Leonardo da Vinci Quotes

We have collected and put the best Leonardo da Vinci quotes in the following categories. Enjoy reading these insights and feel free to share this page on your social media to inspire others.

May these Leonardo da Vinci quotes on many subjects inspire you to never give up and keep working towards your goals. Who knows—success could be just around the corner.

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (14/15 April 1452 – 2 May 1519),known as Leonardo da Vinci, was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, paleontology, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time (despite perhaps only 15 of his paintings having survived).

Mona Lisa Painting Leonardo Da Vinci Portrait Young

Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci

A beautiful body perishes, but a work of art dies not.

A bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law, which instrument it is within the capacity of man to reproduce with all its movements, but not with a corresponding degree of strength, though it is deficient only in the power of maintaining equilibrium. We may therefore say that such an instrument constructed by man is lacking in nothing except the life of the bird, and this life must needs be supplied from that of man.

A bird is an instrument working according to mathematical law, which instrument it is within the capacity of man to reproduce with all its movements.

A bird maintains itself in the air by imperceptible balancing, when near to the mountains or lofty ocean crags; it does this by means of the curves of the winds which as they strike against these projections, being forced to preserve their first impetus bend their straight course towards the sky with divers revolutions, at the beginning of which the birds come to a stop with their wings open, receiving underneath themselves the continual buffetings of the reflex courses of the winds.

A clever man without wisdom is like a beautiful flower without fragrance.

A day will come in which men will look upon an animal’s murder the same way they look today upon a man’s murder.

A deaf and dumb person who sees two men in conversation – may nevertheless understand from the attitudes and gestures of the speakers, how well their discussion is getting along.

A diamond is just a lump of coal that stuck to its job.

A good memory, which nature has endowed us with, causes things long past to seem present.

A good painter has two main objects to paint, man and the intention of his soul.

A good painter has two main objects to paint, man and the intention of his soul. The former is easy, the latter hard as he has to represent it by the attitude and movement of the limbs.

A good painter is to paint two main things, men and the working of man’s mind.

A good painter is to paint two main things, namely men and the working of man’s mind.

A gray day provides the best light.

A life well used procures a happy death.

A long life is a life well spent.

A luminous body will appear more brilliant in proportion as it is surrounded by deeper shadow.

A man of supreme folly: his life flies away while he is merely hoping to enjoy it.

A man was desired to rise from bed because the sun was already up. He replied: “If I had as far to go and as much to do as he has, I should be up by now; but having but a little way to go, I shall not get up yet.”

A natural action is accomplished in the briefest manner.

A painter should begin every canvas with a wash of black, because all things in nature are dark except where exposed by the light.

A painter was asked why, since he made such beautiful figures, which were but dead things, his children were so ugly; to which the painter replied that he made his pictures by day, and his children by night.

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

A wave is never found alone, but is mingled with as many other waves as there are uneven places in the object where the said wave is produced.

A wave is never found alone, but is mingled with the other waves.

A well-spent day brings happy sleep.

Abbreviators do harm to knowledge and to love.

Advertisers constantly invent cures to which there is no disease.

Affective gestures pointing to things near either in time or space should be made with the hand not very far from the body of the person pointing; and if these things are distant, the hand of the painter should be more extended and the face turned toward the person to whom he is addressing the demonstration.

After painting comes Sculpture, a very noble art, but one that does not in the execution require the same supreme ingenuity as the art of painting, since in two most important and difficult particulars, in foreshortening and in light and shade, for which the painter has to invent a process, sculpture is helped by nature. Moreover, Sculpture does not imitate color which the painter takes pains to attune so that the shadows accompany the lights.

All knowledge which ends in words will die as quickly as it came to life, with the exception of the written word: which is its mechanical part.

All objects transmit their image to the eye in pyramids and the nearer to the eye these pyramids are intersected the smaller will the image appear of the objects which cause them.

All our knowledge has its origins in our perceptions.

All our knowledge hast its origins in our perceptions … In nature there is no effect without a cause … Experience never errs; it is only your judgments that err by promising themselves effects such as are not caused by your experiments … Science is the observation of things possible, whether present or past; prescience is the knowledge of things which may come to pass.

All our knowledge is the offspring of our perceptions.

All our knowledge originates in opinion.

All sciences are vain and full of errors that are not born of Experience, the mother of all Knowledge.

All the bystanders at an event worthy of note adopt various gestures of admiration when contemplating the occurrence.

All the elements will be seen mixed together in a great whirling mass, now borne towards the centre of the world, now towards the sky; and now furiously rushing from the South towards the frozen North, and sometimes from the East towards the West, and then again from this hemisphere to the other.

All thoughts start from emotions.

Although human ingenuity may devise various inventions which, by the help of various instruments, answer to one and the same purpose, yet will it never discover any inventions more beautiful, more simple or more practical than those of nature, because in her inventions there is nothing lacking and nothing superfluous; and she makes use of no counterpoise when she constructs the limbs of animals in such a way as to correspond to the motion of their bodies, but she puts into them the soul of the body.

Although nature commences with reason and ends in experience it is necessary for us to do the opposite, that is to commence with experience and from this to proceed to investigate the reason.

Although the poet has as wide a choice of subjects as the painter, his creations fail to afford as much satisfaction to mankind as do paintings… if the poet serves the understanding by way of the ear, the painter does so by the eye, which is the nobler sense.

Among the great things which are found among us the existence of Nothing is the greatest.

Among the great things which are to be found among us, the being of nothingness is the greatest.

An arch consists of two weaknesses which, leaning one against the other, make a strength.

An artist who lacks the power of self-criticism accomplishes but little. It is good if your work stands higher than your own opinion of it; bad if it is on the same level. But it is a great disaster if your work stands lower than your judgment of it.

An artist’s studio should be a small space because small rooms discipline the mind and large ones distract it.

An infinite number of men will sell publicly and unhindered things of the very highest price, without leave from the Master of it; while it never was theirs nor in their power; and human justice will not prevent it.

And you who wish to represent by words the form of man and all the aspects of his membrification, relinquish that idea. For the more minutely you describe the more you will confine the mind of the reader, and the more you will keep him from the knowledge of the thing described. And so it is necessary to draw and to describe.

Any color is more distinctly seen when opposed to its contrary: thus, black on white, blear near yellow, green near red, and so on.

Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.

Anyone who invokes authors in discussion is not using his intelligence but his memory.

Appetite is the support of life

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

Art is the queen of all sciences communicating knowledge to all the generations of the world.

Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom.

As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so a life well spent brings happy death.

As every divided kingdom falls, so every mind divided between many studies confounds and saps itself.

As regards this vice, we read that the peacock is more guilty of it than any other animal. For it is always contemplating the beauty of its tail, which it spreads in the form of a wheel, and by its cries attracts to itself the gaze of the creatures that surround it. And this is the last vice to be conquered.

As you cannot do what you want, Want what you can do

Ask advice of him who governs himself well.

Ask counsel of him who rules himself well.

average human “looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.

Avoid studies of which the result dies with the worker.

Avoid the precepts of those thinkers whose reasoning is not confirmed by experience.

Be a mirror, absorb everything around you and still remain the same

Be eager to lend a patient ear to the opinions of others and think long and hard whether whoever finds fault has reason or not to censure you. And if the answer is yes, correct the fault. If no, give the impression that you have not heard him, or if he is a man whom you respect, explain to him why he is mistaken.

Beauty perishes in life, but is immortal in art.

Being engulfed in practice without delicate knowledge related to it, is in many ways like entering a ship without knowing where it is headed.

Being willing is not enough. We must do.

Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness.

Black is like a broken vessel, which is deprived of the capacity to contain anything.

Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!

But to me all sciences seem vain and full of error that are not born of experience, mother of all certainty, and do not terminate in an actual experience.

Common Sense is that which judges the things given to it by other senses.

Constancy does not begin, but is that which perseveres.

Darkness is absence of light. Shadow is diminution of light.

Demetrius was wont to say that there was no difference between the words and speech of the unskilled and ignorant and the sounds and rumblings caused by the stomach being full of superfluous wind. This he said, not without reason, for, as he held, it did not in the least matter from what part of them the voice emanated, whether from the lower parts or the mouth, since the one and the other were of equal worth and importance.

Depth and strength of a human character are defined by its moral reserves.

Details make perfection, and perfection is not a detail.

Do not imitate one another’s style. If you do, so far as your art is concerned you will be called a grandson, rather than the son of Nature.

Do not reveal, if liberty is precious to you; my face is the prison of love.

Drawing is based upon perspective, which is nothing else than a thorough knowledge of the function of the eye.

Each man is always in the middle of the surface of the earth and under the zenith of his own hemisphere, and over the centre of the earth.

Envy wounds with false accusations, that is with detraction, a thing which scares virtue.

Especially learn how to see.

Even the richest soil, if left uncultivated will produce the rankest weeds.

Every action done by nature is done in the shortest way.

Every action needs to be prompted by a motive.

Every action needs to be prompted by a motive. To know and to will are two operations of the human mind. Discerning, judging, deliberating are acts of the human mind.

Every loss which we incur leaves behind it vexation in the memory, save the greatest loss of all, that is, death, which annihilates the memory, together with life.

Every man at three years old is half his height

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.

Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen.

Every obstacle is destroyed through rigor.

Every obstacle yields to stern resolve.

Every part is disposed to unite with the whole, that it may thereby escape from its own incompleteness.

Everything comes from everything, and everything is made out of everything, and everything returns into everything.

Everything proceeds from everything else and everything becomes everything, and everything can be turned into everything else.

Experience does not err. Only your judgments err by expecting from her what is not in her power.

Experience does not ever err; it is only your judgment that errs in promising itself results which are not caused by your experiments

Experience is a truer guide than the words of others..

Experience never errs; it is only your judgments that err by promising themselves effects such as are not caused by your experiments.

Experience never misleads; what you are misled by is only your judgment, and this misleads you by anticipating results from experience of a kind that is not produced by your experiments.

Experience, the interpreter between creative nature and the human race, teaches the action of nature among mortals: how under the constraint of necessity she cannot act otherwise than as reason, who steers her helm, teaches her to act.

Experiment is the sole interpreter of the artifices of Nature.

Fame alone raises herself to Heaven, because virtuous things are in favour with God.

Fear arises sooner than anything else.

Fear or timidity is the prolongation of life, and

Feathers shall raise men even as they do birds towards heaven :- That is by letters written with their quills.

Fire destroys all sophistry, that is deceit; and maintains truth alone, that is gold.

Fire destroys falsehood, that is sophistry, and restores truth, driving out darkness.

Fire is to represent truth because it destroys all sophistry and lies; and the mask is for lying and falsehood which conceal truth.

First study the science, and then practice the art which is born of that science.

Fix your course on a star and you’ll navigate any storm.

For in truth great love is born of great knowledge of the thing loved.

For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.

For those colours which you wish to be beautiful, always first prepare a pure white ground.

For youth, everything is sport.

For, verily, great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you little know it, you will be able to love it only little or not at all.

Fraud the preservation of its instruments.

Given the cause nature produces the effect in the briefest manner that it can employ.

God sells us all things at the price of labor.

Good culture is born of a good disposition; and since the cause is more to be praised than the effect, I will rather praise a good disposition without culture, than good culture without the disposition.

Good men by nature, wish to know. I know that many will call this useless work… men who desire nothing but material riches and are absolutely devoid of that of wisdom, which is the food and only true riches of the mind.

Good writing comes from good talent.

Great love is born of great knowledge of the thing that is loved, and if you do not know it, you can love it little or not at all.

Happy will be those who give ear to the words of the dead: – The reading of good works and the observing of their precepts.

Happy will they be who lend ear to the words of the dead.

Having wandered some distance among gloomy rocks, I came to the entrance of a great cavern … Two contrary emotions arose in me: fear and desire–fear of the threatening dark cavern, desire to see whether there were any marvelous things in it.

He only moves toward the perfection of his art whose criticism surpasses his achievement.

He turns not back who is bound to a star.

He who can copy can do.

He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.

He who despises painting has no love for the philosophy in nature.

He who does not oppose evil, commands it to be done.

He who does not oppose evil……commands it to be done.

He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.

He who does not understand the supreme certainty of mathematics is wallowing in confusion.

He who draws… ought to take his position so that the eye of the figure he is drawing is on a level with his own… because, generally, figures or people whom you meet in the streets all have their eyes at the same level as yours, and if you make them higher or lower you will find that your portrait will not resemble them.

He who fears dangers will not perish by them.

He who has access to the fountain does not go to the water-pot.

He who in reasoning cites authority is making use of his memory rather than of his intellect.

He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.

He who never puts his trust in any man will never be deceived.

He who possesses most must be most afraid of loss.

He who thinks little errs much.

He who truly knows has no occasion to shout.

He who walks straight rarely falls.

He who wishes to be rich in a day will be hanged in a year.

He who wishes to see how the soul inhabits the body should look to see how that body uses its daily surroundings. If the dwelling is dirty and neglected, the body will be kept by its soul in the same condition, dirty and neglected.

Here is a thing which the more it is needed the more it is rejected: and this is advice, which is unwillingly heeded by those who most need it, that is to say, by the ignorant.

Here is a thing which the more you fear and avoid it the nearer you approach to it, and this is misery; the more you flee from it the more miserable and restless you will become.

How many emperors and how many princes have lived and died and no record of them remains, and they only sought to gain dominions and riches in order that their fame might be ever-lasting.

How painting surpasses all human works by reason of the subtle possibilities which it contains.

Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.

I abhor the supreme folly of those who blame the disciples of nature in defiance of those masters who were themselves her pupils

I am never weary of being useful… In serving others I cannot do enough. No labor is sufficient to tire me.

I am not poor. Poor are those who desire many things.

I am not to blame for putting forward, in the course of my work on science, any general rule derived from a previous conclusion.

