Lionardo da Vinci

Personalia

Personalia 

'0 Leonardo, why do you toil so much?' 

To write thus clearly of the kite would seem to be my destiny, because in the earliest recollections of my infancy it seemed to me when I was in the cradle that a kite came and opened my mouth with its tail, and struck me within upon the lips with its tail many times, c.a. 66 v. b 

Pray hold me not in scorn! I am not poor! 

Poor rather is the man who desires many things. 

Where shall I take my place? Where in a little time from henceforth you shall know. Do you answer for yourself! From henceforth in a little time . . . c.a. 71 r. a 

If it is said that the King lacks seventy-two ducats of revenue when this water is drawn ofif from San Cristoforo. . . . 

This His Majesty knows: what he gives me he takes from himself. 

But in this instance nothing will be taken from the King, but it will be taken away from him who has stolen it, because of the regulation of the exits which the thieves of the water have enlarged. 

If it should be said that this causes loss to many, it amounts to nothing more than taking away from the thieves what they have to restore. 

And indeed the magistrate continually takes this away again without any thought of me, and it exceeds five hundred ounces of water, whereas for me it is fixed only at twelve ounces. 

And if it should be said that this right of water of mine is worth a considerable sum in the year, the ounce here when the canal is so low is let at only seven ducats of four lire each, one per ounce per year, and this amounts to seventy. 

If they say that this hinders navigation this is not true, because the mouths which serve for this irrigation are above the navigation. c.a. 93 r. a 
 

 

The Medici created and destroyed me. (// media mi Cteorono c disstrussono.y c.a. 159 r. c 

Note as to the moneys I have had from the King on account of my salary from July 150S until April 1509. First 100 crowns, then another roo, then 70, then 50 and then 20, and then 200 francs, a franc being worth 48 soldi. c.a. 192 r. a 

Tell me if ever, tell me if ever anything was built in Rome . . . c.a. 216 v. b 

AT ROME 

At old Tivoli. Hadrian's Villa. 2 c.a. 227 v. a 

Find Ligny (Ingil) 3 and tell him you will wait for him at Rome (a morrd) 3 and will go with him to Naples (in lo panna). 3 See that you make the donation (e no igano dal) , 3 and take the book of Vitolone, and the measurements of the public buildings. Have two trunks covered ready for the muleteer; bed-spreads will do very well for the purpose; there are three of them but you will leave one at Vinci. Take the stoves from the Grazie. Get from Giovanni Lombardo the [model of] the theatre of Verona. Buy some table-cloths and towels, hats, shoes, four pairs of hose, a great coat of chamois hide, and leather to make new ones. The turning-lathe of Alessandro. Sell what you cannot carry. Get from Jean de Paris the method of colouring in tempera, and the way 1 This interpretation is due to Gerolamo Calvi, who considers the note to have been written in the last years of Leonardo's life, either when on the point of departing from Rome or in France. His patron Giuliano de'Medici had died and the Medici Pope, Leo X, had failed to give him any employment commensurate with his powers. He thus sets in terse antithesis this destruction of his hopes and the act that Lorenzo il Magnifko was his first patron. The latter statement is confirmed by the testimony of the Anonimo Gaddiano: — ' stette da giovane col Magnifico Lorenzo de'Medici, et dandolj provisione per se il jaceva lav or are nel giardino sidla piaza di san Marcho dj Firenze, et haveva 30 annj, che dal detto Magnifico Lorenzo fn mandato al duca di Milano.' 

The sentence has also been held to refer to the medical profession to whom on occasion he alludes with marked asperity. In MS. F 96 v. he characterises them as 'destroyers of life'. In Arundel MS. 147 v. he speaks of men being chosen to be doctors for diseases about which they do not know. 

2 On the same page of MS. occurs the line 

Laus Deo 1500 a di [. . .] marzo. 
The juxtaposition does not however warrant any supposition as to a visit to Rome of 
about this date. 

" In MS. thess words, presumably for reasons of secrecy, were written backwards. 

 

of making white salt, and tinted papers either single or with many 
folds, and also his box of colours. Learn how to work flesh tints in 
tempera. Learn how to melt gum into lacquer-varnish. Take seed of . . . 
(fotteragi), of white cudweedf ?] (gniffe) and of garlic from Piacenza. 
Take the 'De Ponderibus'. Take the works of Leonardo of Cremona. 
Carry the charcoal-burner which belongs to Giannino. Take the seed of 
lilies, of common lady's mantle, and of water-melon. Sell the boards of 
the scaffolding. Give the stove to whoever stole it. Learn levelling, how 
much soil a man can dig out in a day. c.a. 247 r. a 

A certain ignoramus puffed up in obscurity, as is the gourd or the 
melon through excess of moisture or the plum swollen by the heavy 
showers. No! you have not described him well, don't you know [...]; 
he is an absolute fool [ . . . ] shaven head; but he lacks the cabbage 1 or 
the leaf of a gourd to loosen the scurf. 

