Precepts of the Painter 

'Fainting is concerned with all the ten attributes of sight, namely darkness, 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 interwoven! 

Which is the more difficult: light and shade or good design? 

I maintain that a thing which is confined by a boundary is more difficult than one which is free. Shadows have their boundaries at certain stages, and when one is ignorant of this his works will be lacking in that relief which is the importance and the soul of painting. Design is free, in so much as if you see an infinite number of faces they will be all different, one with a long nose and one with a short; the painter therefore must also assume this liberty, and where there is liberty there is no rule. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 1 r. 


The mind of the painter should be like a mirror which always takes the colour of the thing that it reflects, and which is filled by as many images as there are things placed before it. Knowing therefore that you cannot be a good master unless you have a universal power of representing by your art all the varieties of the forms which nature produces, — which indeed you will not know how to do unless you see them and retain them in your mind, — look to it, O Painter, that when you go into the fields you give your attention to the various objects, and look carefully in turn first at one thing and then at another, making a bundle of different things selected and chosen from among those of less value. And do not after the manner of some painters who when tired by imaginative work, lay aside their task and take exercise by walking, in order to find relaxation, keeping, however, such weariness of mind as prevents them either seeing or being conscious of different objects; so that often when meeting friends or relatives, and being saluted by them, although they may see and hear them they know them no more than if they had met only so much air. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 2 r. 

The various contrasts of the different degrees of shadows and lights often cause hesitation and confusion to the painter who aspires to imitate and reproduce the things that he sees. The reason is that if you see a white cloth side by side with a black one, it is certain that the part of this white cloth which is next to the black will seem whiter by far than the part that is next to something whiter than itself, and the reason of this is proved in my Perspective. 



That part of the fold which is farthest from the ends where it is con- 
fined will return most closely to its original form. Everything naturally 
desires to remain in its own state. Drapery being of uniform density 
and thickness on the reverse and on the right side, desires to lie flat; 
consequently, whenever any folds or pleats force it to depart from this 
condition of flatness, it obeys the law of this force in that part of itself 
where it is most constrained, and the part farthest away from such 
constraint you will find return most nearly to its original state, that is 
to say, lying extended and full. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 4 r. 

The body of the atmosphere is full of an infinite number of the 
pyramids composed of radiating straight lines which are caused by the 
boundaries of the surfaces of the bodies in shadow that are found there, 
and the farther they are away from the object which produces them 
the more their angle becomes acute. And although they intersect and 
interlace in their passage, nevertheless they do not become confused 
with each other but proceed with divergent course, spreading them- 
selves out and becoming diffused through all the surrounding air. 

And they are of equal power among themselves, all equal to each, 
and each equal to all, and by means of them are transmitted the 
images of the objects, and these are transmitted all in all, and all in 



each part: and each pyramid receives of itself in each of its smallest 
parts the whole form of the object which produces it. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 6 v. 



Let the sketches for historical subjects be rapid, and the working of 
the limbs not too much finished. Content yourself with merely giving 
the positions of these limbs, which you will then be able at your leisure 
to finish as you please. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 8 v. 

Among shadows of equal strength that which is nearest to the eye 
will seem of less density. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 9 v. 

All colours in distant shadows are indistinguishable and undis- 

In the distance all colours are indistinguishable in shadows, because 
an object which is not touched by the principal light has no power to 
transmit its image through the more luminous atmosphere to the eye, 
because the lesser light is conquered by the greater. 

For example, we see in a house that all the colours on the surface of 
the walls are visible instantly and clearly when the windows of the 
house are open; but, if we go out of the house and look through the 
windows at a little distance in order to see the paintings on the walls, 
we shall see instead of them a uniform darkness. 

The painter ought first to exercise his hand by copying drawings by 
good masters; and having acquired facility in this under the advice of 
his instructor, he ought to set himself to copy good reliefs, following 
the rules given below. 


He who draws from relief ought to take his position so that the eye 
of the figure he is drawing is on a level with his own. And this should 
be done whenever a head has to be drawn from nature, because gen- 
erally 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. 




The painter ought always to consider, as regards the wall on which 
he intends to represent a story, the height of the position where he 
intends to place his characters, so that when he makes studies from 
nature for this purpose he should have his eye as much below the thing 
that he is drawing as the said thing appears in the picture above the 
eye of the spectator: otherwise the work will be deserving of censure. 



Painters oftentimes despair of their power to imitate nature, on per- 
ceiving how their pictures are lacking in the power of relief and vivid- 
ness which objects possess when seen in a mirror, though as they allege 
they have colours that for clearness and depth far surpass the quality 
of the lights and shadows of the object seen in the mirror, arraigning 
herein not reason but their own ignorance, in that they fail to recognise 
the impossibility of a painted object appearing in such relief as to be 
comparable to the objects in the mirror, although both are on a flat sur- 
face unless they are seen by a single eye. And the reason of this is that 
when two eyes see one thing after another, as in the case of a b seeing 
n m,m cannot entirely cover n because the base of the visual lines is so 
broad as to cause one to see the second object beyond the first. If how- 
ever you close one eye as /, the object / will cover up r, because the 
visual line starts in a single point and makes its base in the first object, 
with the consequence that the second being of equal size is never seen. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 10 r. 

Every bodily form as far as concerns the function of the eye is 
divided into three parts, namely substance, shape and colour. The 
image of its substance projects itself farther from its source than its 
colour or its shape; the colour also projects itself farther than the 
shape, but this law does not apply to luminous bodies. 

The above proposition is clearly shown and confirmed by experi- 
ence, for if you see a man near at hand you will be able to recognise 
the character of the substance of the shape and even of the colour, but, 



if he goes sonic distance away from you, you will no longer be able 
to recognise who he is because his shape will lack character, and it he- 
goes still farther away you will not be able to distinguish his colour 
but he will merely seem a dark body, and farther away still he will 
seem a very small round dark body. He will appear round because 
distance diminishes the various parts so much as to leave nothing 
visible except the greater mass. The reason of this is as follows: — We 
know very well that all the images of objects penetrate to the impren- 
siva 1 through a small aperture in the eye; therefore if the whole 
horizon a d enters through a similar aperture and the object b c is a 
very small part of this horizon, what part must it occupy in the minute 
representation of so great a hemisphere? And since luminous bodies 
have more power in darkness than any others it is necessary, since the 
aperture of the sight is considerably in shadow, as is the nature of all 
holes, that the images of distant objects intermingle within the great 
light of the sky, or if it should be that they remain visible they appear 
dark and black, as every small body must when seen in the limpidity 
of the air. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 12 v. 

[Images in the air] 

All bodies together and each of itself fill the surrounding air with an 
infinite number of their images which are all in all this air, and all in 
the parts of it, bearing with them the nature of the body, the colour 
and the form of their cause. 

Perspective is the bridle and rudder of painting. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 13 r. 

Shadows which you see with difficulty, and whose boundaries you 
cannot define — but which you only apprehend and reproduce in your 
work with some hesitation of judgment — these you should not repre- 
sent as finished or sharply defined, for the result would be that your 
work would seem wooden. 


Reflections are caused by bodies of a bright nature and of a smooth 
and half-opaque surface, which when struck by the light drive it back 
again to the first object like the rebound of a ball. 

1 Imprensiva, see Vol. I, Optics, pp. 237-8. 







All solid bodies have their surfaces covered by various degrees of 
light and shadow. The lights are of two kinds: the one is called orig- 
inal the other derived. Original I call that which proceeds from the 
flame of the fire, or from the light of the sun, or of the atmosphere. 
Derived light is the light reflected. But, to return to the promised 
definition, I say that there is no luminous reflection on the side of the 
body which is turned towards objects in shadow such as shaded scenes, 
meadows with grasses of varying height, green or bare woods — for 
these, although the part of each branch turned to the original light is 
imbued with the attributes of this light, have nevertheless so many 
shadows cast by each branch separately, and so many shadows cast by 
one branch on another, that in the whole mass there results such a 
depth of shadow that the light is as nothing; hence objects such as 
these cannot throw any reflected light upon bodies opposite to them. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 14 v. 



This custom, which is universally adopted by painters for the walls 
of chapels, is by right strongly to be censured, seeing that they repre- 
sent one composition at one level with its landscape and buildings, and 
then mount to the stage above it and make another, and so vary the 
point of sight from that of the first painting, and then make a third, 
and a fourth, in such a way that the work on the one wall shows four 
points of sight, which is extreme folly on the part of such masters. 

Now we know that the point of sight is opposite the eye of the 
spectator of the composition, and if you were to ask me how I should 
represent the life of a saint when it is divided up in several composi- 
tions on the same wall, to this I reply that you ought to set the fore- 
ground with its point of sight on a level with the eye of the spectators 
of the composition, and at this same plane make the chief episode on 
a large scale, and then by diminishing gradually the figures and build- 
ings upon the various hills and plains, you should represent all the 
incidents of the story. And on the rest of the wall up to the top you 



should make trees large as compared with the figures, or angels if 
these are appropriate to the story, or birds or clouds or similar things; 
but otherwise do not put yourself to the trouble for the whole of your 
work will be wrong. 

Figures in relief in the act of movement will in their standing 
position seem naturally to fall forward. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 16 r. 

The youth ought first to learn perspective, then the proportions of 
everything, then he should learn from the hand of a good master in 
order to accustom himself to good limbs; then from nature in order to 
confirm for himself the reasons for what he has learnt; then for a time 
he should study the works of different masters; then make it a habit 
to practise and work at his art. 