I am still hopeful. A falcon, Time. But the coincidence is probably accidental.

I awoke, only to see that the rest of the world is still asleep.

I have always felt it is my destiny to build a machine that would allow man to fly.

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing.

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

I have discovered that a screw-shaped device such as this, if it is well made from starched linen, will rise in the air if turned quickly.

I have found that, in the composition of the human body as compared with the bodies of animals, the organs of sense are duller and coarser. Thus, it is composed of less ingenious instruments, and of spaces less capacious for receiving the faculties of sense.

I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.

I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.

I have solved what color is, however ; I still have no idea about what line is.

I have wasted my hours.

I know very well that because I am unlettered some presumptuous people will think they have the right to criticize me, saying that I am an uncultured man. What stupid fools! Do they not know that I could reply to them as Marius did to the Roman patricians: “Do those who pride themselves on the works of other men claim to challenge mine?

I love this site. It was lovingly hand-shaped it. Your soul transformed this into this art. It was perfect. I have tried to create another equal to it… but to no avail, so I will just have to paint the Sistine Chapel.

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.

I love those who can smile in trouble.

I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand.

I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone, and why a bird sustains itself in the air.

I roamed the countryside searching for the answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plant and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it and why immediately on its creation the lightening becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot which has been struck by a stone and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engaged my thought throughout my life.

I say that in narrative paintings one should mingle direct contraries close by, because they produce strong contrasts with one another, and all the more so when they are very close together; that is, the ugly next to the beautiful, the big to the small, the old to the young, the strong to the weak; in this way you will vary as much as possible and close by.

I say that the power of vision extends through the visual rays to the surface of non-transparent bodies, while the power possessed by these bodies extends to the power of vision.

I shall do down in history as the man who opened a door!

I think it is no small attraction in a painter to be able to give a pleasing air to his figures, and whoever is not naturally possessed of this grace may acquire it by study, as opportunity offers in the following manner: be on the watch to take good parts of many beautiful faces of which the beautiful parts are established by general repute rather than by your own judgement, for you may deceive yourself by selecting faces that resemble your own, since it often seems that such similarities please us; … so therefore choose the beautiful ones as I tell you and fix them in your mind.

I wish to work miracles…

I woke up only to find the rest of the world asleep.

I would venture to affirm that a man cannot attain excellence if he satisfy the ignorant and not those of his own craft, and if he be not ‘singular’ or ‘distant,’ or whatever you like to call him.

I’m not contented to capture the world. I want to change it.

If a man has a tent made of linen of which the apertures have all been stopped up, and be it twelve bracchia across (over twenty-five feet) and twelve in depth, he will be able to throw himself down from any height without sustaining injury. [His concept of the parachute.]

If anyone wishes to see how the soul dwells in its body, let him observe how this body uses its daily habitation; that is to say, if this is devoid of order and confused, the body will be kept in disorder and confusion by its soul.

If on your own or by the criticism of others you discover error in your work, correct it then and there; otherwise in exposing your work to the public, you will expose your error also.

If the thing loved is base, the lover becomes base.

If we make mistakes in our first compositions and do not know them, we may not amend them.

If you are alone you belong entirely to yourself.

If you are alone you belong entirely to yourself. If you are accompanied by even one companion you belong only half to yourself or even less in proportion to the thoughtlessness of his conduct and if you have more than one companion you will fall more deeply into the same plight.

If you are on the side whence the wind is blowing you will see the trees looking much lighter than you would see them on the other sides; and this is due to the fact that the wind turns up the reverse side of the leaves which in all trees is much whiter than the upper side.

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 call painting dumb poetry, the painter may call poetry blind painting.

If you cause your ship to stop and place the head of a long tube in the water and place the outer extremity to your ear, you will hear ships at a great distance from you.

If you do not rest on the good foundation of nature, you will labour with little honor and less profit.

If you find from your own experience that something is a fact and it contradicts what some authority has written down, then you must abandon the authority and base your reasoning on your own findings.

If you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. Let us hope that.

If you put on more garments, the cold cannot reach you. Similarly, increase your patience and concentration and even great injuries cannot vex your mind.

If you throw a stone in a pond… the waves which strike against the shores are thrown back towards the spot where the stone struck; and on meeting other waves they never intercept each other’s course… In a small pond one and the same stroke gives birth to many motions of advance and recoil.

In an atmosphere of uniform density the most distant things seen through it, such as the mountains, in consequence of the great quantity of atmosphere which is between your eye and them, will appear blue. Therefore you should make the building… wall which is more distant less defined and bluer… five times as far away, make five times as blue.

In fact, whatever exists in the universe, in essence, in appearance, in the imagination, the painter has first in his mind and then in his hands … it lies in his power to create them . . .

In her (nature’s) inventions nothing is lacking and nothing is superfluous.

In life beauty perishes, but not in art.

In order to arrive at knowledge of the motions of birds in the air, it is first necessary to acquire knowledge of the winds, which we will prove by the motions of water in itself, and this knowledge will be a step enabling us to arrive at the knowledge of beings that fly between the air and the wind.

In rivers, the water that you touch is the last of what has passed and the first of that which comes; so with present time.

In the days of thy youth seek to obtain that which shall compensate the losses of thy old age.

In time and with water, everything changes.

In whatever system where the weight attached to the wheel should be the cause of motion of the wheel, without any doubt the center of the gravity of the weight will stop beneath the center of its axle. No instrument devised by human ingenuity, which turns with its wheel, can remedy this effect. Oh, speculators about perpetual motion, how many vain chimeras have you created in the like quest. Go and take you place with the seekers after gold.

Inaction saps the vigor of the mind.

Inequality is the cause of all local movements.

Instrumental or mechanical science is the noblest and above all others, the most useful.

Intellectual passion dries out sensuality.

Intellectual passion drives out sensuality.

Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.

Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation… even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

It is a far worthier thing to read by the light of experience than to adorn oneself with the labors of others.

It is an acknowledged fact that we perceive errors in the work of others more readily than in our own.

It is better to imitate ancient than modern work.

It is easier to contend with evil at the first than at the last.

It is ill to praise, and worse to blame, the thing which you do not understand.

It is no small benefit on finding oneself in bed in the dark to go over again in the imagination the main lines of the forms previously studied, or other noteworthy things conceived by ingenious speculation.

It is ordained that to the ambitious, who derive no satisfaction from the gifts of life and the beauty of the world, life shall be a cause of suffering, and they shall possess neither the profit nor the beauty of the world.

It is the infinite alone that cannot be attained, for if it could it would become finite.

It is useful to constantly observe, note, and consider.

It reflects no great honor on a painter to be able to execute only one thing well — such as a head, an academy figure, or draperies, animals, landscapes, or the like — in other words, confining himself to some particular object of study. This is so because there is scarcely a person so devoid of genius as to fail of success if he applies himself earnestly to one branch of study and practices it continually.

It reflects no great honour on a painter to be able to execute one thing well.

It seems that it had been destined before that I should occupy myself so thoroughly with the vulture, for it comes to my mind as a very early memory, when I was still in the cradle, a vulture came down to me, he opened my mouth with his tail and struck me a few times with his tail against my lips.

It should not be hard for you to stop sometimes and look into the stains of walls, or ashes of a fire, or clouds, or mud or like places, in which…you may find really marvellous ideas.

It vexes me greatly that having to earn my living has forced me to interrupt the work and to attend to small matters.

It’s easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.

It’s not enough that you believe what you see. You must also understand what you see.

Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so a well-employed life brings a blessed death.

Just as courage imperils life, fear protects it.

Just as courage is the danger of life, so is fear its safeguard.

Just as eating against one’s will is injurious to health, so studying without a liking for it spoils the memory, and it retains nothing it takes in.

Just as eating contrary to the inclination is injurious to the health, so study without desire sports the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.

Just as food eaten without appetite is a tedious nourishment, so does study without zeal damage the memory by not assimilating what it absorbs.

Just as iron rusts from disuse, and stagnant water putrefies, or when cold turns to ice, so our intellect wastes unless it is kept in use.

Just as iron rusts from disuse… even so does inaction spoil the intellect.

Just as iron which is not used grows rusty, and water putrefies and freezes in the cold, so the mind of which no use is made is spoilt.

King of the animals– as thou hast described him– I should rather say king of the beasts, thou being the greatest–because thou doest only help them, in order that they give thee their children for the benefit of the gullet, of which thou hast attempted to make a sepulchre for all animals; and I would say still more, if I were allowed to speak the entire truth…now does not nature produce enough simple (vegetarian) food for thee to satisfy thyself?

Knowledge … shall always bear witness like a clarion to its creator.

Knowledge of the past and of the places of the earth is the ornament and food of the mind of man.

Learn diligence before speedy execution.

Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.

Learning acquired in youth arrests the evil of old age.

Learning acquired in youth arrests the evil of old age; and if you understand that old age has wisdom for its food, you will so conduct yourself in youth that your old age will not lack for nourishment.

Learning is the only thing that never disappoints us.

Learning is the only thing the mind never exhausts, never fears, and never regrets.

Learning never exhausts the mind.

Let no man who is not a Mathematician read the elements of my work.

Let not your rage or malice destroy a life.

Let proportion be found not only in numbers and measures, but also in sounds, weights, times, and positions, and what ever force there is.

Let the painter composing narrative pictures take pleasure in wealth and variety, and avoid repeating any part that occurs in it, so that the uniqueness and abundance attract people to it and delight the eye of the observer. I say that a narrative painting requires (depending on the scene), wherever the eye falls, a mixture of men of diverse appearances, of diverse ages and dress, combined together with women, children, dogs, horses, buildings, fields, and hills.

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works.

Life well spent is long.

life without love, is no life at all

Life, when is spent well, is long.

Look at light and admire its beauty. Close your eyes, and then look again: what you saw is no longer there; and what you will see later is not yet.

Love shows itself more in adversity than in prosperity; as light does, which shines most where the place is darkest.

Love, Fear, and Esteem, – Write these on three stones.

Lust is the cause of generation

Lying on a feather mattress or quilt will not bring you renown.

Make an effort to collect the good features from many beautiful faces.

Make your faces so that they do not all have the same expression, as one sees with most painters, but give them different expression, according to age, complexion, and good or bad character.

Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose

Make yourself a master of perspective, then acquire perfect knowledge of the proportions of men and other animals.

Man and animals are in reality vehicles and conduits of food, tombs of animals, hostels of Death, coverings that consume, deriving life by the death of others.

Man and the animals are merely a passage and channel for food, a tomb for other animals, a haven for the dead, giving life by the death of others, a coffer full of corruption.

Man has much power of discourse which for the most part is vain and false; animals have but little, but it is useful and true, and a small truth is better than a great lie.

Man’s external form, marvellously constructed, is not much as compared with the divine soul that dwells inside that structure.

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.

Many have made a trade of delusions and false miracles, deceiving the stupid multitudes.

Many will be busied in taking away from a thing, which will grow in proportion as it is diminished.

Many will think they may reasonably blame me by alleging that my proofs are opposed to the authority of certain men held in the highest reverence by their inexperienced judgments; not considering that my works are the issue of pure and simple experience.

Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.

Mechanics is the paradise of the mathematical sciences because by means of it one comes to the fruits of mathematics.

Medicine is the restoration of discordant elements.

Medicine is the restoration of discordant elements; sickness is the discord of the elements infused into the living body.

Men and words are ready made, and you, O Painter, if you do not know how to make your figures move, are like an orator who knows not how to use his words.

Men born in hot countries love the night because it refreshes them and have a horror of light because it burns them.

Men of genius sometimes accomplish most when they work least, for they are thinking out inventions.

Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work least, for their minds are occupied with their ideas and the perfection of their conceptions, to which they afterwards give form.

Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are most active.

Men standing in opposite hemispheres will converse and deride each other and embrace each other, and understand each other’s language.

Men wrongly lament the flight of time, blaming it for being too swift; they do not perceive that its passage is sufficiently long, but a good memory, which nature has given to us, causes things long past to seem present.

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Most men are of naught more use in their lives but as machines for turning food into sh*t.

Motion is created by the destruction of balance.

Movement will fail sooner than usefulness.

Music may be called the sister of painting, for she is dependent upon hearing, the sense which comes second and her harmony is composed of the union of proportional parts sounded simultaneously, rising and falling in one or more harmonic rhythms.

Music… is the shaping of the invisible.

My body is not a tomb for animals.

My body will not be a tomb for other creatures.

My works are the issue of simple and plain experience which is the true mistress.

Nature alone is the master of true genius.

Nature appears to have been the cruel stepmother rather than the mother of many animals.

Nature has placed in the front part of man, as he moves, all those parts which when struck cause him to feel pain; and this is felt in the joints of the legs, the forehead and the nose, and has been so devised for the preservation of man, because if such pain were not felt in these limbs they would be destroyed by the many blows they receive.

Nature is constrained by the cause of her laws which dwell inborn in her. Variant: Nature is constrained by the order of her own law which lives and works within her.

Nature is full of infinite causes that have never occurred in experience.

Nature is so delightful and abundant in its variations that there would not be one that resembles another, and not only plants as a whole, but among their branches, leaves and fruit, will not be found one which is precisely like another.

Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.

Nature never breaks her own laws.

Nature varies the seed according to the variety of the things she desires to produce in the world.

Necessity is a guardian in Nature.

Necessity is the mistress and guide of nature.

Necessity is the mistress and guide of nature. Necessity is the theme and inventress of nature, her curb and her eternal law.

Never make heads straight on the shoulders, but turn them aside to the right or to the left, even though they look down, or upward, or straight ahead, because it is necessary for them to look lively and awake and not asleep. And do not depict the front or rear half of the whole person so that too much straightness is displaced, one half above or below the other half; and if you should wish to use stiff figures, do so only in portraying old people.

No human investigation can be called real science if it cannot be demonstrated mathematically.

