEN] AT A DISTANCE LOOK DARK.
We see quite plainly that all the images of visible objects that lie before us, whether large or small, reach our sense by the minute aperture of the eye; and if, through so small a passage the image can pass of the vast extent of sky and earth, the face of a man—being by comparison with such large images almost nothing by reason of the distance which diminishes it,—fills up so little of the eye that it is indistinguishable. Having, also, to be transmitted from the surface to the sense through a dark medium, that is to say the crystalline lens which looks dark, this image, not being strong in colour becomes affected by this darkness on its passage, and on reaching the sense it appears dark; no other reason can in any way be assigned. If the point in the eye is black, it is because it is full of a transparent humour as clear as air and acts like a perforation in a board; on looking into it it appears dark and the objects seen through the bright air and a dark one become confused in this darkness.
WHY A MAN SEEN AT A CERTAIN DISTANCE IS NOT RECOGNISABLE.
The perspective of diminution shows us that the farther away an object is the smaller it looks. If you look at a man at a distance from you of an arrow's flight, and hold the eye of a small needle close to your own eye, you can see through it several men whose images are transmitted to the eye and will all be comprised within the size of the needle's eye; hence, if the man who is at the distance of an arrow's flight can send his whole image to your eye, occupying only a small space in the needle's eye how can you [expect] in so small a figure to distinguish or see the nose or mouth or any detail of his person? and, not seeing these you cannot recognise the man, since these features, which he does not show, are what give men different aspects.
THE REASON WHY SMALL FIGURES SHOULD NOT BE MADE FINISHED.
I say that the reason that objects appear diminished in size is because they are remote from the eye; this being the case it is evident that there must be a great extent of atmosphere between the eye and the objects, and this air interferes with the distinctness of the forms of the object. Hence the minute details of these objects will be indistinguishable and unrecognisable. Therefore, O Painter, make your smaller figures merely indicated and not highly finished, otherwise you will produce effects the opposite to nature, your supreme guide. The object is small by reason of the great distance between it and the eye, this great distance is filled with air, that mass of air forms a dense body which intervenes and prevents the eye seeing the minute details of objects.
Whenever a figure is placed at a considerable distance you lose first the distinctness of the smallest parts; while the larger parts are left to the last, losing all distinctness of detail and outline; and what remains is an oval or spherical figure with confused edges.
The density of a body of smoke looks white below the horizon while above the horizon it is dark, even if the smoke is in itself of a uniform colour, this uniformity will vary according to the variety in the ground on which it is seen.
OF PORTRAIT AND FIGURE PAINTING.
Of sketching figures and portraits (571-572).
OF THE WAY TO LEARN TO COMPOSE FIGURES [IN GROUPS] IN HISTORICAL PICTURES.
When you have well learnt perspective and have by heart the parts and forms of objects, you must go about, and constantly, as you go, observe, note and consider the circumstances and behaviour of men in talking, quarrelling or laughing or fighting together: the action of the men themselves and the actions of the bystanders, who separate them or who look on. And take a note of them with slight strokes thus, in a little book which you should always carry with you. And it should be of tinted paper, that it may not be rubbed out, but change the old [when full] for a new one; since these things should not be rubbed out but preserved with great care; for the forms, and positions of objects are so infinite that the memory is incapable of retaining them, wherefore keep these [sketches] as your guides and masters.
[Footnote: Among Leonardo's numerous note books of pocket size not one has coloured paper, so no sketches answering to this description can be pointed out. The fact that most of the notes are written in ink, militates against the supposition that they were made in the open air.]
OF A METHOD OF KEEPING IN MIND THE FORM OF A FACE.
If you want to acquire facility for bearing in mind the expression of a face, first make yourself familiar with a variety of [forms of] several heads, eyes, noses, mouths, chins and cheeks and necks and shoulders: And to put a case: Noses are of 10 types: straight, bulbous, hollow, prominent above or below the middle, aquiline, regular, flat, round or pointed. These hold good as to profile. In full face they are of 11 types; these are equal thick in the middle, thin in the middle, with the tip thick and the root narrow, or narrow at the tip and wide at the root; with the nostrils wide or narrow, high or low, and the openings wide or hidden by the point; and you will find an equal variety in the other details; which things you must draw from nature and fix them in your mind. Or else, when you have to draw a face by heart, carry with you a little book in which you have noted such features; and when you have cast a glance at the face of the person you wish to draw, you can look, in private, which nose or mouth is most like, or there make a little mark to recognise it again at home. Of grotesque faces I need say nothing, because they are kept in mind without difficulty.
The position of the head.
HOW YOU SHOULD SET TO WORK TO DRAW A HEAD OF WHICH ALL THE PARTS SHALL AGREE WITH THE POSITION GIVEN TO IT.
To draw a head in which the features shall agree with the turn and bend of the head, pursue this method. You know that the eyes, eyebrows, nostrils, corners of the mouth, and sides of the chin, the jaws, cheeks, ears and all the parts of a face are squarely and straightly set upon the face.
[Footnote: Compare the drawings and the text belonging to them on Pl. IX. (No. 315), Pl. X (No. 316), Pl. XL (No. 318) and Pl. XII. (No. 319).]
Therefore when you have sketched the face draw lines passing from one corner of the eye to the other; and so for the placing of each feature; and after having drawn the ends of the lines beyond the two sides of the face, look if the spaces inside the same parallel lines on the right and on the left are equal . But be sure to remember to make these lines tend to the point of sight.