How the first picture was nothing but a line which surrounded the 
shadow of a man made by the sun upon a wall. 

How historical pictures ought not to be crowded and confused by 
many figures. 

How old men should be shown with slow listless movements, with 
the legs bent at the knees when they are standing up, with the feet 
parallel and separated one from another, the spine bent low, the head 
leaning forward, and the arms not too far apart. 

How women should be represented in modest attitudes, with legs 
close together, arms folded, and with their heads low and bending 

How old women should be represented as bold, with swift passionate 
movements like the infernal furies, and these movements should seem 
quicker in the arms and heads than in the legs. 

Little children should be represented when sitting as twisting them- 
selves about with quick movements, and in shy, timid attitudes when 
standing up. 

How one ought not to give drapery a confusion of many folds, but 
only make them where it is held by the hands or arms, and the rest 
may be suffered to fall simply where its nature draws it: and do not 
let the contour of the figure be broken by too many lines or interrupted 



How draperies should be drawn from nature: that is, if you wish to 
represent woollen cloth draw the folds from the same material, and if 
it is to be silk, or fine cloth, or homespun, or of linen or crape, show 
the different nature of the folds in each; and do not make a costume 
as many make it upon models covered with pieces of paper or thin 
leather, for you will be deceiving yourself greatly. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 17 v. 



Perspectives are of three kinds. The first has to do with the causes 
of the diminution or as it is called the diminishing perspective of 
objects as they recede from the eye. The second the manner in which 
colours are changed as they recede from the eye. The third and last 
consists in defining in what way objects ought to be less carefully 
finished as they are farther away. And the names are these: 

Linear Perspective 
Perspective of Colour 
Vanishing Perspective. 


How figures when dressed in a cloak ought not to show the shape to 
such an extent that the cloak seems to be next to the skin; for surely 
you would not wish that the cloak should be next to the skin, since you 
must realise that between the cloak and the skin are other garments 
which prevent the shape of the limbs from being visible and appearing 
through the cloak. And those limbs which you make visible, make 
thick of their kind so that there may seem to be other garments there 
under the cloak. And you should only allow the almost identical thick- 
ness of the limbs to be visible in a nymph or an angel, for these are 
represented clad in light draperies, which by the blowing of the wind 
are driven and pressed against the various limbs of the figures. 




It is evident that the part of the atmosphere which lies nearest the 
level ground is denser than the rest, and that the higher it rises the 
lighter and more transparent it becomes. 

In the case of large and lofty objects which are some distance away 
from you, their lower parts will not be much seen, because the line by 
which you should see them passes through the thickest and densest 
portion of the atmosphere. But the summits of these heights are seen 
along a line which, although when starting from your eye it is projected 
through the denser atmosphere, yet since it ends at the highest summit 
of the object seen, concludes its course in an atmosphere far more rare- 
fied than that of its base. And consequently the farther away from you 
this line extends from point to point the greater is the change in the 
finer quality of the atmosphere. 

Do you, therefore, O painter, when you represent mountains, see 
that from hill to hill the bases are always paler than the summits, and 
the farther away you make them one from another let the bases be 
paler in proportion, and the loftier they are the more they should re^ 
veal their true shape and colour. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 18 r. 

How the atmosphere should be represented as paler in proportion as 
you show it extending lower: 

Since the atmosphere is dense near the ground, and the higher it is 
the finer it becomes, therefore when the sun is in the east and you look 
towards the west, taking in a part to the north and to the south, you 
will see that this dense air receives more light from the sun than the 
finer air, because the rays encounter more resistance. And if your view 
of the horizon is bounded by a low plain, that farthest region of the 
sky will be seen through that thicker whiter atmosphere, and this will 
destroy the truth of the colour as seen through such a medium; and the 
sky will seem whiter there than it does overhead, where the line of 
vision traverses a lesser space of atmosphere charged with thick va- 
pours. But if you look towards the east the atmosphere will appear 
darker in proportion as it is lower, for in this lower atmosphere the 
luminous rays pass less freely. 



How shadows are distributed in different positions, and of the objects 
situated in them: 

If the sun is in the east and you look towards the west you will see 
that all the things which are illuminated are entirely deprived of 
shadow, because what you are looking at is what the sun sees. 

And if you look to the south and the north you will see that all the 
bodies are surrounded by light and shade, because you are looking both 
at the part that does not see and the part that sees the sun. And if you 
look towards the pathway of the sun all the objects will present their 
shaded side to you because this side cannot be seen by the sun. 



Whatever is entirely deprived of light is all darkness. When such is 
the condition of night, if you wish to represent a scene therein, you 
must arrange to introduce a great fire there, and then the things which 
are nearest to the fire will be more deeply tinged with its colour, for 
whatever is nearest to the object partakes most fully of its nature; and 
making the fire of a reddish colour you should represent all the things 
illuminated by it as being also of a ruddy hue, while those which are 
farther away from the fire should be dyed more deeply with the black 
colour of the night. The figures which are between you and the fire 
will appear dark against the brightness of the flame, for that part of the 
object which you perceive is coloured by the darkness of the night, and 
not by the brightness of the fire; those which are at the sides should be 
half in shadow and half in ruddy light; and those visible beyond the 
edge of the flames will all be lit up with ruddy light against a dark 
background. As for their actions, show those who are near it making a 
screen with hands and cloaks as a protection against the unbearable 
heat, with faces turned away as though on the point of flight; while of 
those farther away you should show a great number pressing their 
hands upon their eyes, hurt by the intolerable glare. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 18 v. 

Why of two objects of equal size the painted one will look larger 
than that in relief: 
This proposition is not so easy to expound as many others, but I will 



nevertheless attempt to prove it, if not completely then in part. Dimin- 
ishing perspective demonstrates hy reason that objects diminish in 
proportion as they are Luther away from the eye, and this theory is 
entirely confirmed by experience. Now the lines of sight which are be- 
tween the object and the eye are all intersected at a uniform boundary 
when they reach the surface of the painting; while the lines which pass 
from the eye to the piece of sculpture have different boundaries and 
are of varying lengths. The line which is the longest extends to a limb 
which is farther away than the rest, and consequently this limb appears 
smaller; and there are many lines longer than others, for the reason 
that there are many small parts one farther away than another, and 
being farther away these of necessity appear smaller, and by appearing 
smaller they effect a corresponding decrease in the whole mass of the 
object. But this does not happen in the painting, because as the lines 
of sight end at the same distance it follows that they do not undergo 
diminution, and as the parts are not themselves diminished they do not 
lessen the whole mass of the object, and consequently the diminution is 
not perceptible in the painting as it is in sculpture. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 19 r. 



When you are representing a white body surrounded by ample space, 
since the white has no colour in itself it is tinged and in part trans- 
formed by the colour of what is set over against it. If you are looking at 
a woman dressed in white in the midst of a landscape the side of her 
that is exposed to the sun will be so dazzling in colour that parts of it, 
like the sun itself, will cause pain to the sight, and as for the side ex- 
posed to the atmosphere — which is luminous because of the rays of the 
sun being interwoven with it and penetrating it — since this atmosphere 
is itself blue, the side of the woman which is exposed to it will appear 
steeped in blue. If the surface of the ground near to her be meadows, 
and the woman be placed between a meadow lit by the sun and the sun 
itself, you will find that all the parts of the folds [of her dress] which 
are turned towards the meadow will be dyed by the reflected rays to the 
colour of the meadow; and thus she becomes changed into the colours 
of the objects near, both those luminous and those non-luminous. 





Make muscular such limbs as have to endure fatigue, and those 
which are not so used make without muscles and soft. 



Make figures with such action as may be sufficient to show what the 
figure has in mind; otherwise your art will not be worthy of praise. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 20 r. 




If you have a courtyard which, when you so please, you can cover 
over with a linen awning, the light will then be excellent. Or when you 
wish to paint a portrait, paint it in bad weather, at the fall of the eve- 
ning, placing the sitter with his back to one of the walls of the court- 
yard. Notice in the streets at the fall of the evening when it is bad 
weather the faces of the men and women — what grace and softness 
they display! Therefore, O painter, you should have a courtyard fitted 
up with the walls tinted in black and with the roof projecting forward 
a little beyond the wall; and the width of it should be ten braccia, and 
the length twenty braccia, and the height ten braccia; and you should 
cover it over with the awning when the sun is on it, or else you should 
make your portrait at the hour of the fall of the evening when it is 
cloudy or misty, for the light then is perfect. 


We see clearly that all the images of the visible things both large and 
small which serve us as objects enter to the sense through the tiny pu- 
pil of the eye. If, then, through so small an entrance there passes the 
image of the immensity of the sky and of the earth, the face of man — 
being almost nothing amid such vast images of things, because of the 
distance which diminishes it — occupies so little of the pupil as to re- 
main indistinguishable; and having to pass from the outer surface to 



the scat of the sense through a dark medium, that is, through the hol- 
low cells which appear dark, this image when not of a strong colour 
is affected by the darkness through which it passes, and on reaching the 
seat of the sense it appears dark. No other reason can be advanced to 
account for the blackness of this point in the pupil; and since it is filled 
with a moisture transparent like the air, it acts like a hole made in a 
hoard; and when looked into it appears black, and the objects seen in 
the air, whether light or dark, become indistinct in the darkness. 