No human investigation can claim to be scientific if it doesn’t pass the test of mathematical proof.

No one should ever imitate the style of another because, with regard to art, he will be called a nephew and not a child of nature.

Not to anticipate is already to moan.

Not to appreciate life, all of life, is not to deserve it.

Not to punish evil is equivalent to authorizing it.

Nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first known.

Nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first understood.

Nothing is hidden under the sun.

Nothing is more apt to deceive us than our own judgment of our work. We derive more benefit from having our faults pointed out by our enemies than from hearing the opinions of friends.

Nothing is so much to be feared as Evil Report.

Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.

Nothing will be left, Nothing in the air, nothing under the earth, nothing in the waters. All will be exterminated.

Now do you not see that the eye embraces the beauty of the whole world? It counsels and corrects all the arts of mankind… it is the prince of mathematics, and the sciences founded on it are absolutely certain. It has measured the distances and sizes of the stars it has discovered the elements and their location… it has given birth to architecture and to perspective and to the divine art of painting.

O admirable necessity! O powerful action! What mind can penetrate your nature? What language can express this marvel? None, to be sure. This is where human discourse turns toward the contemplation of the divine.

O Lord, thou givest us everything, at the price of an effort.

O mighty and once living instrument of formative nature. Incapable of availing thyself of thy vast strength thou hast to abandon a life of stillness and to obey the law which God and time gave to procreative nature.

O neglectful Nature, wherefore art thou thus partial, becoming to some of thy children a tender and benignant mother, to others a most cruel and ruthless stepmother? I see thy children given into slavery to others without ever receiving any benefit, and in lieu of any reward for the services they have done for them they are repaid by the severest punishments.

O painter skilled in anatomy, beware lest the undue prominence of the bones, sinews and muscles cause you to become a wooden painter from the desire to make your nude figures reveal all.

O painter, take care lest the greed for gain prove a stronger incentive than renown in art, for to gain this renown is a far greater thing than is the renown of riches.

O sleepers! what a thing is slumber! Sleep resembles death. Ah, why then dost thou not work in such wise as that after death thou mayst retain a resemblance to perfect life, when, during life, thou art in sleep so like to the hapless dead?

O speculators about perpetual motion, how many vain chimeras have you created in the like quest? Go and take your place with the seekers after gold.

O Time with your teethy years! You swallow up all things little by little in a slow-motion, wrinkling process of dying.

O Time! consumer of all things; O envious age! thou dost destroy all things and devour all things with the relentless teeth of years, little by little in a slow death. Helen, when she looked in her mirror, seeing the withered wrinkles made in her face by old age, wept and wondered why she had twice been carried away.

O time! swift devourer of all created things!

O time, swift robber of all created things, how many kings, how many nations hast thou undone, and how many changes of states and of various events have happened since the wondrous forms of this fish perished here in this cavernous and winding recess. Now destroyed by time thou liest patiently in this confined space with bones stripped and bare; serving as a support and prop for the superimposed mountain.

Obstacles cannot bend me. Every obstacle yields to effort.

Obstacles cannot crush me, every obstacle yields to stern resolve.

Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.

Of several bodies all equally larger and distant, that most brightly illuminated will appear to the eye nearest and largest.

Of several bodies, all equally large and equally distant, that which is most brightly illuminated will appear to the eye nearest and largest.

Of the four elements water is the second in weight and the second in respect of mobility. It is never at rest until it unites with the sea.

Of the horse I will say nothing because I know the times.

Of the original phenomena, light is the most enthralling.

Oh Lord, thou givest us everything, at the price of an effort.

Oh! how foul a thing, that we should see the tongue of one animal in the guts of another.

Oh! Speculators on things, boast not of knowing the things that nature ordinarily brings about; but rejoice if you know the end of those things which you yourself device.

Old age takes in part savoury wisdom for its food – see to that your old age will not lack in nourishment.

once you have tasted the taste of sky, you will forever look up

One can have no more mastery over the environment, than one has over himself.

One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.

One day the world will look upon research upon animals as it now looks upon research on human beings.

One has no right to love or hate anything if one has not acquired a thorough knowledge of its nature.

One has no right to love or hate anything if one has not acquired a thorough knowledge of its nature. Great love springs from great knowledge of the beloved object, and if you know it but little you will be able to love it only a little or not at all.

One painter ought never to imitate the manner of any other; because in that case he cannot be called the child of nature, but the grandchild. It is always best to have recourse to nature, which is replete with such abundance of objects, than to the productions of other masters, who learnt everything from her.

One shall be born from small beginnings which will rapidly become vast. This will respect no created thing, rather will it, by its power, transform almost every thing from its own nature into another.

One’s thoughts turn towards Hope.

Our body is dependent on heaven and heaven on the Spirit.

Our life is made by the death of others.

Oysters open completely when the moon is full; and when the crab sees one it throws a piece of stone or seaweed into it and the oyster cannot close again so that it serves the crab for meat. Such is the fate of him who opens his mouth too much and thereby puts himself at the mercy of the listener.

Painting embraces and contains within itself all the things which nature produces or which results from the fortuitous actions of men… he is but a poor master who makes only a single figure well.

Painting is concerned with all the 10 attributes of sight; which are: Darkness, Light, Solidity and Colour, Form and Position, Distance and Propinquity, Motion and Rest.

Painting is concerned with the ten things you can see: these are darkness and brightness, substance and color, form and place, remoteness and nearness, movement and rest.

Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.

Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold.

Patience serves as a protection against wrongs as clothes do against cold. For if you put on more clothes as the cold increases, it will have no power to hurt you. So in like manner you must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.

Patience serves us against insults precisely as clothes do against the cold. For if you multiply your garments as the cold increases, that cold cannot hurt you; in the same way increase your patience under great offenses, and they cannot hurt your feelings.

People of higher talent work, even if they seem to do nothing

People reveal themselves completely only when they are thrown out of the customary conditions of their life.

People talk to people who perceive nothing, who have open eyes and see nothing; they shall talk to them and receive no answer; they shall adore those who have ears and hear nothing; they shall burn lamps for those who do not see..

Perspective is a most subtle discovery in mathematical studies, for by means of lines it causes to appear distant that which is near, and large that which is small.

Perspective is nothing more than a rational demonstration applied to the consideration of how objects in front of the eye transmit their image to it, by means of a pyramid of lines. The Pyramid is the name I apply to the lines which, starting from the surface and edges of each object, converge from a distance and meet in a single point.

Perspective is the rein and rudder of painting.

Perspective is to painting what the bridle is to the horse, the rudder to a ship.

Poetry is superior to painting in the presentation of words, and painting is superior to poetry in the presentation of facts. For this reason I judge painting to be superior to poetry.

Poor is the man who desires a lot

Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.

Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory.

Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses- especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.

Putting your hand into a river, you simultaneously touch the last of what is passing and the first of what is coming.

Realize that everything connects to everything else.

Reprove your friend in secret and praise him openly.

Savage is he who saves himself.

Science is the captain, and practice the soldiers.

Science is the observation of things possible, whether present or past; prescience is the knowledge of things which may come to pass, though but slowly.

Sculptured figures which appear in motion, will, in their standing position, actually look as if they were falling forward.

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

Shadow is the obstruction of light. Shadows appear to me to be of supreme importance in perspective, because, without them opaque and solid bodies will be ill defined; that which is contained within their outlines and their boundaries themselves will be ill-understood unless they are shown against a background of a different tone from themselves.

Shadows which you see with difficulty, and whose boundaries you cannot define… these you should not represent as finished or sharply defined, for the result would be that your work would seem wooden.

Simplicity is the best sophistication

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Slender certainty is better than portentous falsehood.

Small rooms and dwellings set the mind on the right path, large ones cause it to go astray.

Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.

Some promises and time disappoint us

Strive to preserve your health; and in this you will better succeed in proportion as you keep clear of the physicians, for their drugs are a kind of alchemy concerning which there are no fewer books than there are medicines.

Study me, reader, if you delight in me, because on very few occasions shall I return to the world, and because the patience for this profession is found in very few, and only in those who wish to compose things anew. Come, oh men, to see the miracles that such studies will disclose to nature.

Study the science of art and the art of science.

Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.

Such is the supreme folly of man that he labours so as to labour no more.

Supreme happiness will be the greatest cause of misery, and the perfection of wisdom the occassion of folly.

Surely when a man is painting a picture he ought not refuse to hear any man’s opinion… Since men are able to form a true judgement as to the works of nature, how much more does it behoove us to admit that they are able to judge our faults.

Tears come from the heart and not from the brain

Test knowledge through experience, be prepared to make mistakes, and be persistent about it.

That painter who has no doubts will achieve little.

That which can be lost cannot be deemed riches.

That which has no limitations, has no form.

The acquisition of knowledge is always of use to the intellect, because it may thus drive out useless things and retain the good. For nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first known.

The art of procreation and the members employed therein are so repulsive, that if it were not for the beauty of the faces and the adornments of the actors and the pent-up impulse, nature would lose the human species.

The artist sees what others only catch a glimpse of.

The Bactrian have two humps; the Arabian one only. They are swift in battle and most useful to carry burdens. This animal is extremely observant of rule and measure, for it will not move if it has a greater weight than it is used to, and if it is taken too far it does the same, and suddenly stops and so the merchants are obliged to lodge there.

The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.

The body of the earth is of the nature of a fish… because it draws water as its breath instead of air.

The bones of the Dead will be seen to govern the fortunes of him who moves them.

The Book of the science of Mechanics must precede the Book of useful inventions.

The boundaries of bodies are the least of all things.

The cat is nature’s masterpiece.

The color of the object illuminated partakes of the color of that which illuminates it.

The common sense is that which judges the things given to it by other senses.

The days are long enough for those who use them.

The deeper the feeling, the greater the pain.

The desire to know is natural to good men.

The discovery of a good wine is increasingly better for mankind than the discovery of a new star.

The divisions of Perspective are 3, as used in drawing; of these, the first includes the diminution in size of opaque objects; the second treats of the diminution and loss of outline in such opaque objects; the third, of the diminution and loss of colour at long distances.

The earth is moved from its position by the weight of a tiny bird resting upon it.

The evil which does me no harm is like the good which in no wise avails me.

The eye – which sees all objects reversed – retains the images for some time.

The eye encompasses the beauty of the whole world.

The eye is the window of the human body through which it feels its way and enjoys the beauty of the world.

The eye sees a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination awake.

The eye transmits its own image through the air to all the objects which face it, and also receives them on its own surface, whence the “sensus communis” takes them and considers them.

The eye which turns from a white object in the light of the sun and goes into a less fully lighted place will see everything as dark.

The eye, the window of the soul, is the chief means whereby the understanding can most fully and abundantly appreciate the infinite works of Nature; and the ear is second.

The faculty of imagination is both the rudder and the bridle of the senses.

The fame of the rich man dies with him; the fame of the treasure, and not of the man who possessed it, remains.

The first object of the painter is to make a flat plane appear as a body in relief and projecting from that plane

The first of all single colors is white … We shall set down white for the representative of light, without which no color can be seen; yellow for the earth; green for water; blue for air; red for fire; and black for total darkness.

The five senses are the ministers of the soul.

The fox when it sees a flock of herons or magpies or birds of that kind, suddenly flings himself on the ground with his mouth open to look as he were dead; and these birds want to peck at his tongue, and he bites off their heads.

The function of muscle is to pull and not to push, except in the case of the genitals and the tongue.

The good painter must paint two things: a person and the essence of his soul.

The grave will fall in upon him who digs it.

The great man presides over all his states of consciousness with obstinate rigor.

The greater the man’s soul, the deeper he loves.

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.

The greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less.

The human being, creature of eyes, needs the image.

The human bird shall take his first flight, filling the world with amazement, all writings with his fame, and bringing eternal glory to the nest whence he sprang.

The human foot is a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.

The imagination is to the effect as the shadow to the opaque body which causes the shadow.

The instant the atmosphere is illuminated it will be filled with an infinite number of images which are produced by the various bodies and colours assembled in it. And the eye is the target, a lodestone, of these images.

The knowledge of all things is possible

The knowledge of the past times and of the places of the earth is both an ornament and nutriment to the human mind.

The length of a man’s outspread arms is equal to his height.

The lie is so vile, that even if it were in speaking well of godly things, it would take off something from God’s grace; and Truth is so excellent, that if it praises but small things they become noble.

The light and heat of the universe comes from the sun, and its cold and darkness from the withdrawal of the sun.

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 so arranged as that every object shall cast a shadow on the ground of the same length as itself.

The limiting surface of one thing is the beginning of another.

The lover is drawn by the thing loved, as the sense is by that which it perceives.

The lover is moved by the beloved object as the senses are by sensual objects; and they unite and become one and the same thing. The work is the first thing born of this union; if the thing loved is base the lover becomes base.

The lover is moved by the thing loved, as the sense is by that which perceives, and it unites with it and they become one and the same thing… when the lover is united with the beloved it finds rest there; when the burden is laid down there it finds rest.

The Medici created and destroyed me.

The Medici made me and the Medici destroyed me.

The memory of benefits is a frail defence against ingratitude.

The men of experiment are like the ant; they only collect and use. But the bee…gathers its materials from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own.

The merit of painting lies in the exactness of reproduction. Painting is a science and all sciences are based on mathematics. No human inquiry can be a science unless it pursues its path through mathematical exposition and demonstration.

The mind of a painter should be like a mirror which is filled with as many images as there are things placed before him.

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.

The mind that engages in subjects of too great variety becomes confused and weakened.

The mole has very small eyes and it always lives under ground; and it lives as long as it is in the dark but when it comes into the light it dies immediately, because it becomes known;–and so it is with lies.

The moment has no time.

The moment is timeless.

The most beautiful words of love are told in silence for a look.

The most praiseworthy form of painting is one that most resembles what it imitates.

The motions of men must be such as suggest their dignity or their baseness.