Say on, Sandro! 2 How does it strike you? I tell you what is true, 
and I have not made a success of it. c.a. 313 r. b 

[A list of drawings] 
Many flowers drawn from nature. 
A head full-face with curly hair. 
Various Saint Jeromes. 
The measurements of a figure. 
Drawings of furnaces. 
A head of the duke. 
Many drawings of knots. 

Four drawings for the altar-piece of Sant' Angelo. 
A little history of Girolamo da Feghine. 
A head of Christ done with the pen. 
Eight Saint Sebastians. 
Many studies of angels. 
A chalcedony. 

A head in profile with beautiful hair. 
Some bodies in perspective. 
Some instruments for ships. 

1 II cavolo (cabbage). Compare perhaps mangiare il cavolo co' ciecht (to have busi- 
ness with very silly people). Hoare, Ital. Diet. 
2 The reference may be to Sandro Botticelli. 

 

PERSONALIA 1125 

Some machines for water. 

A head-portrait of Atalanta raising her face. 

The head of Hieronymo da Feglino. 

The head of Gian Francesco Boso. 

Many throats of old women. 

Many heads of old men. 

Many nudes, whole figures. 

Many arms, legs, feet, and positions. 

A Madonna, finished. 

Another, almost in profile. 

The head of the Madonna ascending into Heaven. 

The head of an old man, very long. 

A head of a gipsy woman. 

A head with a hat on. 

A history of the Passion made in a mould. 

A head of a girl with tresses gathered in a knot. 

A head with a coifTure. 

A head of a youth, full face, with beautiful hair. c.a. 324 r. a 

All the animals languish, filling the air with lamentations. The woods 
fall in ruin. The mountains are torn open, in order to carry away the 
metals which are produced there. But how can I speak of anything 
more wicked than [the actions] of those who raise hymns of praise to 
heaven for those who with greater zeal have injured their country and 
the human race? c.a. 382 v. a 

These piles should be from a third to half a braccio in thickness and 
about two and a half braccia long; they should be of oak or alder, that 
is of some close-grained wood, and most important of all they should 
be green. I have watched the repair of part of the old walls of Pavia 
which have their foundations in the banks of the Ticino. The piles there 
which were old and were of oak were as black as charcoal, those which 
were of alder had a red colour like Brazil-wood; they were of consid- 
erable weight and as hard as iron, without any blemish. And when you 
wish to drive in these piles you should make the beginning of the hole 
for it with an iron stake. b. 66 r. 

 

H26 PERSONALIA 

[Dated Note. Thefts of pupil. Pageant ararnged by Leonardo] 

On the twenty-third day of April 1490 I commenced this book and 
recommenced the horse. 

Giacomo came to live with me on St. Mary Magdalene's Day, 1 1490, 
when ten years of age. Thievish, lying, obstinate, greedy. 

The second day I had two shirts cut out for him, a pair of hose and 
a doublet, and when I put money aside to pay for these things he stole 
the money from the wallet, and it was never possible to make him 
confess, although I was absolutely convinced. 4 lire. 

On the following day I went to supper with Giacomo Andrea, and 
the other Giacomo had supper for two and did mischief for four, for 
he broke three flagons, spilt the wine, and after this came to supper 
where I . . . 

Item, on the seventh day of September he stole a style worth twenty- 
two soldi from Marco who was with me. It was of silver, and he took 
it from his studio. After the said Marco had searched for it a long time 
he found it hidden in the box of the said Giacomo. 2 lire 1 soldo. 

Item, on the twenty-sixth day of the following January when I was 
in the house of Messer Galeazzo da Sanseverino in order to arrange the 
pageant at his tournament, and certain of the pages had taken off their 
clothes in order to try on some of the costumes of the savages who were 
to appear in this pageant, Giacomo went to the wallet of one of them 
as it lay on the bed with the other effects, and took some money that 
he found there. 2 lire 4 soldi. 

Item, a Turkish hide had been given me in the same house by the 
Master Agostino of Pavia in order to make a pair of boots, and this 
Giacomo stole it from me within a month and sold it to a cobbler for 
twenty soldi, and with the money as he has himself confessed to me 
he bought aniseed comfits. 2 lire. 