Shadows become lost in the far distance, because the vast expanse of 
luminous atmosphere which lies between the eye and the object seen 
suffuses the shadows of the object with its own colour. 



Diminishing perspective shows us that in proportion as an object is 
farther away the smaller it becomes. And if you look at a man who is 
at the distance of a bowshot away from you and put the eye of a small 
needle close to your eye, you will be able through this to see the images 
of many men transmitted to the eye, and these will all be contained at 
one and the same time within the eye of the said needle. If then the 
image of a man who is distant from you the space of a bowshot is so 
transmitted to your eye as to occupy only a small part of the eye of a 
needle, how should you be able in so small a figure to distinguish or 
discern the nose or mouth or any detail of the body? 

And not seeing these you cannot recognise the man, since he does not 
show you the features which cause men to differ in appearance. 


The pit of the throat is above the foot. If an arm be thrown forward 
the pit of the throat moves from above the foot, and if the leg is thrown 
backwards the pit of the throat moves forwards, and so it changes 
with every change of attitude. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 20 v. 




If you wish to represent a tempest properly, consider and set down 
exactly what are the results when the wind blowing over the face of the 
sea and of the land lifts and carries with it everything that is not im- 
movable in the general mass. And in order properly to represent this 
tempest, you must first of all show the clouds, riven and torn, swept 
along in the path of the wind, together with storms of sand blown up 
from the sea shores, and branches and leaves caught up by the irresisti- 
ble fury of the gale and scattered through the air, and with them many 
other things of light weight. The trees and shrubs should be bent to 
the ground, as though showing their desire to follow the direction of 
the wind, with their branches twisted out of their natural growth and 
their leaves tossed and inverted. Of the men who are there, some 
should have fallen and be lying wrapped round by their garments and 
almost indistinguishable on account of the dust, and those who are left 
standing should be behind some tree with their arms thrown round it 
to prevent the wind from dragging them away; others should be shown 
crouching on the ground, their hands over their eyes because of the 
dust, their garments and hair streaming in the wind. Let the sea be 
wild and tempestuous, and between the crests of its waves it should be 
covered with eddying foam, and the wind should carry the finer spray 
through the stormy air after the manner of a thick and all-enveloping 

Of the ships that are there, some you should show with sail rent and 
the shreds of it flapping in the air in company with the broken hal- 
yards, and some of the masts broken and gone by the board, and the 
vessel itself lying disabled and broken by the fury of the waves, with 
some of the crew shrieking and clinging to the fragments of the wreck. 
You should show the clouds, driven by the impetuous winds, hurled 
against the high mountain tops, and there wreathing and eddying like 
waves that beat upon the rocks; the very air should strike terror 
through the murky darkness occasioned therein by the dust and mist 
and thick clouds. 




When you desire to represent anyone speaking among a group of 
persons you ought to consider first the subject of which he has to treat, 
and how so to order his actions that they may be in keeping with this 
subject. That is, if the subject be persuasive, the actions should serve 
this intention; if it be one that needs to be expounded under various 
heads, the speaker should take a finger of his left hand between two 
fingers of his right, keeping the two smaller ones closed, 1 and let his 
face be animated and turned towards the people, with mouth slightly 
opened, so as to give the effect of speaking. And if he is seated let him 
seem to be in the act of raising himself more upright, with his head for- 
ward. And if you represent him standing, make him leaning forward a 
little with head and shoulders towards the populace, whom you should 
show silent and attentive, and all watching the face of the orator with 
gestures of admiration. Show the mouths of some of the old men with 
the corners pulled down in astonishment at what they hear, drawing 
back the cheeks in many furrows, with their eyebrows raised where 
they meet, making many wrinkles on their foreheads; and show some 
sitting with the fingers of their hands locked together and clasping 
their weary knees, and others — decrepit old men — with one knee crossed 
over the other, and one hand resting upon it which serves as a cup for 
the other elbow, while the other hand supports the bearded chin. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 21 r. 

How to heighten the apparent relief in a painting by the use of arti- 
ficial lights and shadows: 

In order to increase the relief in a picture you should make it your 
practice to place between the figure represented and that adjacent object 
which receives its shadow, a line of bright light in order to divide the 
figure from the object in shadow. And in this same object you will 
make two bright parts which shall have between them the shadow 
cast upon the wall by the figure placed opposite: and do this frequently 
with the limbs which you desire should stand out somewhat from 

MS. has serate. M. Ravaisson-Mollien gives searate, and translates as though it 
were 'separate'. 



their body; and especially when the arms cross the breast, show how 
between the line of incidence of the shadow of the arm upon the breast 
and the real shadow of the arm, there remains a streak of light which 
seems to pass through the space that is between the breast and the arm. 
And the more you wish the arm to seem detached from the breast the 
broader you must make this light. And always make it your aim so to 
arrange bodies against their backgrounds that the parts of the bodies 
that are in shadow end against a light background, and the part of the 
body that is illuminated ends against a dark background. 



Take care that the shadows cast upon the surfaces of bodies by differ- 
ent objects are always undulating with varying curves produced by the 
variety of the limbs that create the shadows and of the object that re- 
ceives the shadow. 



Shadow partakes of the nature of universal things which are all more 
powerful at their beginning and grow weaker towards the end. I 
refer to the beginning of all forms and qualities visible or invisible, 
and not of things brought from small beginnings to a mighty growth 
by time, as a great oak would be which has its feeble beginning in a 
tiny acorn; though I would rather say the oak is most powerful at the 
spot where it is born in the ground, for there is the place of its great- 
est growth. Darkness, therefore, is the first stage of shadow and light 
is the last. See, therefore, O painter, that you make your shadow dark- 
est near to its cause and make the end of it become changed into light 
so that it seems to have no end. 

How the shadows cast by particular lights should be avoided because 
their ends are like their beginnings: 

The shadows cast by the sun or other particular lights do not impart 
grace to the body to which they belong, but rather leave the parts sep- 
arated in a state of confusion with a visible boundarv of shadow and 



light. And the shadows have the same strength at the end that they 
had at the beginning. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 21 v. 



Shadow is the absence of light; it is simply the obstruction caused by 
opaque bodies opposed to luminous rays. Shadow is of the nature of 
darkness, light is of the nature of brightness. The one hides and the 
other reveals. They are always in company attached to the bodies. And 
shadow is more powerful than light for it impedes and altogether de- 
prives objects of brightness, whereas brightness can never altogether 

drive away shadow from bodies, that is from opaque bodies. 

What difference there is between a shadow inseparable from a body 
and a cast shadow: 

An inseparable shadow is one which is never parted from the illumi- 
nated bodies, as is the case with a ball, for when it is in the light it 
always has one of its sides covered by shadow and this shadow never 
separates from it through any change in the position of the ball. A cast 
shadow may or may not be produced by the body itself. Let us suppose 
the ball to be at a distance of a braccio from the wall and the light to 
be coming from the opposite side: this light will throw just as broad a 
shadow upon the wall as upon the side of the ball that faces the wall. 
Part of a cast shadow will not be visible when the light is below the 
ball, for its shadow will then pass towards the sky and finding there no 
obstruction in its course will become lost. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 22 r. 



I will not refrain from setting among these precepts a new device for 
consideration which, although it may appear trivial and almost ludi- 
crous, is nevertheless of great utility in arousing the mind to various 

And this is that if you look at any walls spotted with various stains 
or with a mixture of different kinds of stones, if you are about to in- 
vent some scene you will be able to see in it a resemblance to various 



different landscapes adorned with mountains, rivers, rocks, trees, plains, 
wide valleys and various groups of hills. You will also be able to see 
divers combats and figures in quick movement, and strange expressions 
of faces, and outlandish costumes, and an infinite number of things 
which you can then reduce into separate and well-conceived forms. 
With such walls and blends of different stones it comes about as it does 
with the sound of bells, in whose clanging you may discover every 
name and word that you can imagine. 


Painting is concerned •with all the ten attributes of sight, namely 
darkness and brightness, substance and colour, form and place, remote- 
ness and nearness, movement and rest; and it is with these attributes 
that this my small book will be interwoven, 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. 



As a means of practising this perspective of the variation and loss or 
diminution of the proper essence of colours, take, at distances a hun- 
dred braccia apart, objects standing in the landscape, such as trees, 
houses, men and places, and in front of the first tree fix a piece of glass 
so that it is quite steady, and then let your eye rest upon it and trace out 
a tree upon the glass above the outline of the tree; and afterwards re- 
move the glass so far to one side that the actual tree seems almost to 
touch the one that you have drawn. Then colour your drawing in such 
a way that the two are alike in colour and form, and that if you close 
one eye both seem painted on the glass and the same distance away. 
Then proceed in the same way with a second and a third tree at dis- 
tances of a hundred braccia from each other. And these will always 
serve as your standards and teachers when you are at work on pictures 
where they can be applied, and they will cause the work to be success- 
ful in its distance. 




But I find it is a rule that the second is reduced to four-fifths the 
size of the first when it is twenty braccia distant from it. 


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 

Those whom you wish to represent as strong should not be shown 
thus except in their manner of turning their heads upon their shoul- 
ders, ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 22 v. 