The motive power is the cause of all life.

The natural desire of good men is knowledge.

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.

The organ of perception acts more readily than judgment.

The painter has the Universe in his mind and hands.

The painter must be solitary. For if you are alone you are completely yourself, but if you are accompanied by a single companion, you are only half yourself.

The painter or draftsman ought to be solitary, in order that the well-being of the body not sap the vigour of the mind.

The painter strives and competes with nature.

The painter who draws by practise and judgment of the eye without the use of reason is like the mirror which reproduces within itself all the objects which are set opposite to it without knowledge of the same.

The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies every thing placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.

The painter who has no doubt about his own ability will attain very little.

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.

The painter will produce pictures of little merit if he takes the works of others as his standard.

The painter’s mind is a copy of the divine mind, since it operates freely in creating the many kinds of animals, plants, fruits, landscapes, countrysides, ruins, and awe-inspiring places.

The part always has a tendency to reunite with its whole in order to escape from its imperfection.

The poet ranks far below the painter in the representation of visible things, and far below the musician in that of invisible things.

The senses are of the earth, the reason stands apart from them in contemplation.

The smallest feline is a masterpiece.

The soul can never be corrupted with the corruption of the body, but it is like the wind which causes the sound of the organ, and which ceases to produce a good effect when a pipe is spoilt.

The soul is content to stay imprisoned in the human body… for through the eyes all the various things of nature are represented to the soul.

The spirit desires to remain with its body, because, without the organic instruments of that body, it can neither act, nor feel anything.

The study of what is excellent is food for the mind and body.

The sun gives spirit and life to the plants and the earth nourishes them with moisture.

The supreme misfortune is when theory outstrips performance

The truth of things is the chief nutriment of superior intellects.

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.

The vine that has grown old on an old tree falls with the ruin of that tree, and through that bad companionship must perish with it.

The vivacity and brightness of colors in a landscape will never bear any comparison with a landscape in nature when it is illumined by the sun, unless the painting is placed in such a position that it will receive the same light from the sun as does the landscape.

The water which rises in the mountain is the blood which keeps the mountain in life.

The wisest and noblest teacher is nature itself.

The world wouldn’t be the world, without trouble.

The worst evil which can befall the artist is that his work should appear good in his own eyes.

The young man should first learn perspective, then the proportions of objects. Next, copy work after the hand of a good master, to gain the habit of drawing parts of the body well; and then to work from nature, to confirm the lessons learned.

There are four Powers: memory and intellect, desire and covetousness. The two first are mental and the others sensual. The three senses: sight, hearing and smell cannot well be prevented; touch and taste not at all.

There are many kinds of beauty as people who possess it.

There are many occasions when the muscles that form the lips of the mouth move the lateral muscles that are joined to them, and there are an equal number of occasions when these lateral muscles move the lips of this mouth, replacing it where it cannot return of itself, because the function of muscle is to pull and not to push except in the case of the genitals and the tongue.

There are three aspects to perspective. The first has to do with how the size of objects seems to diminish according to distance: the second, the manner in which colors change the farther away they are from the eye; the third defines how objects ought to be finished less carefully the farther away they are.

There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.

There is no doubt that truth is to falsehood as light is to darkness; and so excellent a thing is truth that even when it touches humble and lowly matters, it still incomparably exceeds the uncertainty and falsehood in which great and elevated discourses are clothed; because even if falsehood be the fifth element of our minds, notwithstanding this, truth is the supreme nourishment of the higher intellects.

There is no higher or lower knowledge, but one only, flowing out of experimentation.

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

There is no result in nature without a cause; understand the cause and you will have no need of the experiment.

There is nothing that deceives us more than our own judgment when used to give an opinion on our own works. It is sound in judging the work of our enemies but not that of our friends, for hate and love are two of the most powerfully motivating factors found among living things.

There is nothing which deceives us as much as our own judgement.

There shall be wings! If the accomplishment be not for me, ’tis for some other.

There shall be wings! If the accomplishment be not for me, ’tis for some other. The spirit cannot die; and man, who shall know all and shall have wings.

Therefore, O students, study mathematics and do not build without foundations.

Things severed shall be united and shall acquire of themselves such virtue that they shall restore to men their lost memory: – That is the papyrus sheets, which are formed out of several strips and preserve the memory of the thoughts and deeds of men.

Things that are separate shall be united and acquire such virtue that they will restore to man his lost memory.

Thirst will parch your tongue and your body will waste through lack of sleep ere you can describe in words that which painting instantly sets before the eye.

This work should commence with the conception of man, and should describe the nature of the womb, and how the child inhabits it, and in what stage it dwells there, and the manner of its quickening and feeding, and its growth, and what interval there is between one stage of growth and another, and what thing drives it forth from the body of the mother, and for what reason it sometimes emerges from the belly of its mother before the due time.

Those who are enamoured of practice without science are like a pilot who goes into a ship without rudder or compass and never has any certainty of where he is going. Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory.

Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going. Practice must always be founded on sound theory, and to this Perspective is the guide and the gateway; and without this nothing can be done well in the matter of drawing.

Those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, labor in vain.

Those who become enamoured of the art, without having previously applied to the diligent study of the scientific part of it, may be compared to mariners who put to the sea in a ship without rudder or compass and therefore cannot be certain of arriving at the wished for port.

Those who condemn the supreme certainty of mathematics feed on confusion, and can never silence the contradictions of the sophistical sciences which lead to eternal quackery.

Those who fall in love with practice without science are like a sailor who enters a ship without a helm or a compass, and who never can be certain whither he is going.

Those who, in debate, appeal to their qualifications, argue from memory, not from understanding.

Thou, O God, dost sell us all good things at the price of labor.

Though I may not . . . be able to quote other authors, I shall rely on that which is much greater and more worthy – on experience.

Though I may not, like them, be able to quote other authors, I shall rely on that which is much greater and more worthy — on experience.

Threats alone, are the weapons of the threatened man.

Time abides long enough for those who make use of it.

Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.

Time stays long enough for those who use it.

To any white body receiving the light from the sun, or the air, the shadows will be of a bluish cast.

To be a winner you must want to win but must know of the chance of losing and must not fear of it.

To discover the soul living in somebody’s body, we watch the surrounding of the body, and if it’s messy and disordered, so is the soul.

To enjoy – to love a thing for its own sake and for no other reason.

To lie is vile, to tell truth is excellent, if not noble.

To make a perfume, take some rose water and wash your hands in it, then take a lavender flower and rub it with your palms, and you will achieve the desired effect

To me it seems that those sciences are vain and full of error which are not born of experience, mother of all certainty, first-hand experience which in its origins, or means, or end has passed through one of the five senses.

To speak ill of a good person is not truly good, all in all.

To speak of this subject you must… explain the nature of the resistance of the air, in the second the anatomy of the bird and its wings, in the third the method of working the wings in their various movements, in the fourth the power of the wings and the tail when the wings are not being moved and when the wind is favourable to serve as guide in various movements.

To speak well of a base man is much the same as speaking ill of a good man.

To such an extent does nature delight and abound in variety that among her trees there is not one plant to be found which is exactly like another; and not only among the plants, but among the boughs, the leaves and the fruits, you will not find one which is exactly similar to another.

True and great love springs out of great knowledge, and where you know little you can love but little or not at all.

Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places.

Truth at last cannot be hidden. Dissimulation is of no avail. Dissimulation is to no purpose before so great a judge. Falsehood puts on a mask. Nothing is hidden under the sun.

Truth is so excellent, that if it praises but small things they become noble.

Truth was always but the daughter of time.

Truth was the only daughter of Time.

Very great charm of shadow and light is to be found in the faces of those who sit in the doors of dark houses. The eye of the spectator sees that part of the face which is in shadow lost in the darkness of the house, and that part of the face which is lit draws its brilliancy from the splendour of the sky. From this intensification of light and shade the face gains greatly in relief and beauty by showing the subtlest shadows in the light part and the subtlest lights in the dark part.

Virtue is our true wealth and the true reward of its possessor; it cannot be lost, it never deserts us until life leaves us.

Vitality and beauty are gifts of Nature for those who live according to its laws.

Vows begin when hope dies.

Water is the driving force of all nature.

We are deceived by promises and time disappoints us.

We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.

We know well that mistakes are more easily detected in the works of others than in one’s own.

We may call painting the grandchild of nature.

We might say that the earth has a spirit of growth; that its flesh is the soil, its bones the arrangement and connection of the rocks of which the mountains are composed, its cartilage the tufa, and its blood the springs of water.

We might say that the earth has the spirit of growth; that its flesh is the soil.

We must doubt the certainty of everything which passes through the senses, but how much more ought we to doubt things contrary to the senses, such as the existence of God and the soul.

We ought not to desire the impossible.

We should not desire the impossible.

We, by our arts may be called the grandsons of God.

Weight is caused by one element being situated in another; and it moves by the shortest line towards its centre, not by its own choice, not because the centre draws it to itself, but because the other intervening element cannot withstand it.

Weight, force and casual impulse, together with resistance, are the four external powers in which all the visible actions of mortals have their being and their end.

What induces you, oh man, to depart from your home in town, to leave parents and friends, and go to the countryside over mountains and valleys, if it is not for the beauty of the world of nature?

What is fair in men, passes away, but not so in art

Whatever you do in life, if you want to be creative and intelligent, and develop your brain, you must do everything with the awareness that everything, in some way, connects to everything else.

Whatever you think matters – doesn’t. Follow this rule, and you will add decades to your life. Rodger Rosenblatt As a well spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.

When counting, try not to mix chickens with blessings.

When Fortune comes, seize her in front with a sure hand, because behind she is bald.

When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.

When taking a selfie, remember the most natural pose is still best

When that which loves is united to the thing beloved it can rest there; when the burden is laid down it finds rest there. There will be eternal fame also for the inhabitants of that town, constructed and enlarged by him.

When the sun is covered by clouds, objects are less conspicuous, because there is little difference between the light and shade of the trees and the buildings being illuminated by the brightness of the atmosphere which surrounds the objects in such a way that the shadows are few, and these few fade away so that their outline is lost in haze.

When the thing taken into union is perfectly adapted to that which receives it, the result is delight and pleasure and satisfaction.

When you are alone you are all your own.

When you are painting you should take a flat mirror and often look at your work within it, and it will then be seen in reverse, and will appear to be by the hand of some other master, and you will be better able to judge of its faults than in any other way.

When you draw a nude, sketch the whole figure and nicely fit the members to it and to each other. Even though you may only finish one portion of the drawing, just make certain that all the parts hang together, so that the study will be useful to you in the future.

When you look at a wall spotted with stains…you may discover a resemblance to various landscapes, beautiful with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees. 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 figures.

When you put your hand in a flowing stream, you touch the last that has gone before and the first of what is still to come.

Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.

Where there is most feeling, there is the greatest martyrdom.

Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.

Wherever good fortune enters, envy lays siege to the place and attacks it; and when it departs, sorrow and repentance remain behind.

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.

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 behavior.

Who sows virtue ought to reap honour.

Who sows virtue reaps honor.

Who would believe that so small a space could contain the images of all the universe?

Whoever despises the high wisdom of mathematics nourishes himself on delusion and will never still the sophistic sciences whose only product is an eternal uproar.

Whoever does not respect life, does not deserve it.

Whoever in debate quotes authority uses not intellect, but memory.

Why are the bones of great fishes, and oysters and corals and various other shells and sea-snails, found on the high tops of mountains that border the sea, in the same way in which they are found in the depths of the sea?

Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?

Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than with the imagination being awake?

Why seek to embarrass [the artist] with vanities foreign to his quietness? Know you not that certain sciences require the whole man, leaving no part of him at leisure for your trifles?

Wisdom is the daughter of experience.

Wood feeds the fire which burns it.

You can have no dominion greater or less than that over yourself.

You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand.

You do ill to praise, but worse to censure, what you do not understand

You don’t get into trouble because of the things you don’t know. It is the things you don’t know you don’t know that really get you into a mess.

You grow in reputation like bread in the hands of a child.

You must grow in patience when you meet with great wrongs, and they will then be powerless to vex your mind.

You should look at certain walls stained with damp, or at stones of uneven color. If you have to invent some backgrounds you will be able to see in these the likeness of divine landscapes, adorned with mountains, ruins, rocks, woods, great plains, hills and valleys in great variety; and expressions of faces and clothes and an infinity of things which you will be able to reduce to their complete and proper forms. In such walls the same thing happens as in the sound of bells, in whose stroke you may find every named word which you can imagine.

You should often amuse yourself when you take a walk for recreation, in watching and taking note of the attitudes and actions of men as they talk and dispute, or laugh or come to blows with one another… noting these down with rapid strokes, in a little pocket-book which you ought always to carry with you.

You should prefer a good scientist without literary abilities than a literate one without scientific skills

You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself.

You will never have a greater or lesser dominion than that over yourself…the height of a man’s success is gauged by his self-mastery; the depth of his failure by his self-abandonment. …And this law is the expression of eternal justice. He who cannot establish dominion over himself will have no dominion over others.

Your brain is much better than you think; just use it!