Item, further on the second day of April Giovanni Antonio chanced 
to leave a silver style upon one of his drawings, and this Giacomo stole 
it from him, and it was worth twenty-four soldi. 1 lira 4 soldi. 

The first year: a cloak 2 lire, 6 shirts 4 lire, 3 doublets 6 lire, 4 pairs 
of hose 7 lire 8 soldi, a suit of clothes lined 5 lire, 24 pairs of shoes 
6 lire 5 soldi, a cap 1 lira, laces for belt 1 lira. c 15 v. 

1 Twenty-second of July. 

 

PERSONALIA 1127 

When I was at sea in a position equally distant from a level shore 
and a mountain, the side on which the shore was, seemed much farther 
ofi than that of the mountain.' l 77 v. 

Like a eddying wind scouring through a hollow, sandy valley, and 
with speeding course driving into its vortex everything that opposes its 
furious onset . . . 

Not otherwise does the northern blast drive back with its hurri- 
cane . . . 

Nor does the tempestuous sea make so loud a roaring when the 
northern blast beats it back in foaming waves between Scylla and 
Charybdis, nor Stromboli nor Mount Etna when the pent up, sulphur- 
ous fires, bursting open and rending asunder the mighty mountain by 
their force, are hurling through the air rocks and earth mingled together 
m the issuing belching flames. . . . 

Nor when Etna's burning caverns vomit forth and give out again the 
uncontrollable element, and thrust it back to its own region in fury, 
driving before it whatever obstacle withstands its impetuous rage. . . . 

And drawn on by my eager desire, anxious to behold the great 
abundance of the varied and strange forms created by the artificer 
Nature, having wandered for some distance among the overhanging 
rocks, I came to the mouth of a huge cavern before which for a time 
I remained stupefied, not having been aware of its existence, my back 
bent to an arch, my left hand clutching my knee, while with the right 
I made a shade for my lowered and contracted eyebrows; and I was 
bending continually first one way and then another in order to see 
whether I could discern anything inside, though this was rendered 
impossible by the intense darkness within. And after remaining there 
for a time, suddenly there were awakened within me two emotions, fear 

1 In the sketch that accompanies this note a vessel is seen proceeding from a moun- 
tainous shore to one more low-lying. The note is designated by M. Ravaisson-Mollien 
'an optical delusion'. Its major interest is in the biographical question it raises. That 
Leonardo was himself once at sea in a position equally distant between a level and a 
mountainous shore, both visible at once, is here clearly stated. In discussing the interpre- 
tation of the Armenian letters in the Codice Atlantico (The Mind of L. da V., p. 232, 
etc.) I have shown that the experience is such as would befall a traveller journeying 
from Khelindreh, the medieval port of Armenia, mentioned in Leonardo's text as 
Calindra, to Cyprus, which is referred to in a passage in the Windsor Manuscripts, 
'setting out from the coast of Cilicia towards the south you discover the beauty of the 
island of Cyprus' 

 

ii2S PERSONALIA 

and desire, fear of the dark threatening cavern, desire to see whether 
there might be any marvellous thing therein. b.m. 155 r. 

O powerful and once living instrument of constructive Nature, thv 
great strength not availing thee, thou must needs abandon thy tranquil 
life to obey the law which God and time ordained for all-procreative 
Nature! To thee availed not the branching, sturdy dorsal fins where- 
with pursuing thy prey thou wast wont to plough thy way, tempestu- 
ously tearing open the briny waves with thy breast. 

O how many times the frightened shoals of dolphins and big tunny- 
fish were seen to flee before thy insensate fury; and thou, lashing with 
swift, branching fins and forked tail, didst create in the sea sudden 
tempest with loud uproar and foundering of ships; with mighty wave 
thou didst heap up the open shores with the frightened and terrified 
fishes, which thus escaping from thee were left high and dry when the 
sea abandoned them, and became the plenteous and abundant spoil of 
the neighbouring peoples. 

 

O Time, swift despoiler of created things! How many kings, how 
many peoples hast thou brought low! How many changes of state and 
circumstance have followed since the wondrous form of this fish died 
here in this hollow winding recess ? Now, destroyed by Time, patiently 
it lies within this narrow space, and, with its bones despoiled and bare, 
it is become an armour and support to the mountain which lies above it. 

b.m. 156 r. 

O how many times hast thou been seen amid the waves of the mighty, 
swelling ocean, towering like a mountain, conquering and overcoming 
them! And with black-finned back ploughing through the salt waves 
with proud and stately bearing! 1 c.a. 265 r. a 

Tell me if anything was ever made . . . b.m. 251 v. 