Linear perspective has to do with the function of the lines of sight, 
proving by measurement how much smaller is the second object than 
the first and the third than the second, and so on continually until the 
limit of things seen. I find by experience that if the second object is as 
far distant from the first as the first is from your eye, although as be- 
tween themselves they may be of equal size, the second will seem half 
as small again as the first; and if the third object is equal in size to 
the second, and it is as far beyond the second as the second is from the 
first, 1 it will appear half the size of the second; and thus by successive 
degrees at equal distances the objects will be continually lessened by 
half, the second being half the first — provided that the intervening 
space does not amount to as much as twenty braccia; for at the distance 
of twenty braccia a figure resembling yours will lose four-fifths of its 
size, and at a distance of forty braccia it will lose nine-tenths, and nine- 
teen-twentieths at sixty braccia, and so by degrees it will continue to 
diminish, when the plane of the picture is twice your own height away 
from you, for if the distance only equals your own height there is a 
great difference between the first set of braccia and the second. 

1 MS. has 'third'. 




You should make the figure in the foreground in an historical com- 
position proportionately less than life size according to the number of 
braccia that you place it behind the front line, and then make the others 
in proportion to the first by the rule above. 

I give the degrees of the things seen by the eye as the musician does 
of the sounds heard by the ear: 

Although the things seen by the eye seem to touch as they recede I 
will nevertheless found my rule on spaces of twenty braccia, as the 
musician has done with sounds, for although they are united and con- 
nected together he has nevertheless fixed the degrees from sound to 
sound, calling these first, second, third, fourth and fifth, and so from 
degree to degree he has given names to the varieties of the sound of the 
voice, as it becomes higher or lower. 

A method of making the shadow on figures correspond to their light 
and their shape: 

When you make a figure and wish to see whether the shadow cor- 
responds to the light, and is neither redder nor yellower than is the 
nature of the essence of the colour which you wish to show in shadow, 
you should do as follows: with a finger make a shadow upon the illu- 
minated part, and if the accidental shadow made by you is like the 
natural shadow made by your finger upon your work, it will be well 
then by moving the finger nearer or farther off, to make the shadows 
darker or lighter, comparing them constantly with your own. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 23 r. 



All those objects opposite to the eye which are too near to it will have 
their edges difficult to discern, as happens when objects are near to the 
light and cast a large and indistinct shadow, even so this does when 
it has to judge of objects outside it: in all cases of linear perspective its 
action is similar to that of light. The reason of this is that the eye has 



one principal line [of vision | which dilates as it acquires distance, and 
embraces with exactness of perception large things far away as it does 
small things close at hand. The eye however sends out a multitude of 
lines on either side of this principal centre-line, and these have less 
power to discern correctly as they are farther from the centre in this 
radiation. It follows therefore when an object is placed close to the eye 
that at that stage of nearness to the principal line of vision this is not 
capable of distinguishing the edges of the object, and so these edges 
must needs find themselves amid the lines that have but a poor power 
of comprehension. Their part in the functions of the eye is like that of 
setters at the chase, who start the prey but cannot catch it. So while 
they cannot themselves apprehend them they are a reason why the 
principal line of vision is diverted to the objects touched by these lines. 
It follows therefore that the objects which have their edges judged 
by these lines are indistinct. ms. 2038 23 v. 


When you wish to know anything well by heart which you have 
studied follow this method : — 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 have 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. Note well where the tracing and your drawing do not tally, 
and where you find that you have erred bear it in mind in order not to 
make the mistake again. Even return to the model in order to copy the 
part where you were wrong so many times as to fix it in your mind; 
and if you cannot procure smooth glass to make a tracing of the ob- 
ject take a piece of very fine parchment well oiled and then dried, and 
when you have used it 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 well in front of your eyes, that is between your eye and the 
object that you wish to portray. Then move 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 careful attention to the aerial perspective. 


If you wish thoroughly to accustom yourself to correct and good 
positions for your figures, fasten a frame or loom divided into squares 
by threads between your eye and the nude figure which you are repre- 
senting, and then make the same squares upon the paper where you 
wish to draw the said nude but very faintly. You should then place 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. And these threads will instruct you as to all the parts of the 
body which in each attitude are found below the pit of the throat, be- 
low the angles of the shoulders, below the breasts, the hips and the 
other parts of the body; and the transverse lines of the network will 
show you how much higher the figure is above the leg on which it is 
posed than above the other, and the same with the hips, the knees and 
the feet. But always fix the net by a perpendicular line and then see 
that all the divisions that you see the nude take in the network, the 
nude that you draw takes in the network of your sketch. The squares 
you draw may be as much smaller than those of the network in pro- 
portion as you wish your figure to be less than life size: then keep in 
mind in the figures that you make, the rule of the corresponding 
proportions of the limbs as the network has revealed it to you, and this 
should be three and a half braccia in height and three wide, at a dis- 
tance of seven braccia from you and one from the nude figure. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 24 r, 





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 sub- 
ject of the two images is in conformity with both, studying especially 
the mirror. The mirror ought to be taken as a guide — that is, the flat 
mirror — for within its surface substances have many points of resem- 
blance to a picture; namely, that 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 one single surface, and the mirror 
is the same. 

The picture is intangible, inasmuch as what appears round and de- 
tached cannot be enclosed within the hands, and the mirror is the 
same. The mirror and the picture present the images of things sur- 
rounded by shadow and light, and each alike seems to project con- 
siderably from the plane of its surface. And since you know that the 
mirror presents detached things to you by means of outlines and 
shadows and lights, and since you have moreover amongst your colours 
more powerful shadows and lights than those of the mirror, it is certain 
that if you but know well how to compose your picture it will also 
seem a natural thing seen in a great mirror, ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 24 v. 

Of the poor excuse made by those who falsely and unworthily get 
themselves styled painters : 

There is a certain class of painters who though they have given but 
little attention to study claim to live in all the beauty of gold and azure. 
These aver — such is their folly! — that they are not able to work up to 
their best standard because of the poor payment, but that they have 
the knowledge and could do as well as any other if they were well 

But see now the foolish folk! They have not the sense to keep by 
them some specimen of their good work so that they may say, 'this is 
at a high price, and that is at a moderate price and that is quite cheap', 
and so show that they have work at all prices. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 25 r. 




There is another kind of perspective which I call aerial, because by 
the difference in the atmosphere one is able to distinguish the various 
distances of different buildings when their bases appear to end on a 
single line, for this would be the appearance presented by a group of 
buildings on the far side of a wall, all of which as seen above the top 
of the wall look to be the same size; and if in painting you wish to 
make one seem farther away than another you must make the at- 
mosphere somewhat heavy. You know that in an atmosphere of uni- 
form 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, almost of the same 
colour as the atmosphere when the sun is in the east. Therefore you 
should make the building which is nearest above the wall of its natural 
colour, and that which is more distant make less defined and bluer; 
and one which you wish should seem as far away again make of 
double the depth of blue, and one you desire should seem five times 
as far away make five times as blue. And as a consequence of this rule 
it will come about that the buildings which above a given line appear 
to be of the same size will be plainly distinguished as to which are the 
more distant and which larger than the others. 


We may frankly admit that certain people deceive themselves who 
apply the title 'a good master' to a painter who can only do the head or 
the figure well. Surely it is no great achievement if by studying one 
thing only during his whole lifetime he attain to some degree of ex- 
cellence therein! But since, as we know, painting embraces and con- 
tains within itself all the things which nature produces or which result 
from the fortuitous actions of men, and in short whatever can be com- 
prehended by the eyes, it would seem to me that he is but a poor 
master who makes only a single figure well. 

For do you not see how many and how varied are the actions which 
are performed by men alone? Do you not see how many different 



kinds of animals there are, and also of trees and plants and flowers? 
What variety of hilly and level places, of springs, rivers, cities, public 
and private buildings; of instruments fitted for man's use; of divers 
costumes, ornaments and arts? — Things which should be rendered 
with equal facility and grace by whoever you wish to call a good 


Which is better — to draw from nature or from the antique? 
And which is more difficult — the lines or the light and shade? 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 25 v. 



I have proved in my own case that it is of no small benefit on find- 
ing oneself in bed in the dark to go over again in the imagination the 
main outlines of the forms previously studied, or of other noteworthy 
things conceived by ingenious speculation; and this exercise is entirely 
to be commended, and it is useful in fixing things in the memory. 

How the painter ought to be desirous of hearing every man's 
opinion as to the progress of his work: 

Surely when a man is painting a picture he ought not to refuse to 
hear any man's opinion, for we know very well that though a man 
may not be a painter he may have a true conception of the form of 
another man, and can judge aright whether he is hump-backed or has 
one shoulder high or low, or whether he has a large mouth or nose 
or other defects. 

Since then we recognise that men are able to form a true judgment 
as to the works of nature, how much the more does it behove us to 
admit that they are able to judge our faults. For you know how much 
a man is deceived in his own works, and if you do not recognise this 
in your own case observe it in others and then you will profit by their 
mistakes. 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. 

How in works of importance a man should not trust so entirely to 
his memory as to disdain to draw from nature: 

Any master who let it be understood that he could himself recall all 
the forms and effects of nature would certainly appear to me to be 
endowed with great ignorance, considering that these effects are in- 
finite and that our memory is not of so great capacity as to suffice 

Do you therefore, 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. 

For these, then, and other reasons which might be given, you should 
apply yourself first of all to drawing, in order to present to the eye in 
visible form the purpose and invention created originally in your 
imagination; then proceed to take from it or add to it until you satisfy 
yourself; then have men arranged as models draped or nude in the way 
in which you have disposed them in your work; and make the pro- 
portions and size in accordance with perspective, so that no part of the 
work remains that is not so counselled by reason and by the effects in 

And this will be the way to make yourself renowned in your art. 