Painting, Last Supper, Artwork, MuralPainting Last Supper Artwork Mural

The Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci

Quotes From WikiQuote

  • Painting is poetry which is seen and not heard, and poetry is a painting which is heard but not seen. These two arts, you may call them both either poetry or painting, have here interchanged the senses by which they penetrate to the intellect.
    • A Treatise on Painting (1651); “The Paragone”; compiled by Francesco Melzi prior to 1542, first published as Trattato della pittura by Raffaelo du Fresne (1651)
  • Oysters open completely when the moon is full; and when the crab sees one it throws a piece of stone or seaweed into it and the oyster cannot close again so that it serves the crab for meat. Such is the fate of him who opens his mouth too much and thereby puts himself at the mercy of the listener.
    • As quoted in The 48 Laws of Power (2000) by Robert Greene, p. 33

The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci (1883)

These quotes are primarily from the published edition of Jean Paul Richter (1883), as translated into English by Mrs. R. C. Bell and Edward John Poynter

I Prolegomena and General Introduction to the Book on Painting

  • Let no man who is not a Mathematician read the elements of my work.
  • As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.
  • Life well spent is long.
  • Tristo é lo discepolo che non avanza il suo maestro.
  • Tristo è quel discepolo che non avanza il suo maestro. (Modern Italian)
    • Poor is the pupil that does not surpass his master.
  • Shun those studies in which the work that results dies with the worker.
  • Whoever in discussion adduces authority uses not intellect but rather memory.
    • Variant translations:
    • Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.
      • As quoted in The Book of Unusual Quotations (1957) by Rudolf Flesch, p. 12
    • Any one who in discussion relies upon authority uses, not his understanding, but rather his memory.
  • Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.
  • It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
  • Necessity is the mistress and guardian of Nature.
  • Human subtlety…will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.
    • Richter II p. 126 no. 837 books.google
  • Mechanics is the paradise of the mathematical sciences because by means of it one comes to the fruits of mathematics.
  • I am not to blame for putting forward, in the course of my work on science, any general rule derived from a previous conclusion.
  • The Book of the science of Mechanics must precede the Book of useful inventions.
  • Seeing that I can find no subject specially useful or pleasing — since the men who have come before me have taken for their own every useful or necessary theme — I must do like one who, being poor, comes last to the fair, and can find no other way of providing himself than by taking all the things already seen by other buyers, and not taken but refused by reason of their lesser value. I, then, will load my humble pack with this despised and rejected merchandise, the refuse of so many buyers; and will go about to distribute it, not indeed in great cities, but in the poorer towns, taking such a price as the wares I offer may be worth.
  • I know that many will call this useless work.
  • Though I may not, like them, be able to quote other authors, I shall rely on that which is much greater and more worthy — on experience, the mistress of their Masters. They go about puffed up and pompous, dressed and decorated with [the fruits], not of their own labours, but of those of others. And they will not allow me my own. They will scorn me as an inventor; but how much more might they — who are not inventors but vaunters and declaimers of the works of others — be blamed.
  • Those men who are inventors and interpreters between Nature and Man, as compared with boasters and declaimers of the works of others, must be regarded and not otherwise esteemed than as the object in front of a mirror, when compared with its image seen in the mirror. For the first is something in itself, and the other nothingness. — Folks little indebted to Nature, since it is only by chance that they wear the human form and without it I might class them with the herds of beasts.
  • Many will think they may reasonably blame me by alleging that my proofs are opposed to the authority of certain men held in the highest reverence by their inexperienced judgments; not considering that my works are the issue of pure and simple experience, who is the one true mistress. These rules are sufficient to enable you to know the true from the false — and this aids men to look only for things that are possible and with due moderation — and not to wrap yourself in ignorance, a thing which can have no good result, so that in despair you would give yourself up to melancholy.
  • Among all the studies of natural causes and reasons Light chiefly delights the beholder; and among the great features of Mathematics the certainty of its demonstrations is what preeminently (tends to) elevate the mind of the investigator. Perspective, therefore, must be preferred to all the discourses and systems of human learning. In this branch [of science] the beam of light is explained on those methods of demonstration which form the glory not so much of Mathematics as of Physics and are graced with the flowers of both.
  • If the Lord — who is the light of all things — vouchsafe to enlighten me, I will treat of Light; wherefore I will divide the present work into 3 Parts… Linear Perspective, The Perspective of Colour, The Perspective of Disappearance.
  • These rules are of use only in correcting the figures; since every man makes some mistakes in his first compositions and he who knows them not, cannot amend them. But you, knowing your errors, will correct your works and where you find mistakes amend them, and remember never to fall into them again. But if you try to apply these rules in composition you will never make an end, and will produce confusion in your works.
  • These rules will enable you to have a free and sound judgment; since good judgment is born of clear understanding, and a clear understanding comes of reasons derived from sound rules, and sound rules are the issue of sound experience — the common mother of all the sciences and arts. Hence, bearing in mind the precepts of my rules, you will be able, merely by your amended judgment, to criticise and recognise every thing that is out of proportion in a work, whether in the perspective or in the figures or any thing else.
  • Those who are in love with practice without knowledge are like the sailor who gets into a ship without rudder or compass and who never can be certain whether he is going. Practice must always be founded on sound theory, and to this Perspective is the guide and the gateway; and without this nothing can be done well in the matter of drawing.
  • The painter who draws merely by practice and by eye, without any reason, is like a mirror which copies every thing placed in front of it without being conscious of their existence.
  • Here forms, here colours, here the character of every part of the universe are concentrated to a point; and that point is so marvellous a thing … Oh! marvellous, O stupendous Necessity — by thy laws thou dost compel every effect to be the direct result of its cause, by the shortest path. These are miracles…
    • Of the eye
  • The eye which turns from a white object in the light of the sun and goes into a less fully lighted place will see everything as dark.
  • The eye — which sees all objects reversed — retains the images for some time. This conclusion is proved by the results; because, the eye having gazed at light retains some impression of it. After looking (at it) there remain in the eye images of intense brightness, that make any less brilliant spot seem dark until the eye has lost the last trace of the impression of the stronger light.

II Linear Perspective

  • A point is not part of a line.
  • The smallest natural point is larger than all mathematical points, and this is proved because the natural point has continuity, and any thing that is continuous is infinitely divisible; but the mathematical point is indivisible because it has no size.
  • Nothing is that which fills no space. If one single point placed in a circle may be the starting point of an infinite number of lines, and the termination of an infinite number of lines, there must be an infinite number of points separable from this point, and these when reunited become one again; whence it follows that the part may be equal to the whole.
  • The point, being indivisible, occupies no space. That which occupies no space is nothing. The limiting surface of one thing is the beginning of another.
  • That which has no limitations, has no form. The limitations of two conterminous bodies are interchangeably the surface of each. All the surfaces of a body are not parts of that body.
  • The line has in itself neither matter nor substance and may rather be called an imaginary idea than a real object; and this being its nature it occupies no space. Therefore an infinite number of lines may be conceived of as intersecting each other at a point, which has no dimensions and is only of the thickness (if thickness it may be called) of one single line.
  • The boundaries of bodies are the least of all things. The proposition is proved to be true, because the boundary of a thing is a surface, which is not part of the body contained within that surface; nor is it part of the air surrounding that body, but is the medium interposted between the air and the body, as is proved in its place.
  • Drawing is based upon perspective, which is nothing else than a thorough knowledge of the function of the eye. And this function simply consists in receiving in a pyramid the forms and colours of all the objects placed before it. I say in a pyramid, because there is no object so small that it will not be larger than the spot where these pyramids are received into the eye. Therefore, if you extend the lines from the edges of each body as they converge you will bring them to a single point, and necessarily the said lines must form a pyramid.
  • Perspective is nothing more than a rational demonstration applied to the consideration of how objects in front of the eye transmit their image to it, by means of a pyramid of lines. The Pyramid is the name I apply to the lines which, starting from the surface and edges of each object, converge from a distance and meet in a single point.
  • All objects transmit their image to the eye in pyramids, and the nearer to the eye these pyramids are intersected the smaller will the image appear of the objects which cause them.
  • The instant the atmosphere is illuminated it will be filled with an infinite number of images which are produced by the various bodies and colours assembled in it. And the eye is the target, a lodestone, of these images.
  • That the atmosphere attracts to itself, like a lodestone, all the images of the objects that exist in it, and not their forms merely but their nature may be clearly seen by the sun, which is a hot and luminous body. All the atmosphere, which is the all-pervading matter, absorbs light and heat, and reflects in itself the image of the source of that heat and splendor and, in each minutest portion, does the same. The north pole does the same as the lode stone shows; and the moon and the other planets, without suffering any diminution, do the same.
  • All bodies together, and each by itself, give off to the surrounding air an infinite number of images which are all-pervading and each complete, each conveying the nature, colour and form of the body which produces it.
  • Every body in light and shade fills the surrounding air with infinite images of itself; and these, by infinite pyramids diffused in the air, represent this body throughout space and on every side.
  • The body of the atmosphere is full of infinite radiating pyramids produced by the objects existing in it. These intersect and cross each other with independent convergence without interfering with each other and pass through all the surrounding atmosphere; and are of equal force and value — all being equal to each, each to all. And by means of these, images of the body are transmitted everywhere and on all sides, and each receives in itself every minutest portion of the object that produces it.
  • The air is filled with endless images of the objects distributed in it; and all are represented in all, and all in one, and all in each, whence it happens that if two mirrors are placed in such a manner as to face each other exactly, the first will be reflected in the second and the second in the first. The first being reflected in the second takes to it the image of itself with all the images represented in it, among which is the image of the second mirror, and so, image within image, they go on to infinity in such a manner as that each mirror has within it a mirror, each smaller than the last and one inside the other. Thus, by this example, it is clearly proved that every object sends its image to every spot whence the object itself can be seen; and the converse: That the same object may receive in itself all the images of the objects that are in front of it.
  • All objects project their whole image and likeness, diffused and mingled in the whole of the atmosphere, opposite to themselves. The image of every point of the bodily surface, exists in every part of the atmosphere. All the images of the objects are in every part of the atmosphere.
  • It is impossible that the eye should project from itself, by visual rays, the visual virtue, since, as soon as it opens, that front portion [of the eye] which would give rise to this emanation would have to go forth to the object and this it could not do without time. And this being so, it could not travel so high as the sun in a month’s time when the eye wanted to see it.
  • All the rays which convey the images of objects through the air are straight lines. Hence, if the images of very large bodies have to pass through very small holes, and beyond these holes recover their large size, the lines must necessarily intersect.
  • O neglectful Nature, wherefore art thou thus partial, becoming to some of thy children a tender and benignant mother, to others a most cruel and ruthless stepmother? I see thy children given into slavery to others without ever receiving any benefit, and in lieu of any reward for the services they have done for them they are repaid by the severest punishments.
  • The Medici created and destroyed me.

III Six books on Light and Shade

  • Shadow is not the absence of light, merely the obstruction of the luminous rays by an opaque body. Shadow is of the nature of darkness. Light is of the nature of a luminous body; one conceals and the other reveals. They are always associated and inseparable from all objects. But shadow is a more powerful agent than light, for it can impede and entirely deprive bodies of their light, while light can never entirely expel shadow from a body, that is from an opaque body.
  • Shadow is the diminution alike of light and of darkness, and stands between darkness and light.
  • A shadow may be infinitely dark, and also of infinite degrees of absence of darkness. The beginnings and ends of shadow lie between the light and darkness and may be infinitely diminished and infinitely increased. Shadow is the means by which bodies display their form. The forms of bodies could not be understood in detail but for shadow.
  • Shadow partakes of the nature of universal matter. All such matters are more powerful in their beginning and grow weaker towards the end, I say at the beginning, whatever their form or condition may be and whether visible or invisible. And it is not from small beginnings that they grow to a great size in time; as it might be a great oak which has a feeble beginning from a small acorn. Yet I may say that the oak is most powerful at its beginning, that is where it springs from the earth, which is where it is largest.
  • Darkness is absence of light. Shadow is diminution of light.
  • Light is the chaser away of darkness. Shade is the obstruction of light. Primary light is that which falls on objects and causes light and shade. And derived lights are those portions of a body which are illuminated by the primary light. A primary shadow is that side of a body on which the light cannot fall.
  • The eye can best distinguish the forms of objects when it is placed between the shaded and the illuminated parts.
  • The outlines and form of any part of a body in light and shade are indistinct in the shadows and in the high lights; but in the portions between the light and the shadows they are highly conspicuous.
  • A single and distinct luminous body causes stronger relief in the object than a diffused light; as may be seen by comparing one side of a landscape illuminated by the sun, and one overshadowed by clouds, and so illuminated only by the diffused light of the atmosphere.
  • The body which is nearest to the light casts the largest shadow, and why? If an object placed in front of a single light is very close to it you will see that it casts a very large shadow on the opposite wall, and the farther you remove the object from the light the smaller will the image of the shadow become.
  • 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.
  • 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.

IV Perspective of Disappearance

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 fogs.
  • 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.
  • A luminous body will appear more brilliant in proportion as it is surrounded by deeper shadow.

VI Perspective of Colour and Aerial Perspective

  • 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.

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

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

VIII Botany for Painters and Elements of Landscape Painting

  • The sun gives spirit and life to plants and the earth nourishes them with moisture.