[Footnote: See Pl. XXXI, No. 4, the slight sketch on the left hand side. The text of this passage is written by the side of it. In this sketch the lines seem intentionally incorrect and converging to the right (compare I. 12) instead of parallel. Compare too with this text the drawing in red chalk from Windsor Castle which is reproduced on Pl. XL, No. 2.]
Of the light on the face (574-576).
HOW TO KNOW WHICH SIDE OF AN OBJECT IS TO BE MORE OR LESS LUMINOUS THAN THE OTHER.
Let f be the light, the head will be the object illuminated by it and that side of the head on which the rays fall most directly will be the most highly lighted, and those parts on which the rays fall most aslant will be less lighted. The light falls as a blow might, since a blow which falls perpendicularly falls with the greatest force, and when it falls obliquely it is less forcible than the former in proportion to the width of the angle. Exempli gratia if you throw a ball at a wall of which the extremities are equally far from you the blow will fall straight, and if you throw the ball at the wall when standing at one end of it the ball will hit it obliquely and the blow will not tell.
[Footnote: See Pl. XXXI. No. 4; the sketch on the right hand side.]
THE PROOF AND REASON WHY AMONG THE ILLUMINATED PARTS CERTAIN PORTIONS ARE IN HIGHER LIGHT THAN OTHERS.
Since it is proved that every definite light is, or seems to be, derived from one single point the side illuminated by it will have its highest light on the portion where the line of radiance falls perpendicularly; as is shown above in the lines a g, and also in a h and in l a; and that portion of the illuminated side will be least luminous, where the line of incidence strikes it between two more dissimilar angles, as is seen at b c d. And by this means you may also know which parts are deprived of light as is seen at m k.
Where the angles made by the lines of incidence are most equal there will be the highest light, and where they are most unequal it will be darkest.
I will make further mention of the reason of reflections.
[Footnote: See Pl. XXXII. The text, here given complete, is on the right hand side. The small circles above the beginning of lines 5 and 11 as well as the circle above the text on Pl. XXXI, are in a paler ink and evidently added by a later hand in order to distinguish the text as belonging to the Libro di Pittura (see Prolegomena. No. 12, p. 3). The text on the left hand side of this page is given as Nos. 577 and 137.]
Where the shadow should be on the face.
General suggestions for historical pictures (577-581).
When you compose a historical picture take two points, one the point of sight, and the other the source of light; and make this as distant as possible.
Historical pictures ought not to be crowded and confused with too many figures.
PRECEPTS IN PAINTING.
Let you sketches of historical pictures be swift and the working out of the limbs not be carried too far, but limited to the position of the limbs, which you can afterwards finish as you please and at your leisure.
[Footnote: See Pl. XXXVIII, No. 2. The pen and ink drawing given there as No. 3 may also be compared with this passage. It is in the Windsor collection where it is numbered 101.]
The sorest misfortune is when your views are in advance of your work.
Of composing historical pictures. Of not considering the limbs in the figures in historical pictures; as many do who, in the wish to represent the whole of a figure, spoil their compositions. And when you place one figure behind another take care to draw the whole of it so that the limbs which come in front of the nearer figures may stand out in their natural size and place.
How to represent the differences of age and sex (582-583).
How the ages of man should be depicted: that is, Infancy, Childhood, Youth, Manhood, Old age, Decrepitude.
[Footnote: No answer is here given to this question, in the original MS.]
Old men ought to be represented with slow and heavy movements, their legs bent at the knees, when they stand still, and their feet placed parallel and apart; bending low with the head leaning forward, and their arms but little extended.
Women must be represented in modest attitudes, their legs close together, their arms closely folded, their heads inclined and somewhat on one side.
Old women should be represented with eager, swift and furious gestures, like infernal furies; but the action should be more violent in their arms and head than in their legs.
Little children, with lively and contorted movements when sitting, and, when standing still, in shy and timid attitudes.
[Footnote: bracci raccolte. Compare Pl. XXXIII. This drawing, in silver point on yellowish tinted paper, the lights heightened with white, represents two female hands laid together in a lap. Above is a third finished study of a right hand, apparently holding a veil from the head across the bosom. This drawing evidently dates from before 1500 and was very probably done at Florence, perhaps as a preparatory study for some picture. The type of hand with its slender thin forms is more like the style of the Vierge aux Rochers in the Louvre than any later works—as the Mona Lisa for instance.]
Of representing the emotions.
THAT A FIGURE IS NOT ADMIRABLE UNLESS IT EXPRESSES BY ITS ACTION THE PASSION OF ITS SENTIMENT.
That figure is most admirable which by its actions best expresses the passion that animates it.
HOW AN ANGRY MAN IS TO BE FIGURED.
You must make an angry person holding someone by the hair, wrenching his head against the ground, and with one knee on his ribs; his right arm and fist raised on high. His hair must be thrown up, his brow downcast and knit, his teeth clenched and the two corners of his mouth grimly set; his neck swelled and bent forward as he leans over his foe, and full of furrows.
HOW TO REPRESENT A MAN IN DESPAIR.
You must show a man in despair with a knife, having already torn open his garments, and with one hand tearing open the wound. And make him standing on his feet and his legs somewhat bent and his whole person leaning towards the earth; his hair flying in disorder.
Of representing imaginary animals.
HOW YOU SHOULD MAKE AN IMAGINARY ANIMAL LOOK NATURAL.
You know that you cannot invent animals without limbs, each of which, in itself, must resemble those of some other animal. Hence if you wish to make an animal, imagined by you, appear natural—let us say a Dragon, take for its head that of a mastiff or hound, with the eyes of a cat, the ears of a porcupine, the nose of a greyhound, the brow of a lion, the temples of an old cock, the neck of a water tortoise.