An object which is represented in white and black will appear in 
more pronounced relief than any other : and therefore I would remind 
you, O painter, that you should clothe your figures in as bright colours 
as you can, for if you make them dark in colour they will be only in 
slight relief and be very little visible at a distance. This is because the 
shadows of all objects are dark, and if you make a garment dark there 
will be only a slight difference between its lights and shades, whereas 
with the bright colours there are many grades of difference. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 26 r. 


If you desire to acquire facility in keeping in your mind the ex- 
pression of a face, first learn by heart the various different kinds of 



heads, eyes, noses, mouths, chins, throats, and also necks and shoulders. 
Take as an instance noses:— they are of ten types: straight, bulbous, 
hollow, prominent either above or below the centre, aquiline, regular, 
simian, round, and pointed. These divisions hold good as regards pro- 
file. Seen from in front, noses are of twelve types: thick in the middle, 
thin in the middle, with the tip broad, and narrow at the base, and 
narrow at the tip, and broad at the base, with nostrils broad or nar- 
row, or high or low, and with the openings either visible or hidden by 
the tip. And similarly you will find variety in the other features; of 
which things you ought to make studies from nature and so fix them 
in your mind. Or when you have to draw a face from memory, carry 
with you a small notebook in which you have noted down such fea- 
tures, and then when you have cast a glance at the face of the person 
whom you wish to draw you can look privately and see which nose or 
mouth has a resemblance to it, and make a tiny mark against it in 
order to recognise it again at home. Of abnormal faces I here say 
nothing, for they are kept in mind without difficulty. 



When you, draughtsmen, wish to find some profitable recreation in 
games you should always practise things which may be of use in your 
profession, that is by giving your eye accuracy of judgment so that it 
may know how to estimate the truth as to the length and breadth of 
objects. So in order to accustom the mind to such things let one of you 
draw a straight line anywhere on a wall; and then let each of you take 
a light rush or straw in his hand, and let each cut his own to the length 
which the first line appears to him when he is distant from it a space 
of ten braccia, and then let each go up to the copy in order to measure 
it against the length which he has judged it to be, and he whose 
measure comes nearest to the length of the copy has done best and is 
the winner, and he should receive from all the prize which was pre- 
viously agreed upon by you. Furthermore you should take measure- 
ments fore-shortened, that is, you should take a spear or some other 
stick and look before you to a certain point of distance, and then let 
each set himself to reckon how many times this measure is contained 



in the said distance. Another thing is to see who can draw the best 
line one braccio in length, and this may be tested by tighdy drawn 

Diversions such as these enable the eye to acquire accuracy of judg- 
ment, and this is the primary essential of painting. 


I say and am prepared to prove that it is much better to be in the 
company of others when you draw rather than alone, for many reasons. 
The first is that you will be ashamed of being seen in the ranks of the 
draughtsmen if you are outclassed by them, and this feeling of shame 
will cause you to make progress in study; secondly a rather commend- 
able envy will stimulate you to join the number of those who are more 
praised than you are, for the praises of the others will serve you as a 
spur; yet another is that you will acquire something of the manner of 
anyone whose work is better than yours, while if you are better than 
the others you will profit by seeing how to avoid their errors, and the 
praises of others will tend to increase your powers. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 26 v. 



The winter evenings should be spent by youthful students in study 
of the things prepared during the summer; that is, all the drawings 
from the nude which you have made in the summer should be brought 
together, and you should make a choice from among them of the best 
limbs and bodies, and practise at these and learn them by heart. 


Afterwards in the ensuing summer you should make choice of some 
one who has a good presence, and has not been brought up to wear 
doublets, and whose figure consequently has not lost its natural bear- 
ing, and make him go through various graceful and elegant move- 
ments. If he fails to show the muscles very clearly within the outlines 



of the limbs, this is of no consequence. It is enough for you merely to 
obtain good attitudes from the figure, and you can correct the limbs by 
those which you have studied during the winter. 


The painter who has acquired a knowledge of the nature of the 
sinews, muscles, and tendons will know exactly in the movement of 
any limb how many and which of the sinews are the cause of it, and 
which muscle by its swelling is the cause of this sinew's contracting, 
and which sinews having been changed into most delicate cartilage 
surround and contain the said muscle. So he will be able in divers 
ways and universally to indicate the various muscles by means of the 
different attitudes of his figures; and he will not do like many who in 
different actions always make the same things appear in the arm, the 
back, the breast, and the legs; for such things as these ought not to 
rank in the category of minor faults. 


Methinks it is no small grace in a painter to be able to give a pleas- 
ing 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 the best parts of many beautiful 
faces of which the beauty is established rather by general repute than 
by your own judgment, for you may readily deceive yourself by select- 
ing such faces as bear a resemblance to your own, since it would often 
seem that such similarities please us; and if you were ugly you would 
not select beautiful faces, but would be creating ugly faces like many 
painters whose types often resemble their master; so therefore choose 
the beautiful ones as I have said, and fix them in your mind. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 27 r. 


The painter or draughtsman ought to be solitary, in order that the 
well-being of the body may not sap the vigour of the mind; and more 



especially when he is occupied with the consideration and investiga- 
tion of things which by being continually present before his eyes fur- 
nish food to be treasured up in the memory. 

If you are alone you belong entirely to yourself; if you are accom- 
panied even by 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 should say, 'I will take my own course; I will retire apart, so 
that I may be the better able to investigate the forms of natural ob- 
jects', then I say this must needs turn out badly, for you will not be 
able to prevent yourself from often lending an ear to their chatter; 
and not being able to serve two masters you will discharge badly the 
duty of companionship, and even worse that of endeavouring to real- 
ise your conceptions in art. 

But suppose you say, 'I will withdraw so far apart that their words 
shall not reach me nor in any way disturb me'. I reply that in this case 
you will be looked upon as mad, and bear in mind that in so doing you 
will then be solitary. 

If you must have companionship choose it from your studio; it may 
then help you to obtain the advantages which result from different 
methods of study. All other companionship may prove extremely 
harmful. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 27 v. and r. 

Of the method of learning aright how to compose groups of figures 
in historical pictures: 

When you have thoroughly learnt perspective, and have fixed in 
your memory all the various parts and forms of things, 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 one with another, both their actions 
and those of the bystanders who either intervene or stand looking on 
at these things; noting these down with rapid strokes in this way, 1 in a 
little pocket-book, which you ought always to carry with you. And let 
this be of tinted paper, so that it may not be rubbed out; but you 
should change the old for a new one, for these are not things to be 

1 Sketch of figure in text of MS. 



rubbed out but preserved with the utmost diligence; for there is such 
an infinite number of forms and actions of things that the memory is 
incapable of preserving them, and therefore you should keep those 
[sketches] as your patterns and teachers. 



If as draughtsman you wish to study well and profitably, accustom 
yourself when you are drawing to work slowly, and to determine be- 
tween the various lights, which possess the highest degree and meas- 
ure of brightness, and similarly as to the shadows, which are those 
that are darker than the rest, and in what manner they mingle to- 
gether, and to compare their dimensions one with another; and so 
with the contours to observe which way they are tending, and as to 
the lines what part of each is curved in one way or another, and where 
they are more or less conspicuous and consequently thick or fine; and 
lastly to see that your shadows and lights may blend without strokes 
or lines in the manner of smoke. And when you shall have trained 
your hand and judgment with this degree of care it will speedily come 
to pass that you will have no need to take thought thereto. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 27 v. 



We know well that mistakes are more easily detected in the works of 
others than in one's own, and that oftentimes while censuring the 
small faults of others you will overlook your own great faults. In 
order to avoid such ignorance make yourself first of all a master of 
perspective, then gain a complete knowledge of the proportions of 
man and other animals, and also make yourself a good architect, that 
is in so far as concerns the form of the buildings and of the other 
things which are upon the earth, which are infinite in form; and the 
more knowledge you have of these the more will your work be worthy 
of praise; and for those things in which you have no practice do not 
disdain to draw from nature. But to return to what has been promised 
above, I say that 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 re- 
verse, 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. 

It is also a good plan every now and then to go away and have a 
little relaxation; for then when you come back to the work your 
judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause 
you to lose the power of judgment. 

It is also advisable to go some distance away, because then the work 
appears smaller, and more of it is taken in at a glance, and a lack of 
harmony or proportion in the various parts and in the colours of the 
objects is more readily seen. 


We know clearly that the sight is one of the swiftest actions that can 
exist, for in the same instant it surveys an infinite number of forms; 
nevertheless it can only comprehend one thing at a time. To take an 
instance: you, O Reader, might at a glance look at the whole of this 
written page, and you would instantly decide that it is full of various 
letters, but you will not recognise in this space of time either what 
letters they are or what they purport to say, and therefore it is neces- 
sary for you if you wish to gain a knowledge of these letters to take 
them word by word and line by line. 

Again, if you wish to go up to the summit of a building it will be 
necessary for you to ascend step by step, otherwise it will be impos- 
sible to reach the top. So I say to you whom nature inclines to this art 
that if you would have a true knowledge of the forms of different ob- 
jects you should commence with their details, and not pass on to the 
second until the first is well in your memory and you have practised 
it. If you do otherwise you will be throwing away time, and to a cer- 
tainty you will greatly prolong the period of study. And remember to 
acquire diligence rather than facility. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 28 r. 