IX The Practice of Painting

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A picture or representation of human figures, ought to be done in such a way as that the spectator may easily recognise, by means of their attitudes, the purpose in their minds. Thus, if you have to represent a man of noble character in the act of speaking, let his gestures be such as naturally accompany good words; and, in the same way, if you wish to depict a man of a brutal nature, give him fierce movements; as with his arms flung out towards the listener, and his head and breast thrust forward beyond his feet, as if following the speaker’s hands. Thus it is with a deaf and dumb person who, when he sees two men in conversation — although he is deprived of hearing — can nevertheless understand, from the attitudes and gestures of the speakers, the nature of their discussion.
  • When you wish to represent a man speaking to a number of people, consider the matter of which he has to treat and adapt his action to the subject. Thus, if he speaks persuasively, let his action be appropriate to it. If the matter in hand be to set forth an argument, let the speaker, with the fingers of the right hand hold one finger of the left hand, having the two smaller ones closed; and his face alert, and turned towards the people with mouth a little open, to look as though he spoke; and if he is sitting let him appear as though about to rise, with his head forward. If you represent him standing make him leaning slightly forward with body and head towards the people. These you must represent as silent and attentive, all looking at the orator’s face with gestures of admiration; and make some old men in astonishment at the things they hear, with the corners of their mouths pulled down and drawn in, their cheeks full of furrows, and their eyebrows raised, and wrinkling the forehead where they meet.
  • The motions of men must be such as suggest their dignity or their baseness.
  • Represent your figures in such action as may be fitted to express what purpose is in the mind of each; otherwise your art will not be admirable.
  • What is fair in men, passes away, but not so in art.
  • If you condemn painting, which is the only imitator of all visible works of nature, you will certainly despise a subtle invention which brings philosophy and subtle speculation to the consideration of the nature of all forms — seas and plains, trees, animals, plants and flowers — which are surrounded by shade and light. And this is true knowledge and the legitimate issue of nature; for painting is born of nature — or, to speak more correctly, we will say it is the grandchild of nature; for all visible things are produced by nature, and these her children have given birth to painting. Hence we may justly call it the grandchild of nature and related to God.
  • The eye, which is called the window of the soul, is the principal means by which the central sense can most completely and abundantly appreciate the infinite works of nature; and the ear is the second, which acquires dignity by hearing of the things the eye has seen. If you, historians, or poets, or mathematicians had not seen things with your eyes you could not report of them in writing. And if you, O poet, tell a story with your pen, the painter with his brush can tell it more easily, with simpler completeness and less tedious to be understood. And if you call painting dumb poetry, the painter may call poetry blind painting. Now which is the worse defect? to be blind or dumb? Though the poet is as free as the painter in the invention of his fictions they are not so satisfactory to men as paintings; for, though poetry is able to describe forms, actions and places in words, the painter deals with the actual similitude of the forms, in order to represent them. Now tell me which is the nearer to the actual man: the name of man or the image of the man. The name of man differs in different countries, but his form is never changed but by death.
  • The painter strives and competes with nature.

X Studies and Sketches for Pictures and Decorations

  • We, by our arts may be called the grandsons of God.
  • Obstacles cannot crush me. Every obstacle yields to stern resolve. He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.
  • Ivy is of longevity.
    • Variant: Ivy is [a type] of longevity.
  • Fire destroys falsehood, that is sophistry, and restores truth, driving out darkness.
  • Fire may be represented as the destroyer of all sophistry, and as the image and demonstration of truth; because it is light and drives out darkness which conceals all essences [or subtle things].
  • Fire destroys all sophistry, that is deceit; and maintains truth alone, that is gold.
  • Truth at last cannot be hidden. Dissimulation is of no avail. Dissimulation is to no purpose before so great a judge. Falsehood puts on a mask. Nothing is hidden under the sun.
  • Fire is to represent truth because it destroys all sophistry and lies; and the mask is for lying and falsehood which conceal truth.
  • Movement will cease before we are weary of being useful.
  • Movement will fail sooner than usefulness.
  • When the sun appears which dispels darkness in general, you put out the light which dispelled it for you in particular for your need and convenience.
  • Constancy does not begin, but is that which perseveres.
  • Love, Fear, and Esteem, — Write these on three stones.
    • “Of servants”
  • Fame alone raises herself to Heaven, because virtuous things are in favour with God.
  • Disgrace should be represented upside down, because all her deeds are contrary to God and tend to hell.
  • Nothing is so much to be feared as Evil Report.
  • I am still hopeful. A falcon, Time. But the coincidence is probably accidental.
  • Truth here makes Falsehood torment lying tongues.
  • Such as harm is when it hurts me not, is good which avails me not.
  • He who offends others, does not secure himself.
  • One’s thoughts turn towards Hope.
    • By the side of this passage is a sketch of a cage with a bird sitting in it.

XI The Notes on Sculpture

  • If you wish to make a figure in marble, first make one of clay, and when you have finished it, let it dry and place it in a case which should be large enough, after the figure is taken out of it, to receive also the marble, from which you intend to reveal the figure in imitation of the one in clay.
  • Sculptured figures which appear in motion, will, in their standing position, actually look as if they were falling forward.
  • To manage the large mould make a model of the small mould, make a small room in proportion.
  • Of the horse I will say nothing because I know the times.
    • This relates to a huge equestrian statue that Leonardo had been commissioned to design and create, but which was not cast until over 500 years later, in 1999, when two huge statues based upon his design were finally made. (c.1497)

XIV Anatomy, Zoology and Physiology

  • The Common Sense, is that which judges of things offered to it by the other senses. The ancient speculators have concluded that that part of man which constitutes his judgment is caused by a central organ to which the other five senses refer everything by means of impressibility; and to this centre they have given the name Common Sense. And they say that this Sense is situated in the centre of the head between Sensation and Memory. And this name of Common Sense is given to it solely because it is the common judge of all the other five senses i.e. Seeing, Hearing, Touch, Taste and Smell. This Common Sense is acted upon by means of Sensation which is placed as a medium between it and the senses. Sensation is acted upon by means of the images of things presented to it by the external instruments, that is to say the senses which are the medium between external things and Sensation. In the same way the senses are acted upon by objects. Surrounding things transmit their images to the senses and the senses transfer them to the Sensation. Sensation sends them to the Common Sense, and by it they are stamped upon the memory and are there more or less retained according to the importance or force of the impression.
  • Though human ingenuity may make various inventions which, by the help of various machines answering the same end, it will never devise any inventions more beautiful, nor more simple, nor more to the purpose than Nature does; because in her inventions nothing is wanting, and nothing is superfluous, and she needs no counterpoise when she makes limbs proper for motion in the bodies of animals. But she puts into them the soul of the body, which forms them that is the soul of the mother which first constructs in the womb the form of the man and in due time awakens the soul that is to inhabit it.
  • The soul seems to reside in the judgment, and the judgment would seem to be seated in that part where all the senses meet; and this is called the Common Sense and is not all-pervading throughout the body, as many have thought. Rather is it entirely in one part. Because, if it were all-pervading and the same in every part, there would have been no need to make the instruments of the senses meet in one centre and in one single spot; on the contrary it would have sufficed that the eye should fulfil the function of its sensation on its surface only, and not transmit the image of the things seen, to the sense, by means of the optic nerves, so that the soul — for the reason given above — may perceive it in the surface of the eye.
  • King of the animals — as thou hast described him — I should rather say king of the beasts, thou being the greatest — because thou hast spared slaying them, in order that they may give thee their children for the benefit of the gullet, of which thou hast attempted to make a sepulchre for all animals; and I would say still more, if it were allowed me to speak the entire truth . But we do not go outside human matters in telling of one supreme wickedness, which does not happen among the animals of the earth, inasmuch as among them are found none who eat their own kind, unless through want of sense.
  • Our life is made by the death of others.

XV Astronomy

  • The earth is not in the centre of the Sun’s orbit nor at the centre of the universe, but in the centre of its companion elements, and united with them. And any one standing on the moon, when it and the sun are both beneath us, would see this our earth and the element of water upon it just as we see the moon, and the earth would light it as it lights us.

XVI Physical Geography

  • And if you should say that the shells were carried by the waves, being empty and dead, I say that where the dead went they were not far removed from the living; for in these mountains living ones are found, which are recognisable by the shells being in pairs; and they are in a layer where there are no dead ones; and a little higher up they are found, where they were thrown by the waves, all the dead ones with their shells separated, near to where the rivers fell into the sea, to a great depth; like the Arno which fell from the Gonfolina near to Monte Lupo, where it left a deposit of gravel which may still be seen, and which has agglomerated; and of stones of various districts, natures, and colours and hardness, making one single conglomerate. And a little beyond the sandstone conglomerate a tufa has been formed, where it turned towards Castel Florentino; farther on, the mud was deposited in which the shells lived, and which rose in layers according to the levels at which the turbid Arno flowed into that sea. And from time to time the bottom of the sea was raised, depositing these shells in layers, as may be seen in the cutting at Colle Gonzoli, laid open by the Arno which is wearing away the base of it; in which cutting the said layers of shells are very plainly to be seen in clay of a bluish colour, and various marine objects are found there. And if the earth of our hemisphere is indeed raised by so much higher than it used to be, it must have become by so much lighter by the waters which it lost through the rift between Gibraltar and Ceuta; and all the more the higher it rose, because the weight of the waters which were thus lost would be added to the earth in the other hemisphere. And if the shells had been carried by the muddy deluge they would have been mixed up, and separated from each other amidst the mud, and not in regular steps and layers — as we see them now in our time.

XVII Topographical Notes

  • Men born in hot countries love the night because it refreshes them and have a horror of light because it burns them; and therefore they are of the colour of night, that is black. And in cold countries it is just the contrary.

XIX Philosophical Maxims. Morals. Polemics and Speculations.

