Saturday, August 11, 2007

Digital Da Vinci Drawings and Notebooks

Leonardo - self-portrait
drawing in red chalk
13 x 8.5" (33 x 21.6 cm)
Royal Library, Turin

Some 3,000 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci are to be digitalised and put online in a free, high resolution and searchable digital archive called e-leo (

At present papers produced by Leonardo da Vinci can be found in a number of different collections and only a few are available online. This new project will create the most extensive archive of Da Vinci papers anywhere in the world. I've listed a blog posts at the end which provides more information about it.

Works to be archived in this way, using European Union funding, include:
  • two collections of scientific and technical drawings - The Madrid Codices and The Codex Atlanticus
  • the Windsor folios held by the British Royal family
  • 12 notebooks from Institut de France
At the moment everything is in Italian but there are plans for forms and an index of the drawings to be made available in English before the end of 2007.

The Codex Leicester is owned by Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, who bought it at auction for $30.8 million in 1994, making it the most expensive book in the world.

The Wikipedia entry for Leonardo do Vinci has a very extensive set of references and links to other sources of information. Wikisource also has a wikicommons version of The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci which includes the following in Volume 1. The make interesting reading and I've included a couple of extracts about lustre and reflected colours.
Volume 1

* Preface
* I. Prolegomena and General Introduction to the Book on Painting
* II. Linear Perspective.
* III. Six books on Light and Shade.
* IV. Perspective of Disappearance.
* V. Theory of colours.
* VI. Perspective of Colour and Aerial Perspective.
* VII. On the Proportions and on the Movements of the Human Figure.
* VIII. Botany for Painters and Elements of Landscape Painting.
* IX. The Practice of Painting.
* X. Studies and Sketches for Pictures and Decorations.
Of Light and Lustre
The lights which are produced from the polished surface of opaque bodies will be stationary on stationary objects even if the eye on which they strike moves. But reflected lights will, on those same objects, appear in as many different places on the surface as different positions are taken by the eye.

Of Painting

The surface of every opaque body assumes the hues reflected from surrounding objects. The surface of an opaque body assumes the hues of surrounding objects more strongly in proportion as the rays that form the images of those objects strike the surface at more equal angles. And the surface of an opaque body assumes a stronger hue from the surrounding objects in proportion as that surface is whiter and the colour of the object brighter or more highly illuminated.

For those new to this blog I've also noted below the posts from last year which relate to Leonardo da Vinci and the exhibition of his drawings and notebooks at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Finally this is a slideshow and audio file from the Guardian Arts Online about that exhibition - in which you can clearly see some the sort of drawing and notebooks which will be archived.



Making A Mark said...

The problem about posting about Da Vinci is it brings all those people with a Da Vinci 'theory' out of the woodwork. It's very, very boring.

Comments about the topic of this post and only the topic of this post will be accepted for publication. All others will be deleted.

Casey Klahn said...

saw the Gates book in Seattle a number of years ago. Very exciting stuff. Do I recall that his paintings number very few, but his drawings are numerous?
Thanks for the heads up on the e-leo project.

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