Further I remind you to pay great attention in giving limbs to your 
figures, so that they may not merely appear to harmonize with the 



size of the body but also with its age. So the limbs oi youths should 
have few muscles and veins, and have a soft surface and be rounded 
and pleasing in colour; in men they should be sinewy and full of 
muscles; in old men the surface should be wrinkled, and rough, and 
covered with veins, and with the sinews greatly protruding. 

How little children have their joints the reverse of those of men in 
their thickness: 

Little children have all the joints slender while the intervening parts 
are thick; and this is due to the fact that the joints are only covered by 
skin and there is no flesh at all over them, and this skin acts as a sinew 
to gird and bind together the bones; and a flabby layer of flesh is 
found between one joint and the next, shut in between the skin and 
the bone. But because the bones are thicker at the joints than between 
them, the flesh as the man grows up loses that superfluity which existed 
between the skin and the bone, and so the skin is drawn nearer to the 
bone and causes the limbs to seem more slender. But since there is 
nothing above the joints except cartilaginous and sinewy skin, this can- 
not dry up, and not being dried up it does not shrink. So for these 
reasons the limbs of children are slender at the joints and thick be- 
tween the joints, as is seen in the joints of the fingers, arms, and 
shoulders which are slender and have great dimples; and a man on the 
contrary has all the joints of fingers, arms, and legs thick, and where 
children have hollows men have the joints protruding. 



I find a great difference between men and small boys in the length 
from one joint to another; for whereas the distance from the joint of 
the shoulder to the elbow, and from the elbow to the tip of the thumb, 
and from the humerus of one of the shoulders to the other, in a man 
is twice the head, in a child it is only once, because nature fashions 
the stature of the seat of the intellect for us before that of its active 




Make first a general shadow over the whole of the extended part 
which does not see the light; then give to it the half shadows and the 
strong shadows, contrasting these one with another. 

And similarly give the extended light in half-tone, adding after- 
wards the half-lights and the high lights and contrasting these in the 
same manner. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 28 v. 

In what way you ought to make a head so that its parts may fit into 
their true positions : 

To make a head so that its features are in agreement with those of 
a head that turns and bends, use these means: you know that the eyes, 
eyebrows, nostrils, corners of the mouth and sides of the chin, jaw, 
cheeks, ears and all the parts of a face are placed at regular positions 
upon the face, therefore when you have made the face, make lines 
which pass from one corner of the eye to the other; and so also for 
the position of each feature. Then having continued the ends of these 
lines beyond the two sides of the face, observe whether on the right 
and the left the spaces in the same parallel are equal. But I would spe- 
cially remind you that you must make these lines extend to the point 
of your vision. 

The way to represent the eighteen actions of man: [these are] rest, 
movement, speed; erect, leaning, seated, bending, kneeling, lying 
down, suspended; carrying, being carried, pushing, dragging, striking, 
being struck, pressing down and raising up. 

You will treat first of the lights cast by windows to which you will 
give the name of restricted light; then treat of the lights of landscape 
to which you will give the name of free light; then treat of the light 
of luminous bodies. 



You know that you cannot make any animal without it having its 
limbs such that each bears some resemblance to that of some one of the 
other animals. If therefore you wish to make one of your imaginary 



animals appear natural — let us suppose it to be a dragon — take for its 
head that of a mastiff or setter, for its eyes those of a cat, for its cars 
those of a porcupine, for its nose that of a greyhound, with the eye- 
brows of a lion, the temples of an old cock and the neck of a water- 


See that when you are drawing and make a beginning of a line, 
that you look over all the object that you are drawing for any detail 
whatever which lies in the direction of the line that you have begun. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 29 r. 

How a figure is not worthy of praise unless such action appears in 
it as serves to express the passion of the soul: 

That figure is most worthy of praise which by its action best ex- 
presses the passion which animates it. 


An angry figure should be represented seizing someone by the hair 
and twisting his head down to the ground, with one knee on his ribs, 
and with the right arm and fist raised high up; let him have his hair 
dishevelled, his eyebrows low and knit together, his teeth clenched, the 
two corners of his mouth arched, and the neck which is all swollen and 
extended as he bends over the foe, should be full of furrows. 


A man who is in despair you should make turning his knife against 
himself, and rending his garments with his hands, and one of his hands 
should be in the act of tearing open his wound. Make him with his 
feet apart, his legs somewhat bent, and the whole body likewise bend- 
ing to the ground, and with his hair torn and streaming. 


The limbs should fit the body gracefully in harmony with the effect 
you wish the figure to produce; and if you desire to create a figure 



which shall possess a charm of its own, you should make it with limbs 
graceful and extended, without showing too many of the muscles, and 
the few which your purpose requires you to show indicate briefly, that 
is without giving them prominence, and with the shadows not sharply 
defined, and the limbs, and especially the arms, should be easy, that is 
that no limb should be in a straight line with the part that adjoins it. 
And if the hips which form as it were the poles of the man, are by 
his position placed so that the right is higher than the left, you should 
make the top shoulder-joint so that a line drawn from it perpendicu- 
larly falls on the most prominent part of the hip, and let this right 
shoulder be lower than the left. 

And let the hollow of the throat always be exactly over the middle of 
the joint of the foot which is resting on the ground. The leg which 
does not support the weight should have its knee below the other and 
near to the other leg. 

The positions of the head and arms are numberless, and therefore I 
will not attempt to give any rule; it will suffice that they should be 
natural and pleasing and should bend and turn in various ways, with 
the joints moving freely so that they may not seem like pieces of wood. 


If as experience shows luminous rays come from a single point, and 
proceed in the form of a sphere from this point radiating and spread- 
ing themselves through the air, the farther they go the more they are 
dispersed; and an object placed between the light and the wall is al- 
ways reproduced larger in its shadow, because the rays that strike it 
have become larger by the time they have reached the wall. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 29 v. 



As regards the arrangement of the limbs, you should bear in mind 
that when you wish to represent one who by some chance has either 
to turn backwards or on one side, you must not make him move his 
feet and all his limbs in the same direction as he turns his head; but 



you should show the process spreading itself and taking efTect over the 
four sets of joints, namely those of the foot, the knee, the hip, and the 
neck. And if you let his weight rest on the right leg, you should make 
the knee of the left bend inwards; and the foot of it should be slightly 
raised on the outside, and the left shoulder should be somewhat lower 
than the right; and the nape of the neck should be exactly above the 
outer curve of the ankle of the left foot, and the left shoulder should 
be above the toe of the right foot in a perpendicular line. And always 
so dispose your figures that the direction in which the head is turned 
is not that in which the breast faces, since nature has for our con- 
venience so formed the neck that it can easily serve the different oc- 
casions on which the eye desires to turn in various directions; and to 
this same organ the other joints are in part responsive. And if ever 
you show a man sitting with his hands at work upon something by his 
side, make the chest turn upon the hip joints. 


A body which finds itself placed between two equal lights will put 
forth two shadows, which will take their direction equally according 
to the lines of the two lights. And if you move the body farther away 
or bring it nearer to one of the lights, the shadow which points to the 
nearer light will be less deep than that which points to the one more 


If an object placed in front of a particular light be very near to it 
you will see it cast a very large shadow on the opposite wall, and the 
farther you remove the object from the light the smaller will the 
shadow become. 


The want of proportion of the shadow which is greater than its 
cause, arises from the fact that as the light is less than its object it can- 



not be at an equal distance from the extremities of the object, and the 
part which is at a greater distance increases more than those which are 
nearer, and therefore the shadow increases. 



Atmosphere which surrounds a light almost partakes of the nature 
of this light in brightness and in warmth; the farther away it recedes 
the more it loses this resemblance. An object which casts a large shadow 
is near to the light and finds itself lit up both by the light and by the 
luminous atmosphere, and consequently this atmosphere leaves the 
contours of the shadow indistinct. ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 30 r. 


Show first the smoke of the artillery mingled in the air with the dust 
stirred up by the movement of the horses and of the combatants. This 
process you should express as follows: the dust, since it is made up of 
earth and has weight, although by reason of its fineness it may easily 
rise and mingle with the air, will nevertheless readily fall down again, 
and the greatest height will be attained by such part of it as is the finest, 
and this will in consequence be the least visible and will seem almost 
the colour of the air itself. 

The smoke which is mingled with the dust-laden air will as it rises 
to a certain height have more and more the appearance of a dark cloud, 
at the summit of which the smoke will be more distinctly visible than 
the dust. The smoke will assume a bluish tinge, and the dust will keep 
its natural colour. From the side whence the light comes this mixture of 
air and smoke and dust will seem far brighter than on the opposite side. 

As for the combatants the more they are in the midst of this turmoil 
the less they will be visible, and the less will be the contrast between 
their lights and shadows. 

You should give a ruddy glow to the faces and the figures and the 
air around them, and to the gunners and those near to them, and this 
glow should grow fainter as it is farther away from its cause. The 
figures which are between you and the light, if far away, will appear 



dark against a light background, and the nearer their limbs are to the 
ground the less will they be visible, for there the dust is greater and 
thicker. And if you make horses galloping away from the throng, make 
little clouds of dust as far distant one from another as is the space 
between the strides made by the horse, and that cloud which is farthest 
away from the horse should be the least visible, for it should be high 
and spread out and thin, while that which is nearest should be most 
conspicuous and smallest and most compact. 

Let the air be full of arrows going in various directions, some 
mounting upwards, others falling, others flying horizontally; and let the 
balls shot from the guns have a train of smoke following their course. 
Show the figures in the foreground covered with dust on their hair and 
eyebrows and such other level parts as afford the dust a space to lodge. 