  • I obey Thee Lord, first for the love I ought, in all reason to bear Thee; secondly for that Thou canst shorten or prolong the lives of men.
  • Thou, O God, dost sell us all good things at the price of labour.
  • O admirable impartiality of Thine, Thou first Mover; Thou hast not permitted that any force should fail of the order or quality of its necessary results.
  • Necessity is the mistress and guide of nature.
  • Necessity is the theme and the inventress, the eternal curb and law of nature.
  • In many cases one and the same thing is attracted by two strong forces, namely Necessity and Potency. Water falls in rain; the earth absorbs it from the necessity for moisture; and the sun evaporates it, not from necessity, but by its power.
  • Weight, force and casual impulse, together with resistance, are the four external powers in which all the visible actions of mortals have their being and their end.
  • Our body is dependent on heaven and heaven on the Spirit.
  • The motive power is the cause of all life.
  • O Man, who will discern in this work of mine the wonderful works of Nature, if you think it would be a criminal thing to destroy it, reflect how much more criminal it is to take the life of a man; and if this, his external form, appears to thee marvellously constructed, remember that it is nothing as compared with the soul that dwells in that structure; for that indeed, be it what it may, is a thing divine. Leave it then to dwell in His work at His good will and pleasure, and let not your rage or malice destroy a life — for indeed, he who does not value it, does not himself deserve it.
  • The part always has a tendency to reunite with its whole in order to escape from its imperfection.
  • Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than with the imagination being awake?
  • The senses are of the earth; Reason, stands apart in contemplation.
  • Every action needs to be prompted by a motive. To know and to will are two operations of the human mind. Discerning, judging, deliberating are acts of the human mind.
  • All our knowledge has its origin in our perceptions.
  • Science is the observation of things possible, whether present or past; prescience is the knowledge of things which may come to pass, though but slowly.
  • Experience, the interpreter between formative nature and the human race, teaches how that nature acts among mortals; and being constrained by necessity cannot act otherwise than as reason, which is its helm, requires her to act.
  • Wisdom is the daughter of experience.
  • Nature is full of infinite causes that have never occurred in experience.
  • Truth was the only daughter of Time.
  • Experience never errs; it is only your judgments that err by promising themselves effects such as are not caused by your experiments.
  • Experience does not err; only your judgments err by expecting from her what is not in her power. Men wrongly complain of Experience; with great abuse they accuse her of leading them astray but they set Experience aside, turning from it with complaints as to our ignorance causing us to be carried away by vain and foolish desires to promise ourselves, in her name, things that are not in her power; saying that she is fallacious. Men are unjust in complaining of innocent Experience, constantly accusing her of error and of false evidence.
  • Every instrument requires to be made by experience.
  • The man who blames the supreme certainty of mathematics feeds on confusion, and can never silence the contradictions of sophistical sciences which lead to an eternal quackery.
  • There is no certainty in sciences where one of the mathematical sciences cannot be applied, or which are not in relation with these mathematics.
  • Any one who in discussion relies upon authority uses, not his understanding, but rather his memory. Good culture is born of a good disposition; and since the cause is more to be praised than the effect, I will rather praise a good disposition without culture, than good culture without the disposition.
  • Science is the captain, and practice the soldiers.
  • Those who fall in love with practice without science are like a sailor who enters a ship without a helm or a compass, and who never can be certain whither he is going.
  • Now you see that the hope and the desire of returning home and to one’s former state is like the moth to the light, and that the man who with constant longing awaits with joy each new spring time, each new summer, each new month and new year — deeming that the things he longs for are ever too late in coming — does not perceive that he is longing for his own destruction. But this desire is the very quintessence, the spirit of the elements, which finding itself imprisoned with the soul is ever longing to return from the human body to its giver. And you must know that this same longing is that quintessence, inseparable from nature, and that man is the image of the world.
  • O Time! consumer of all things; O envious age! thou dost destroy all things and devour all things with the relentless teeth of years, little by little in a slow death. Helen, when she looked in her mirror, seeing the withered wrinkles made in her face by old age, wept and wondered why she had twice been carried away.
  • O sleepers! what a thing is slumber! Sleep resembles death. Ah, why then dost thou not work in such wise as that after death thou mayst retain a resemblance to perfect life, when, during life, thou art in sleep so like to the hapless dead?
  • The knowledge of past times and of the places on the earth is both an ornament and nutriment to the human mind.
  • To lie is so vile, that even if it were in speaking well of godly things it would take off something from God’s grace; and Truth is so excellent, that if it praises but small things they become noble.
  • Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness; and this truth is in itself so excellent that, even when it dwells on humble and lowly matters, it is still infinitely above uncertainty and lies, disguised in high and lofty discourses; because in our minds, even if lying should be their fifth element, this does not prevent that the truth of things is the chief nutriment of superior intellects, though not of wandering wits. But you who live in dreams are better pleased by the sophistical reasons and frauds of wits in great and uncertain things, than by those reasons which are certain and natural and not so far above us.
  • Avoid studies of which the result dies with the worker.
  • Men are in error when they lament the flight of time, accusing it of being too swift, and not perceiving that it is sufficient as it passes; but good memory, with which nature has endowed us, causes things long past to seem present.
  • Learning acquired in youth arrests the evil of old age; and if you understand that old age has wisdom for its food, you will so conduct yourself in youth that your old age will not lack for nourishment.
  • The acquisition of any knowledge is always of use to the intellect, because it may thus drive out useless things and retain the good. For nothing can be loved or hated unless it is first known.
  • As a day well spent procures a happy sleep, so a life well employed procures a happy death.
  • The water you touch in a river is the last of that which has passed, and the first of that which is coming. Thus it is with time present.
  • Just as eating against one’s will is injurious to health, so studying without a liking for it spoils the memory, and it retains nothing it takes in.[1]
  • Just as iron rusts unless it is used, and water putrifies or, in cold, turns to ice, so our intellect spoils unless it is kept in use.
    • Variant: Just as iron rusts from disuse… even so does inaction spoil the intellect.
  • You do ill if you praise, and still worse if you reprove in a matter you do not understand.
  • It seems to me that men of coarse and clumsy habits and of small knowledge do not deserve such fine instruments nor so great a variety of natural mechanism as men of speculation and of great knowledge; but merely a sack in which their food may be stowed and whence it may issue, since they cannot be judged to be any thing else than vehicles for food; for it seems to me they have nothing about them of the human species but the voice and the figure, and for all the rest are much below beasts.
  • Some there are who are nothing else than a passage for food and augmentors of excrement and fillers of privies, because through them no other things in the world, nor any good effects are produced, since nothing but full privies results from them.
  • The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.
  • Blind ignorance misleads us thus and delights with the results of lascivious joys. Because it does not know the true light. Because it does not know what is the true light. Vain splendour takes from us the power of being …. behold! for its vain splendour we go into the fire, thus blind ignorance does mislead us. That is, blind ignorance so misleads us that… O! wretched mortals, open your eyes.
  • That is not riches, which may be lost; virtue is our true good and the true reward of its possessor. That cannot be lost; that never deserts us, but when life leaves us. As to property and external riches, hold them with trembling; they often leave their possessor in contempt, and mocked at for having lost them.
  • Man has much power of discourse which for the most part is vain and false; animals have but little, but it is useful and true, and a small truth is better than a great lie.
  • He who possesses most must be most afraid of loss.
  • He who wishes to be rich in a day will be hanged in a year.
  • That man is of supreme folly who always wants for fear of wanting; and his life flies away while he is still hoping to enjoy the good things which he has with extreme labour acquired.
  • We ought not to desire the impossible.
  • Ask counsel of him who rules himself well.
  • Chi non punisce il male comanda che si faccia.
    • He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.
  • The grave will fall in upon him who digs it.
  • You can have no dominion greater or less than that over yourself.
  • Chi poco pensa, molto erra.
    • He who thinks little, errs much.
  • It is easier to contend with evil at the first than at the last.
  • Where there is most feeling, there is the greatest martyrdom.
  • The memory of benefits is a frail defence against ingratitude.
  • Reprove your friend in secret and praise him openly.
  • Be not false about the past.
  • Patience serves us against insults precisely as clothes do against the cold. For if you multiply your garments as the cold increases, that cold cannot hurt you; in the same way increase your patience under great offences, and they cannot hurt your feelings.
  • To speak well of a base man is much the same as speaking ill of a good man.
  • Envy wounds with false accusations, that is with detraction, a thing which scares virtue.
  • We are deceived by promises and time disappoints us…
  • Fear arises sooner than anything else.
  • Just as courage imperils life, fear protects it.
  • Threats alone are the weapons of the threatened man.
  • Wherever good fortune enters, envy lays siege to the place and attacks it; and when it departs, sorrow and repentance remain behind.
  • He who walks straight rarely falls.
  • It is bad if you praise, and worse if you reprove a thing, I mean, if you do not understand the matter well.
  • It is ill to praise, and worse to reprimand in matters that you do not understand.
  • The lover is moved by the beloved object as the senses are by sensual objects; and they unite and become one and the same thing. The work is the first thing born of this union; if the thing loved is base the lover becomes base.
  • When the thing taken into union is perfectly adapted to that which receives it, the result is delight and pleasure and satisfaction.
  • When that which loves is united to the thing beloved it can rest there; when the burden is laid down it finds rest there. There will be eternal fame also for the inhabitants of that town, constructed and enlarged by him.
  • The city will gain beauty worthy of its name and to you it will be useful by its revenues, and the eternal fame of its aggrandizement.
    • These notes were possibly written in preparation for a letter. The meaning is obscure.
  • To preserve Nature’s chiefest boon, that is freedom, I can find means of offence and defence, when it is assailed by ambitious tyrants, and first I will speak of the situation of the walls, and also I shall show how communities can maintain their good and just Lords.
  • The false interpreters of nature declare that quicksilver is the common seed of every metal, not remembering that nature varies the seed according to the variety of the things she desires to produce in the world.
  • Many have made a trade of delusions and false miracles, deceiving the stupid multitude. Pharisees — that is to say, friars.
  • It is true that impatience, the mother of stupidity, praises brevity, as if such persons had not life long enough to serve them to acquire a complete knowledge of one single subject, such as the human body; and then they want to comprehend the mind of God in which the universe is included, weighing it minutely and mincing it into infinite parts, as if they had to dissect it!
  • Oh! human stupidity, do you not perceive that, though you have been with yourself all your life, you are not yet aware of the thing you possess most of, that is of your folly? and then, with the crowd of sophists, you deceive yourselves and others, despising the mathematical sciences, in which truth dwells and the knowledge of the things included in them. And then you occupy yourself with miracles, and write that you possess information of those things of which the human mind is incapable and which cannot be proved by any instance from nature. And you fancy you have wrought miracles when you spoil a work of some speculative mind, and do not perceive that you are falling into the same error as that of a man who strips a tree of the ornament of its branches covered with leaves mingled with the scented blossoms or fruit.
  • The spirit has no voice, because where there is a voice there is a body, and where there is a body space is occupied, and this prevents the eye from seeing what is placed behind that space; hence the surrounding air is filled by the body, that is by its image.
  • In order to prove whether the spirit can speak or not, it is necessary in the first place to define what a voice is and how it is generated.
  • Every quantity is intellectually conceivable as infinitely divisible.
  • Amid the vastness of the things among which we live, the existence of nothingness holds the first place; its function extends over all things that have no existence, and its essence, as regards time, lies precisely between the past and the future, and has nothing in the present. This nothingness has the part equal to the whole, and the whole to the part, the divisible to the indivisible; and the product of the sum is the same whether we divide or multiply, and in addition as in subtraction; as is proved by arithmeticians by their tenth figure which represents zero; and its power has not extension among the things of Nature.
  • What is called Nothingness is to be found only in time and in speech. In time it stands between the past and future and has no existence in the present; and thus in speech it is one of the things of which we say: They are not, or they are impossible.
  • O mighty and once living instrument of formative nature. Incapable of availing thyself of thy vast strength thou hast to abandon a life of stillness and to obey the law which God and time gave to procreative nature.
    • Of the lightning in clouds.
  • O time, swift robber of all created things, how many kings, how many nations hast thou undone, and how many changes of states and of various events have happened since the wondrous forms of this fish perished here in this cavernous and winding recess. Now destroyed by time thou liest patiently in this confined space with bones stripped and bare; serving as a support and prop for the superimposed mountain.

XX Humorous Writings

  • The Caladrius is a bird of which it is related that, when it is carried into the presence of a sick person, if the sick man is going to die, the bird turns away its head and never looks at him; but if the sick man is to be saved the bird never loses sight of him but is the cause of curing him of all his sickness. Like unto this is the love of virtue. It never looks at any vile or base thing, but rather clings always to pure and virtuous things and takes up its abode in a noble heart; as the birds do in green woods on flowery branches. And this Love shows itself more in adversity than in prosperity; as light does, which shines most where the place is darkest.
  • The unicorn, through its intemperance and not knowing how to control itself, for the love it bears to fair maidens forgets its ferocity and wildness; and laying aside all fear it will go up to a seated damsel and go to sleep in her lap, and thus the hunters take it.
  • We see the most striking example of humility in the lamb which will submit to any animal; and when they are given for food to imprisoned lions they are as gentle to them as to their own mother, so that very often it has been seen that the lions forbear to kill them.
  • The cock does not crow till it has thrice flapped its wings; the parrot in moving among boughs never puts its feet excepting where it has first put its beak. Vows are not made till Hope is dead.
  • A man was desired to rise from bed, because the sun was already risen. To which he replied: “If I had as far to go, and as much to do as he has, I should be risen by now; but having but a little way to go, I shall not rise yet.”
  • First, of things relating to animals; secondly, of irrational creatures; thirdly of plants; fourthly, of ceremonies; fifthly, of manners; sixthly, of cases or edicts or quarrels; seventhly, of cases that are impossible in nature [paradoxes], as, for instance, of those things which, the more is taken from them, the more they grow. And reserve the great matters till the end, and the small matters give at the beginning.
  • Men will seem to see new destructions in the sky. The flames that fall from it will seem to rise in it and to fly from it with terror. They will hear every kind of animals speak in human language. They will instantaneously run in person in various parts of the world, without motion. They will see the greatest splendour in the midst of darkness. O! marvel of the human race! What madness has led you thus! You will speak with animals of every species and they with you in human speech. You will see yourself fall from great heights without any harm and torrents will accompany you, and will mingle with their rapid course.
    • Of dreams
  • There will be many who will eagerly and with great care and solicitude follow up a thing, which, if they only knew its malignity, would always terrify them. Of those men, who, the older they grow, the more avaricious they become, whereas, having but little time to stay, they should become more liberal.
  • Many will be busied in taking away from a thing, which will grow in proportion as it is diminished.
    • Of a ditch
  • Oh! how foul a thing, that we should see the tongue of one animal in the guts of another.
    • Of the Tongues of Pigs and Calves in Sausage-skins.
  • There will be great winds by reason of which things of the East will become things of the West; and those of the South, being involved in the course of the winds, will follow them to distant lands.
  • There will be many men who will move one against another, holding in their hands a cutting tool. But these will not do each other any injury beyond tiring each other; for, when one pushes forward the other will draw back. But woe to him who comes between them! For he will end by being cut in pieces.
  • That which was at first bound, cast out and rent by many and various beaters will be respected and honoured, and its precepts will be listened to with reverence and love.
  • One who by himself is mild enough and void of all offence will become terrible and fierce by being in bad company, and will most cruelly take the life of many men, and would kill many more if they were not hindered by bodies having no soul, that have come out of caverns — that is, breastplates of iron.
  • One shall be born from small beginnings which will rapidly become vast. This will respect no created thing, rather will it, by its power, transform almost every thing from its own nature into another.
    • “Of fire”
  • All the elements will be seen mixed together in a great whirling mass, now borne towards the centre of the world, now towards the sky; and now furiously rushing from the South towards the frozen North, and sometimes from the East towards the West, and then again from this hemisphere to the other.
    • “Of Water, which flows turbid and mixed with Soil and Dust; and of Mist, which is mixed with the Air; and of Fire which is mixed with its own, and each with each.”
  • Men standing in opposite hemispheres will converse and deride each other and embrace each other, and understand each other’s language.
    • “Of Hemispheres, which are infinite; and which are divided by an infinite number of Lines, so that every Man always has one of these Lines between his Feet.”
  • Many will there be who will give up work and labour and poverty of life and goods, and will go to live among wealth in splendid buildings, declaring that this is the way to make themselves acceptable to God.
  • An infinite number of men will sell publicly and unhindered things of the very highest price, without leave from the Master of it; while it never was theirs nor in their power; and human justice will not prevent it.
    • “Of Selling Paradise”
  • Animals will be seen on the earth who will always be fighting against each other with the greatest loss and frequent deaths on each side. And there will be no end to their malignity; by their strong limbs we shall see a great portion of the trees of the vast forests laid low throughout the universe; and, when they are filled with food the satisfaction of their desires will be to deal death and grief and labour and wars and fury to every living thing; and from their immoderate pride they will desire to rise towards heaven, but the too great weight of their limbs will keep them down. Nothing will remain on earth, or under the earth or in the waters which will not be persecuted, disturbed and spoiled, and those of one country removed into another. And their bodies will become the sepulture and means of transit of all they have killed.
    O Earth! why dost thou not open and engulf them in the fissures of thy vast abyss and caverns, and no longer display in the sight of heaven such a cruel and horrible monster.

    • “Of the Cruelty of Man”
  • There will be many which will increase in their destruction.
    • “The Ball of Snow rolling over Snow”
  • The East will be seen to rush to the West and the South to the North in confusion round and about the universe, with great noise and trembling or fury.
    • “In the East wind which rushes to the West”
  • The solar rays will kindle fire on the earth, by which a thing that is under the sky will be set on fire, and, being reflected by some obstacle, it will bend downwards.
  • Happy will they be who lend ear to the words of the Dead.
  • Men out of fear will cling to the thing they most fear.
  • Things that are separate shall be united and acquire such virtue that they will restore to man his lost memory.
    • Of papyrus
  • The bones of the Dead will be seen to govern the fortunes of him who moves them.
    • Of Dice
  • The vine that has grown old on an old tree falls with the ruin of that tree, and through that bad companionship must perish with it.
  • The ball of snow when, as it rolls, it descends from the snowy mountains, increases in size as it falls.
  • A vase of unbaked clay, when broken, may be remoulded, but not a baked one.
  • The image of the sun where it falls appears as a thing which covers the person who attempts to cover it.

XXI Letters. Personal Records. Dated Notes.

