Lionardo da Vinci

Color

Colour 

'Make the perspective of the colours so that it is not at variance with the size of any object, that is, that the colours lose part of their nature in proportion as the bodies at different distances suffer loss of their natural quantity.

OF COLOURS 

Of colours of equal whiteness that will seem most dazzling which is on the darkest background, and black will seem most intense when it is against a background of greater whiteness. 

Red also will seem most vivid when against a yellow background, and so in like manner with all the colours when set against those which present the sharpest contrasts. c.a. 184 v. c 

The more white a thing is the more it will be tinged with the colour of the illuminated or luminous object. c.a. 262 r. c 

But in the far distance that object will show itself most blue which is darkest in colour. c.a. 305 r. a 

Every object that has no colour in itself is tinged either entirely or 
in part by the colour [of the object] set opposite to it. This may be 
seen by experience, for every object which serves as a mirror is tinged 
with the colour of the thing that is reflected in it. And if the object 
which is in part tinged is white, the portion of it that is illumined by 
red will appear red, and so with every other colour whether it be 
light or dark. 

Every opaque object that is devoid of colour partakes of the colour 
of that which is opposite to it: as happens with a white wall. 

a 19 v. 
921 

 

922 COLOUR 

OF COLOUR AND FRAGRANCE 

Note how spirit (aequo, vite) collects in itself all the colours and 
scents of the flowers; and if you wish to make azure, put cornflowers 
and then wild poppies. b 3 v. 

[Of distant colour] 

The variation in the colours of objects at a great distance can only 
be discerned in those portions which are smitten by the solar rays. 

c 12 v. 

As regards the colours of bodies there is no difference at a great 
distance in the parts which are in shadow. c 13 r. 

A dark object will appear more blue when it has a larger amount of 
luminous atmosphere interposed between it and the eye, as may be 
seen in the colour of the sky. c 18 r. 

 

[A discussion on the colours of shadows] 

PAINTING 

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

But if the colours happen to be in a luminous space they will show 
themselves of greater beauty in proportion as the luminosity is more 
intense. 

Adversary 

The varieties in the colours of shadows are as numerous as the 
varieties in colour of the objects which are in the shadows. 

Reply 

Colours seen in shadow will reveal less variety one with another 
according as the shadows wherein they lie are deeper. There is evi- 
dence of this from those who from a space without peer within the 
doorways of shadowy temples, for there the pictures clad as they are 
in divers colours all seem robed in darkness. 

 

COLOUR 923 

So therefore at a long distance all the shadows of different colours 
appear of the same darkness. 

Of bodies clad in light and shade it is the illuminated part which 
reveals the true colour. e 18 r. 

No white or black is transparent. f 23 r. 

PAINTING 

Since white is not a colour but is capable of becoming the recipient 
of every colour, when a white object is seen in the open air all its 
shadows are blue; and this comes about in accordance with the fourth 
proposition, which says that the surface of every opaque body par- 
takes of the colour of surrounding objects. As therefore this white 
object is deprived of the light of the sun by the interposition of some 
object which comes between the sun and it, all that portion of it which 
is exposed to the sun and the atmosphere continues to partake of the 
colour of the sun and the atmosphere, and that part which is not 
exposed to the sun remains in shadow, and partakes only of the 
colour of the atmosphere. 

And if this white object should neither reflect the green of the fields 
which stretch out to the horizon nor yet face the brightness of the 
horizon itself, it would undoubtedly appear of such simple colour as 
the atmosphere showed itself to be. f 75 r. 

OF THE ACCIDENTAL COLOURS OF TREES 

The accidental colours of the leaves of trees are four, namely shadow, 
light, lustre and transparency. 

OF THE VISIBILITY OF THESE ACCIDENTAL COLOURS 

The accidental parts of the leaves of plants will at a great distance 
become a mixture, in which the accidental colour of the largest will 
predominate. g 24 r. 

OF PAINTING 

The colour of the object illuminated partakes of the colour of that 
which illuminates it. g 37 r. 

 

924 COLOUR 

The surface of every body participates in the colour of the body that 
illuminates it: • 

And in the colour of the air that is interposed between the eye and 
this body, that is to say in the colour of the transparent medium inter- 
posed between the object and the eye. 