1 This passage is placed here because of its evident connection with the two that 
precede it. They may be a personal reminiscence or an imaginary tale. 

There are three versions of this passage in the manuscript: — 

Oh quante volte fusti tit vednto in jra Vonde del gonfiato e grande occeano, col setoluio 
e nero dosso, a gittsa di montagna, e con grave e superbo andamento. 

E spesse volte eri veduto in jra Vonde del gonfiato e grande occeano, e col superbo e 

 

PE K SON A LI A 

 

t2g 

 

s. 
s. 


2 7 


s. 


12 


s. 
s. 




s. 


20 


s. 



s. 


16 


s. 



s. 


 


106 

 



s. 


12 


Forster n 


I2 3 
64 V. 

 

EXPENSES FOR CATERINA'S BURIAL 

For three pounds oi wax 

For the bier 

Pali upon the bier 

Carrying and setting up of cross 

For the carrying of the dead 

For four priests and four clerks 

Bell, book, sponge 

For the gravediggers 

To the ancient 

For the licence and the officials 

For the doctor 
Sugar and candles 

 

If liberty is dear to you, may you never discover that my face is love's 
prison. Forster in 10 v. 

Finally through anger he has wounded the image of his God; think 
if I had found him. 

And that which he cannot eat he sells, in order by these coins to be 
able to have command over the other men. Forster in 85 r. 

[Vices hard to extirpate] 

And in this case I know that I shall make few enemies, for no one 
will believe what I can say of him. For there are few whom his vices 
displease, in fact only those who are by nature averse to these vices. 
And many hate their fathers and break of? friendships when they are 

grave moto gir volteggiando in jralle marine acque. E con setoluto e nero dosso, a guisa 
di montagna, quelle vincere e soprajare. 

Oh quante volte josti tu veduto in jra Vonde del gonfiato e grande occeano, a guisa 
di montagna quelle vincere e soprajare, e col setoluto e nero dosso solcare le marine 
acque, e con superbo e grave andamento. 

It is the same indefatigible patience seen in the attempt here in the armoury of 
words to fashion the thought to more exact expression, of the purpose of the mind 
which explains why there are sometimes so many studies for the same figure in Leo- 
nardo's drawings. 

 

ii30 PERSONALIA 

reproved for their vices; instances to the contrary have no weight with 
them, nor has any human counsel. Quaderni n 14 r. 

[Wealth of words a difficulty] 

I have so many words in my mother-tongue that I ought rather to 
complain of the lack of a right understanding of things, than of a lack 
of words with which fully to express the conception that is in my mind. 

Quaderni 11 16 r. 

I have wasted my hours. 1 Quaderni 111 12 v. 

I once saw how a lamb was licked by a lion in our city of Florence, 
where there are always from twenty-five to thirty of them, and they 
bear young. With a few strokes of his tongue the lion stripped off the 
whole fleece with which the lamb was covered, and having thus made 
it bare he ate it. Quaderni iv 9 v. 

Tell me if anything similar was ever made: you understand, and that 
is enough for the present. 2 Quaderni iv 15 v. 

Blue colour of the atmosphere . . . may be seen, as I myself saw it, 
by anyone who ascends Mon Boso [Monte Rosa], a peak of the chain 
of Alps that divides France from Italy. . . . The hail that accumulates 
there in summer I found very thick in the middle of July. Leic. 4 r. 

In the mountains of Parma and Piacenza, multitudes of shells and 
corals filled with wormholes may be seen still adhering to the rocks. 

When I was making the great horse at Milan a large sack of those 
which had been found in these parts was brought to my workshop by 
some peasants, and among them were many still in their original con- 
dition. Leic. 9 v. 

There are, in many places, springs of water which rise for six hours 
and sink for six hours; and I have myself seen one above Lake Como 
called Fonte Pliniana. Leic. 11 v. 

1 Note written on the right-hand lower corner of a page that contains mathematical 
and architectural drawings, and others anatomical of the generative functions, with 
acoustical note and memoranda. 

2 This is on the same page with reduction of periphery of quadrant to straight line 
and calculation of spheres. 

 

PERSONALIA [131 

On one occasion above Milan, over in the direction ot Lake Maggiorc, 
1 .saw a cloud shaped like a huge mountain made up ot hanks ol lire, 
because the rays ol the sun which was then setting red on the horizon 
had dyed it with their colour. This great cloud drew to itself all the 
little clouds which were round about it. And the great cloud remained 
.stationary, and it retained the light of the sun on its apex for an houi 
and a half after sunset, so enormous was its size. Leic. 28 r.