  • I have seen motions of the air so furious that they have carried, mixed up in their course, the largest trees of the forest and whole roofs of great palaces, and I have seen the same fury bore a hole with a whirling movement digging out a gravel pit, and carrying gravel, sand and water more than half a mile through the air.
  • Like a whirling wind which rushes down a sandy and hollow valley, and which, in its hasty course, drives to its centre every thing that opposes its furious course… No otherwise does the Northern blast whirl round in its tempestuous progress…
  • It vexes me greatly that having to earn my living has forced me to interrupt the work and to attend to small matters.
  • If you meet with any one who is virtuous do not drive him from you; do him honour, so that he may not have to flee from you and be reduced to hiding in hermitages, or caves or other solitary places to escape from your treachery; if there is such an one among you do him honour, for these are our Saints upon earth; these are they who deserve statues from us, and images…
  • May it please our great Author that I may demonstrate the nature of man and his customs, in the way I describe his figure.
  • This writing distinctly about the kite seems to be my destiny, because among the first recollections of my infancy, it seemed to me that, as I was in my cradle, a kite came to me and opened my mouth with its tail, and struck me several times with its tail inside my lips.
  • When I did well, as a boy you used to put me in prison. Now if I do it being grown up, you will do worse to me.
  • Tell me if anything was ever done.
    • This was written in his notebooks in despair of so many projects that were never completed.
  • Do not reveal, if liberty is precious to you; my face is the prison of love.
  • I ask at what part of its curved motion the moving cause will leave the thing moved and moveable.
  • If any man could have discovered the utmost powers of the cannon, in all its various forms and have given such a secret to the Romans, with what rapidity would they have conquered every country and have vanquished every army, and what reward could have been great enough for such a service! Archimedes indeed, although he had greatly damaged the Romans in the siege of Syracuse, nevertheless did not fail of being offered great rewards from these very Romans; and when Syracuse was taken, diligent search was made for Archimedes; and he being found dead greater lamentation was made for him by the Senate and people of Rome than if they had lost all their army; and they did not fail to honour him with burial and with a statue.
  • Reserve the great matters till the end, and the small matters give at the beginning.

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1938)

These quotes are from the English translation by Edward MacCurdy (1938)

I Philosophy

  • Every part is disposed to unite with the whole, that it may thereby escape from its own incompleteness.
  • The mind passes in an instant from east to west; and all the great incorporeal things resemble these very closely in speed.
  • While I thought I have been learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.
  • Intellectual passion drives out sensuality.
  • As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.
  • Where there is most power of feeling, there of martyrs is the greatest martyr.
  • Science, knowledge of the things that are possible present and past; prescience, knowledge of the things which may come to pass.
  • To enjoy—to love a thing for its own sake and for no other reason.
  • Life well spent is long.
  • Observe the light and consider its beauty. Blink your eye and look at it. That which you see was not there at first, and that which was there is there no more.
  • The water which rises in the mountain is the blood which keeps the mountain in life.
  • He who does not value life does not deserve it.
  • Nature is full of infinite causes which were never set forth in experience.
  • Wine is good, but water is preferable at table.
  • He who suffers time to slip away and does not grow in virtue the more one thinks about him the sadder one becomes. No man has a capacity for virtue who sacrifices honour for gain. Fortune is powerless to help one who does not exert himself. That man becomes happy who follows Christ. There is no perfect gift without great suffering. Our triumphs and our pomps pass away; gluttony and sloth and enervating luxury have banished every virtue from the world; so that as it were wandering from its course our nature is subdued by habit. Now and henceforth it is meet that you cure yourself of laziness. The Master has said that sitting on down or lying under the quilts will not bring thee to fame. He who without it has frittered life away leaves no more trace of himself upon the earth than smoke does in the air or the foam on the water.
    • p. 91

XVII Flight

  • Since the wings are swifter to press the air than the air is to escape from beneath the wings the air becomes condensed and resists the movement of the wings; and the motive power of these wings by subduing the resistance of the air raises itself in a contrary movement to the movement of the wings.
  • A bird makes the same use of wings and tail in the air as a swimmer does of his arms and legs in the water.
  • Every body that is moved continues to move so long as the impression of the force of its mover is retained in it, therefore the movement of this wing with violence… will come to move the whole bird with it until the impetus of the moved air has been consumed.
  • Remember that your bird should have no other model than the bat, because its membranes serve as an armour or rather as a means of building together the pieces of its armour, that is the framework of the wings.
  • If you take as your pattern the wings of feathered birds, these are more powerful in structure of bone and sinew because they are penetrable, that is to say the feathers are separated from one another and the air passes through them. But the bat is aided by its membrane, which binds the whole together and is not penetrated by the air.
  • You will perhaps say that the sinews and muscles of a bird are incomparably more powerful than those of a man… But the reply to this is that such great strength gives it a reserve of power beyond what it ordinarily uses…
  • Swimming upon water teaches men how birds do upon the air.
  • The air which is struck with most swiftness by the movable thing is compressed to the greatest degree in itself.
  • The function which the wing performs against the air when the air is motionless is the same as that of the air moved against the wings when these are without motion.
  • It is always the under side of the branches of any plant that show themselves to the wind which strikes it, and one leans against the other.
  • That part of the air which is nearest to the wing which presses on it, will have the greatest density.
  • The properties of the air are such that it may become condensed or rarefied.
  • No impetus created by any movement whatever can be immediately consumed, but if it finds an object which has a great resistance it consumes itself in a reflex movement.
  • Impetus is a power of the mover applied in a movable thing which causes the movable thing to move after it is separated from its mover.

XXIX Precepts of the Painter

  • Painting is concerned with all the ten attributes of sight, namely darkness and brightness, substance and colour, form and place, remoteness and nearness, movement and rest; and it is with these attributes that this my small book will be woven, recalling to the painter by what rules and in what way he ought by his art to imitate all things that are the work of nature and the adornment of the world.
  • Whenever you make a figure of a man or of some graceful animal remember to avoid making it seem wooden; that is it should move with counterpoise and balance in such a way as not to seem a block of wood.
  • I give the degrees of things seen by the eye as the musician does of the sounds heard by the ear.
  • When you have drawn the same thing so many times that it seems that you know it by heart try to do it without the model; but having a tracing made of the model upon a thin piece of smooth glass and lay this upon the drawing you have made without the model. …where you find that you have erred bear it in mind in order not to make the mistake again. …if you cannot procure smooth glass to make a tracing… take a piece of very fine parchment well oiled and then dried, and when you have used it for for one drawing you can wipe this out with a sponge and do a second.
  • Take a piece of glass of the size of a half sheet of royal folio paper, and fix it… between your eye and the object you wish to portray. Then move it away until your eye is two-thirds of a braccio away from the piece of glass, and fasten your head by means of an instrument in such a way as to prevent any movement of it whatsoever. Then close or cover up one eye, and with a brush or a piece of red chalk finely ground mark out on the glass what is visible beyond it; afterwards, copy it by tracing on paper from the glass, then prick it out upon paper of a better quality and paint it if you so desire, paying special attention to the aerial perspective.
  • If you wish to thoroughly accustom yourself to correct and good positions for your fingers, fasten a frame or a loom divided into squares by threads between your eye and the nude figure which you are representing, and then make the same squares upon the paper where you wish to draw the said nude but very faintly. You should then put a pellet of wax on a part of the network to serve as a mark which as you look at your model should always cover the pit of the throat, or if he should have turned his back make it cover one of the vertebrae of the neck. …The squares you draw may be as much smaller than those of the network in proportion as you wish your figure to be less than life size…
  • When you wish to see whether the general effect of your picture corresponds with that of the object represented after nature, take a mirror and set it so that it reflects the actual thing, and then compare the reflection with your picture, and consider carefully whether the subject of the two images is in conformity with both, studying especially the mirror. The mirror ought to be taken as a guide… you see the picture made upon one plane showing things which appear in relief, and the mirror upon one plane does the same. The picture is on one single surface, and the mirror is the same. …if you but know well how to compose your picture it will also seem a natural thing seen in a great mirror.
  • You know that in an atmosphere of uniform density the most distant things seen through it, such as the mountains, in consequence of the great quantity of atmosphere which is between your eye and them, will appear blue. Therfore you should make the building… wall which is more distant less defined and bluer. …five times as far away make five times as blue.
  • Painting embraces and contains within itself all the things which nature produces or which results from the fortuitous actions of men… he is but a poor master who makes only a single figure well.
  • Surely when a man is painting a picture he ought not refuse to hear any man’s opinion… Since men are able to form a true judgement as to the works of nature, how much more does it behoove us to admit that they are able to judge our faults. Therefore you should be desirous of hearing patiently the opinions of others, and consider and reflect carefully whether or no he who censures you has reason for his censure; and correct your work if you find that he is right, but if not, then let it seem that you have not understood him, or, in case he is a man whom you esteem, show him by argument why it is that he is mistaken.

XLV Prophecies

  • Happy will be those who give ear to the words of the dead:—The reading of good works and the observing of their precepts.
  • Feathers shall raise men towards the heaven even as they do the birds:—That is by the letters written by their quills.
  • Things severed shall be united and shall acquire of themselves such virtue that they shall restore to men their lost memory:—That is the papyrus sheets, which are formed out of several strips and preserve the memory of the thoughts and deeds of men.
  • Men will deal rude blows to that which is the cause of their life:—They will thrash the grain.
  • The wind which passes through the skins of animals will make men leap up:—That is the bagpipes, which cause men to dance.

Disputed

  • Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
    • No published occurrence of such an attribution has yet been located prior to one in Wisdom Through the Ages : Book Two (2003) by Helen Granat, p. 225; this was used as an early slogan at Apple Computer in 1984, but the earliest occurence yet located is in The Recognitions (1955) by William Gaddis, p. 457:
Stop being so God Damn humble … You know God damn well that … that humility is defiance … simplicity today is sophisticated … simplicity is the ultimate sophistication today.
  • Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.
    • No published occurrence of such an attribution has yet been located prior to one in Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre — Band 3 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Es ist nicht genug, zu wissen, man muß auch anwenden; es ist nicht genug, zu wollen, man muß auch tun.

Misattributed

  • Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.
    • This quotation was first used in print (and misattributed to Leonardo da Vinci) in a science fiction story published in 1975, The Storms of Windhaven. One of the authors, Lisa Tuttle, remembers that the quote was suggested by science fiction writer Ben Bova, who says he believes he got the quote from a TV documentary narrated by Fredric March, presumably I, Leonardo da Vinci, written by John H. Secondari for the series Saga of Western Man, which aired on 23 February 1965. Bova incorrectly assumed that he was quoting da Vinci. The probable author is John Hermes Secondari (1919-1975), American author and television producer.
  • I have from an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men.
    • Quoted allegedly “From da Vinci`s Notes” in Jon Wynne-Tyson: The Extended Circle. A Dictionary of Humane Thought. Centaur Press 1985, p. 65 books.google.
    • Actually the quote is not authentic but made up from a novel by Dmitri Merejkowski (w:Dmitry Merezhkovsky) entitled “The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci” (La Résurrecton de Dieux 1901), translated from Russian into English by Herbert Trench. G.P. Putnam’s Sons New York and London, The Knickerbocker Press. There, in Book (i.e. chapter) VI, entitled The Diary of Giovanni Boltraffio, one finds the following:
    • The master [Leonardo da Vinci] permits harm to no living creatures, not even to plants. Zoroastro tells me that from an early age he has abjured meat, and says that the time shall come when all men such as he will be content with a vegetable diet, and will think on the murder of animals as now they think on the murder of men (p. 226 books.google).
    • However, despite the quote’s false attribution, da Vinci was in fact a vegetarian.
  • Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else.
    • Quote is actually from Tom Peters: The Best Corporate Strategy? None, Of Course. Chicago Tribune July 11, 1994
  • I awoke, only to find that the rest of the world is still asleep.
    • This derives from a comment about him written by Sigmund Freud, in Leonardo Da Vinci (1916): He was like a man who awoke too early in the darkness, while the others were all still asleep.

Quotes about Leonardo

Sorted alphabetically by author or source
  • Studying Leonardo… will not only allow us to recognize his science as a solid body of knowledge. It will also show why it cannot be understood without his art, nor his art without the science.
    • Fritjof Capra, The Science of Leonardo (2007), Preface, p. xviii
  • For Leonardo, painting is both an art and a science…
    • Fritjof Capra, The Science of Leonardo (2007), Introduction, p. 3
  • Leonardo is the hamlet of art history whom each of us must recreate for ourselves.
    • Kenneth Clark, Leonardo da Vinci (1989)
  • He was like a man who awoke too early in the darkness, while the others were all still asleep.
    • Sigmund Freud, Leonardo Da Vinci (1916)
  • Much as Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance artists used the revelations of human anatomy to help them depict the body more accurately and compellingly, so, too, many contemporary artists may create new forms of representation in response to revelations about how the brain works.
    • Eric Kandel, The Age of Insight (2012)
  • Incredibly endowed both physically and mentally, he achieved greatness as a linguist, botanist, zoologist, anatomist, geologist, musician, sculptor, painter, architect, inventor, and engineer. Leonardo made quite a point of distrusting the knowledge that scholars professed so dogmatically. These men of book learning he described as strutting about puffed up and pompous, adorned not by their own labors but by the labors of others whose work they merely repeated… they did not deal with the real world.
    • Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972)
  • Leonardo did believe in the combination of theory and practice.
    • Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972)
  • Reading Leonardo one finds many statements suggesting that he was a learned mathematician and a profound philosopher who worked on the level of a professional mathematician. …To pass beyond observation and experience there was for him only one trustworthy road through deceptions and mirages—mathematics. …On the basis of such pronouncements, no doubt, Leonardo is often credited with being a greater mathematician than he actually was. When one examines Leonardo’s notebooks one realizes how little he knew of mathematics and that his approach was empirical and intuitive.
    • Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972)
  • What thinker has ever possessed the cosmic vision so insistently? He sought to establish the essential unity of structure of all living things, the earth an organism with veins and arteries, the body of a man a type of that of the world.
    • Edward MacCurdy, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci (1938)
  • The more the manuscripts of Leonardo are studied, the more one begins to see him not so much as a transcendent artist, but primarily as a man of science, whose skills and commissions as an artist and engineer enabled him to support his fascination with nature.
    • Sherwin B. Nuland, Leonardo Da Vinci (2000), p. 10