Among colours of the same quality, the second will never be of the 
same colour as the first; and this proceeds from the multiplication of 
the colour of the medium interposed between the object and the eye. 

G53 v. 

Of the various colours other than blue, that which at a great distance 
will resemble blue most closely will be that which is nearest to black, 
and so conversely the colour which least resembles black will be the 
one which at a great distance will most retain its natural colour. 

Accordingly, the green in landscapes will become more changed into 
blue than will the yellow or the white, and so conversely the yellow 
and the white will undergo less change than the green, and the red 
still less. l 75 v. 

The shadow of flesh should be of burnt terra verde. l 92 r. 

The image imprinted in a mirror partakes of the colour of the said 
mirror. b.m. 211 v. 

The surface of every dark body will participate in the colour of the 
bodies placed against it. Forster in 74 v. 

The surface of every opaque body will be capable of participating and 
will be tinged with the colour of the bodies placed against it. 

Forster in 75 r. 

PAINTING 

[The apparent colours of smo\e on the horizon] 

The density of smoke from the horizon downwards is white and 
from the horizon upwards it is dark; and, although this smoke is in 
itself of the same colour, this equality shows itself as different, on 
account of the difference of the space in which it is found. 

Quaderni iv 3 r. 

 

COLOUR 925 

I Colour of flame \ 

As flame extends it becomes yellow in its upper part, then saffron 
in colour, and this ends in smoke. Quaderni iv 10 v. 

 

PAINTING 

The surface of every opaque body participates in the colour of its 
object. 

The surface of the opaque body is the more completely steeped in 
the colour of its object, in proportion as the rays of the images of these 
objects strike the objects at more equal angles. 

And the surface of opaque bodies is more steeped in the colour of 
their object, in proportion as this surface is whiter, and the colour of 
the object more luminous or illuminated. Quaderni vi 22 r. 

 

WHETHER THE COLOURS OF THE RAINBOW ARE CREATED 

BY THE SUN 

The colours of the rainbow are not created by the sun, because in 
many ways these colours are produced without the sun, as happens 
when you hold up a glass of water close to the eye, for in the glass of 
it there are the tiny bubbles which are usually seen in glass that is 
imperfectly refined. And these bubbles although they are not in sun- 
light will produce on one side all the colours of the rainbow; and this 
you will see if you place the glass between the atmosphere and your 
eye in such a way as to be in contact with the eye, the glass having 
one side exposed to the light of the atmosphere, and on the other the 
shadow of the wall on the right or left side of the window, which side 
does not matter. So by turning this glass round you will see the afore- 
said colours round about these bubbles in the glass. And we will speak 
of other methods in their place. 

HOW THE EYE HAS NO SHARE IN THE CREATION OF THE 
COLOURS OF THE RAINBOW 

The eye in the experiment described above would seem to have some 
share in the creation of the colours of the rainbow, because the bub- 

 

926 COLOUR 

bles in the glass do not display these colours except through the me- 
dium of the eye. But if you place this glass full of water on the level 
of the window, so that the sun's rays strike it on the opposite side, you 
will then see the aforesaid colours producing themselves, in the im- 
pression made by the solar rays which have penetrated through this 
glass of water, and terminated upon the floor in a dark place at the 
foot of the window; and since here the eye is not employed we clearly 
can say with certainty that these colours do not derive in any way from 
the eye. 

OF THE COLOURS FOUND IN THE FEATHERS OF CERTAIN 

BIRDS 

There are many birds in the various regions of the world in whose 
feathers most radiant colours are seen produced in their different 
movements, as is seen happen among us with the feathers of peacocks, 
or on the necks of ducks or pigeons. 

Moreover on the surface of ancient glass found buried, and in the 
roots of radishes which have been kept a long time at the bottom of 
wells or other stagnant water [we see] that each of these roots is sur- 
rounded by a sequence of colours like those of the rainbow. It is seen 
when some oily substance has spread on the top of water; as also in 
the solar rays reflected from the surface of a diamond or beryl. Also, 
in the facet of the beryl, every dark object which has as its background 
the atmosphere or other clear object is surrounded by this sequence of 
colours interposed between the atmosphere and the dark object; and 
so in many other ways which I leave because these suffice for this 
present theme. Windsor: Drawings 191 50 r.