Make the conquerors running, with their hair and other light things 
streaming in the wind, and with brows bent down; and they should be 
thrusting forward opposite limbs, that is, if a man advances the right 
foot, the left arm should also come forward. If you represent anyone 
fallen you should show the mark where he has been dragged through 
the dust which has become changed to blood-stained mire, and round 
about in the half-liquid earth you should show the marks of the 
trampling of men and horses who have passed over it. 

Make a horse dragging the dead body of his master, and leaving 
behind him in the dust and mud the track of where the body was 
dragged along. 

Make the beaten and conquered pallid, with brows raised and knit 
together, and let the skin above the brows be all full of lines of pain; at 
the sides of the nose show the furrows going in an arch from the 
nostrils and ending where the eye begins, and show the dilatation of the 
nostrils which is the cause of these lines; and let the lips be arched 
displaying the upper row of teeth, and let the teeth be parted after the 
manner of such as cry in lamentation. Show someone using his hand 
as a shield for his terrified eyes, turning the palm of it towards the 
enemy, and having the other resting on the ground to support the 
weight of his body; let others be crying out with their mouths wide 
open, and fleeing away. Put all sorts of armour lying between the feet 
of the combatants, such as broken shields, lances, swords, and other 
things like these. Make the dead, some half-buried in dust, others with 



the dust all mingled with the oozing blood and changing into crimson 
mud; and let the line of the blood be discerned by its colour, flowing 
in a sinuous stream from the corpse to the dust. Show others in the 
death agony grinding their teeth and rolling their eyes, with clenched 
fists grinding against their bodies and with legs distorted. Then you 
might show one, disarmed and struck down by the enemy, turning on 
him with teeth and nails to take fierce and inhuman vengeance; and 
let a riderless horse be seen galloping with mane streaming in the wind, 
charging among the enemy and doing them great mischief with his 

You may see there one of the combatants, maimed and fallen on the 
ground, protecting himself with his shield, and the enemy bending 
down over him and striving to give him the fatal stroke; there might 
also be seen many men fallen in a heap on top of a dead horse; and 
you should show some of the victors leaving the combat and retiring 
apart from the crowd, and with both hands wiping away from eyes 
and cheeks the thick layer of mud caused by the smarting of their eyes 
from the dust. 1 

And the squadrons of the reserves should be seen standing full of 
hope but cautious, with eyebrows raised, and shading their eyes with 
their hands, peering into the thick, heavy mist in readiness for the 
commands of their captain; and so too the captain with his staff raised, 
hurrying to the reserves and pointing out to them the quarter of the 
field where they are needed; and you should show a river, within 
which horses are galloping, stirring the water all around with a heav- 
ing mass of waves and foam and broken water, leaping high into the 
air and over the legs and bodies of the horses; but see that you make 
no level spot of ground that is not trampled over with blood. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 31 r. and 30 v. 


This point ought to be at the same level as the eye of an ordinary 
man; and the end of the flat country which borders upon the sky 
should be made of the same height as the line where the earth touches 
the horizon, except for the mountains which are in liberty. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 31 r. 
1 MS. has per lamor della polvere. 




I say that when objects appear of minute size, it is due to the said 
objects being at a distance from the eye; and when this is the case, 
there must of necessity be a considerable quantity of atmosphere be- 
tween the eye and the object, and this atmosphere interferes with the 
distinctness of the form of the objects, and consequently the minute 
details of these bodies will become indistinguishable and unrecog- 

Therefore, O painter, you should make your lesser figures only sug- 
gested, and not highly finished; for if you do otherwise, you will pro- 
duce effects contrary to those of nature, your mistress. 

The object is small because of the great space which exists between 
the eye and it. This great space contains within itself a great quantity 
of atmosphere; and this atmosphere forms of itself a dense body which 
interposes and shuts out from the eye the minute details of the objects. 


Since one sees by experience that all bodies are surrounded by 
shadow and light it is expedient, O painter, that you so dispose the part 
illuminated that it is outlined against a dark object, and that in the 
same way the part of the body in shadow is outlined against a bright 
object. And this rule will be a great help to you in giving relief to 
your figures. 


When you have to draw from nature stand three times as far away 
as the size of the object that you are drawing. 
Why does a painting seem better in a mirror than outside it? 


This benign nature so provides that over all the world you find 
something to imitate. 




Where the shadow is bounded by light, note carefully where it is 
lighter or darker, and where it is more or less indistinct towards the 
light; and above all I would remind you that in youthful figures you 
should not make the shadows end like stone, for the flesh retains a 
slight transparency, as may be observed by looking at a hand held 
between the eye and the sun, when it is seen to flush red and to be of 
a luminous transparency. 

And let the part which is brightest in colour be between the lights 
and the shadows. And if you wish to see what depth of shadow is 
needed for the flesh, cast a shadow over it with your finger, and 
according as you wish it to be lighter or darker, hold your finger nearer 
or farther away from the picture, and then copy this shadow. 


Those trees and shrubs which are more split up into a quantity of 
thin branches ought to have less density of shadow. The trees and the 
shrubs which have larger leaves cast a greater shadow. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 31 v. 


The disposition of the light should be in harmony with the natural 
conditions under which you represent your figure; that is, if you are 
representing it in sunlight, make the shadows dark with great spaces 
of light, and mark the shadows of all the surrounding bodies and their 
shadows upon the ground. If you represent it in dull weather, make 
only a slight difference between the lights and the shadows, and do not 
make any other shadow at the feet. If you represent it within doors, 
make a strong difference between the lights and shadows and show the 
shadow on the ground, and if you represent a window covered by a 
curtain and the wall white there should be little difference between the 
lights and shadows. If it is lit by a fire you should make the lights 
ruddy and powerful and the shadows dark; and the shadows should 
be sharply defined where they strike the walls or the floor, and the 



farther away they extend from the body the broader and larger should 
they become. And if it be lit in part by the fire and in part by the 
atmosphere, make the part lit by the atmosphere the stronger, and let 
that lit by the fire be almost as red as fire itself. And above all let the 
figures that you paint have sufficient light and from above, that is all 
living persons whom you paint, for the people whom you see in the 
streets are all lighted from above; and I would have you know that 
you have no acquaintance so intimate but that if the light fell on him 
from below you would find it difficult to recognise him. 



First of all copy drawings by a good master made by his art from 
nature and not as exercises; then from a relief, keeping by you a draw- 
ing done from the same relief; then from a good model; and of this 
you ought to make a practice. 



When you are drawing from nature the light should be from the 
north, so that it may not vary; and if it is from the south keep the 
window covered with a curtain so that though the sun shine upon it 
all day long the light will undergo no change. The elevation of the 
light should be such that each body casts a shadow on the ground 
which is of the same length as its height. 


Since we see that the quality of colours becomes known by means of 
light, it is to be inferred that where there is most light there the true 
quality of the colour so illuminated will be most visible, and where 
there is most shadow there the colour will be most affected by the 
colour of the shadow. Therefore, O painter, be mindful to show the 
true quality of the colours in the parts which are in light. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 33 r. 




Each part of the surface of a body is in part affected by the colour 
of the thing opposite to it. 


If you set a spherical body in the midst of different objects, that is, 
so that on the one side it has the light of the sun and on the side 
opposite there is a wall illuminated by the sun, which may be green 
or some other colour, the surface on which it is resting being red and 
the two transverse sides dark, you will see the natural colour of this 
object take on the hues of those colours which are over against it. The 
strongest will be that proceeding from the light, the second that from 
the illuminated wall, the third that of the shadow. There yet remains 
however a portion which will take its hue from the colour of the 

The supreme misfortune is when theory outstrips performance. 

In the choice of figures aim at softness and delicacy rather than that 
they should be stiff and wooden. 


That body will present the strongest contrast between its lights and 
shadows which is seen by the strongest light, such as the light of the 
sun or at night by the light of a fire; but this should rarely be em- 
ployed in painting, because the work will remain hard and devoid of 

A body which is in a moderate light will have but little difference 
between its lights and shadows; and this comes to pass at the fall of 
the evening, or when there are clouds: works painted then are soft in 
feeling and every kind of face acquires a charm. 

Thus in every way extremes are injurious. Excess of light makes 
things seem hard; 1 and too much darkness does not admit of our sec 
ing them. The mean is excellent. 

1 MS. has // tropo lume fa crudo. So also Dr. Richter. The text of M. Ravaisson- 
Mollien has jacendo in place of fa rrudo. 




The lights cast from small windows also present a strong contrast 
of light and shadow, more especially if the chamber lit by them is 
large; and this is not good to use in painting. 

ms. 2038 Bib. Nat. 33 v. 

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

c.a. 76 r. a 

That countenance which in a picture is looking full in the face of 
the master who makes it will always be looking at all the spectators. 
And the figure painted when seen below from above will always 
appear as though seen below from above, although the eye of the 
beholder may be lower than the picture itself. c.a. hi v. b 



If nature had only one fixed standard for the proportions of the 
various parts, then the faces of all men would resemble each other to 
such a degree that it would be impossible to distinguish one from 
another; but she has varied the five parts of the face in such a way that 
although she has made an almost universal standard as to their size, 
she has not observed it in the various conditions to such a degree as to 
prevent one from being clearly distinguished from another. 

c.a. 119 v. a 


As the body with great slowness produced by the length of its con- 
trary movement turns in greater space and thereby gives a stouter 
blow, whereas movements which are continuous and short have little 
strength — so study upon the same subject made at long intervals of 
time causes the judgment to become more perfect and the better to 
recognise its own mistakes. And the same is true of the eye of the 
painter as it draws farther away from his picture. c.a. 122 v. a 

A picture or any representation of figures ought to be done in such a 
way that those who see them may be able with ease to recognise from 



their attitudes what is passing through their minds. So if you have to 
represent a man of good repute in the act of speaking, make his ges- 
tures accord with the probity of his speech; and similarly if you have to 
represent a brutal man, make him with fierce movements flinging out 
his arms towards his hearer, and the head and chest protruding for- 
ward beyond the feet should seem to accompany the hands of the 

Just so a deaf mute who sees two people talking, although being 
himself deprived of the power of hearing, is none the less able to divine 
from the movements and gestures of the speakers the subject of their 

I once saw in Florence a man who had become deaf, who could not 
understand you if you spoke to him loudly, while if you spoke softly 
without letting the voice utter any sound, he understood you merely 
from the movement of the lips. Perhaps, however, you will say to me: 
'But does not a man who speaks loudly move his lips like one who 
speaks softly? And since the one moves his lips like the other, will not 
the one be understood like the other?' As to this I leave the decision to 
the test of experience. Set someone to speak softly and then [louder], 
and watch the lips. c.a. 139 r. d 

How from age to age the art of painting continually declines and 
deteriorates when painters have no other standard than work already 

The painter will produce pictures of little merit if he takes the works 
of others as his standard; but if he will apply himself to learn from the 
objects of nature he will produce good results. This we see was the case 
with the painters who came after the time of the Romans, for they con- 
tinually imitated each other, and from age to age their art steadily de- 

After these came Giotto the Florentine, and he — reared in mountain 
solitudes, inhabited only by goats and such like beasts — turning straight 
from nature to his art, began to draw on the rocks the movements of 
the goats which he was tending, and so began to draw the figures of all 
the animals which were to be found in the country, in such a way that 
after much study he not only surpassed the masters of his own time but 
all those of many preceding centuries. After him art again declined, 



because all were imitating paintings already done; and so for centuries 
it continued to decline until such time as Tommaso the Florentine, 
nick-named Masaccio, showed by the perfection of his work how those 
who took as their standard anything other than nature, the supreme 
guide of all the masters, were wearying themselves in vain. Similarly 
I would say about these mathematical subjects, that those who study 
only the authorities and not the works of nature are in art the grand- 
sons and not the sons of nature, which is the supreme guide of the good 

Mark the supreme folly of those who censure such as learn from na- 
ture, leaving uncensured the authorities who were themselves the 
disciples of this same nature! c.a. 141 r. b 


Of not regarding the limbs of the figures in historical subjects, as 
many do who in making whole figures spoil their arrangement. For 
when you make figures one behind another, see that you draw them in 
their entirety, so that the limbs which are seen appearing beyond the 
surface of the first figure may retain their natural length and position. 

c.a. 160 r. a 

When a man running wishes to use up the impetus which is carry- 
ing him on, he prepares a contrary impetus which is brought into op- 
eration by his leaning backwards; this is capable of proof, for if the 
impetus carries the moving body forward with a momentum repre- 
sented by four, and the impulse of the moving body to turn and fall 
back has a momentum of four the one momentum will neutralise the 
other which is contrary to it, and so the impetus is used up. 


The surface of each body takes part of the colour of whatever is set 
against it. The colours of the objects in light are reproduced on each 
other's surface at different spots according to the varieties in the posi- 
tions of these objects. [Diagram] Let o be a blue object in light, which 
alone by itself faces the space b c of the white sphere a b c d e f, and 



tinges it blue; and let m be a yellow object which is reflected on the 
space a b in company with the blue object o, and tinges it green, by the 
second of this which shows that blue and yellow together produce a 
most beautiful green, etc. — and the rest will be set forth in the Book 
on Painting. In that book it will be demonstrated, by transmitting the 
images of the bodies and colours of the things illuminated by the sun 
through a small round hole in a dark place on to a smooth surface 
which in itself is white. But everything will be upside down. 

c.a. 181 r. a 



The painter requires such knowledge of mathematics as belongs to 
painting, and severance from companions who are not in sympathy 
with his studies, and his brain should have the power of adapting itself 
to the tenor of the objects which present themselves before it, and he 
should be freed from all other cares. 

And if while considering and examining one subject a second should 
intervene, as happens when an object occupies the mind, he ought to 
decide which of these subjects presents greater difficulties in investiga- 
tion, and follow that until it becomes entirely clear, and afterwards 
pursue the investigation of the other. And above all he should keep his 
mind as clear as the surface of a mirror, which becomes changed to as 
many different colours as are those of the objects within it, and his 
companions should resemble him in a taste for these studies, and if 
he fail to find any such he should accustom himself to be alone in 
his investigations, for in the end he will find no more profitable 
companionship. c.a. 184 v. c 


I say that one ought first to learn about the limbs and how they are 
worked, and after having completed this knowledge one ought to 
study their actions in the different conditions in which men are placed, 
and thirdly to devise figure compositions, the studies for these being 
taken from natural actions made on occasion as opportunities offered; 
and one should be on the watch in the streets and squares and fields, 



and there make sketches with rapid strokes to represent features, that 
is for a head one may make an o, and lor an arm a straight or curved 
line, and so in like manner for the legs and trunk, afterwards when 
back at home working up these notes in a completed form. 

My opponent says that in order to gain experience and to learn how 
to work readily, it is better that the first period of study should be spent 
in copying various compositions made by different masters either on 
sheets of paper or on walls, since from these one acquires rapidity in 
execution and a good method. But to this it may be replied that the 
ensuing method would be good if it was founded upon works that were 
excellent in composition and by diligent masters; and since such masters 
are so rare that few are to be found, it is safer to go direct to the works 
of nature than to those which have been imitated from her originals 
with great deterioration and thereby to acquire a bad method, for he 
who has access to the fountain does not go to the water-pot. 

c.a. 199 v. a 

These rules are to be used solely in testing figures; for every man in 
his first compositions makes certain mistakes, and if he does not become 
conscious of them he does not correct them; therefore in order to dis- 
cover mistakes you should test your work and where you find there mis- 
takes correct them, and remember never to fall into them again. But if 
you were to attempt to apply all these rules in composition you would 
never make a beginning and would cause confusion in your work. 

These rules are intended to help you to a free and good judgment; 
for good judgment proceeds from good understanding, and good under- 
standing comes from reason trained by good rules, and good rules are 
the children of sound experience, which is the common mother of all 
the sciences, and arts. If therefore you bear well in mind the precepts 
of my rules you will be able merely by the accuracy of your judgment 
to criticize and discern every error in proportion in any work, whether 
it is in the perspective or in the figures or other things, c.a. 221 v. d 

All the limbs of every kind of animal should correspond with its age, 
that is, the young should not show their veins or nerves as most [paint- 
ers] do in order to show their dexterity in art, spoiling the whole by 
mistakes in the limbs. 



All the parts of an animal should correspond with the whole, that is, 
when a man is short and thickset you must see that each of his limbs is 
short and thickset. 

Let the movements of men be such as are in keeping with their 
dignity or meanness. c.a. 345 v. b 

Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose and design; 
that is, when you make your figure you should consider carefully who 
it is and what you wish it to be doing. 

In order to produce an effect of similar action in a picture of an 
old man and a young, you must make the action of the young man 
appear more vigorous in proportion as he is more powerful than the 
old man, and you will make the same difference between a young 
man and an infant. 

If you have to represent a man either as moving or lifting or pulling, 
or carrying a weight equal to his own weight, how ought you to fit the 
legs under his body? c.a. 349 r. b 

Painters oftentimes deceive themselves by representing water in 
which they render visible what is seen by man; whereas the water sees 
the object from one side and the man sees it from the other; and it 
frequently happens that the painter will see a thing from above and the 
water sees it from beneath, and so the same body is seen in front and 
behind, and above and below, for the water reflects the image of the 
object in one way and the eye sees it in another. c.a. 354 r. d 

We consider as a monstrosity one who has a very large head and 
short legs, and as a monstrosity also one who is in great poverty and 
has rich garments; we should therefore deem him well proportioned 
in whom the parts are in harmony with the whole. c.a. 375 r. c 


The painter who has clumsy hands will reproduce the same in his 
works, and the same thing will happen with every limb unless long 
study prevents it. Do you then, O painter, take careful note of that part 
in yourself which is most mis-shapen, and apply yourself by study to 






remedy this entirely. For if von are brutal, your figures will be the 
same and devoid of grace, and in like manner every quality that there 
is within you of good or of evil will be in part revealed in your figures. 

a 23 r. 

When you draw nudes be careful always to draw the whole figure, 
and then finish the limb which seems the best and at the same time 
study its relation to the other limbs, as otherwise you may form the 
habit of never properly joining the limbs together. 

Take care never to make the head turn the same way as the chest 
nor the arm move with the leg; and if the head is turned towards the 
right shoulder make all the parts lower on the left side than on 
the right, but if you make the chest prominent and the head turning 
on the left side, then make the parts on the right side higher than 
those on the left. a 28 v. 

Note in the movements and attitudes of the figures how the limbs 
and their expressions vary, because the shoulder blades in the move- 
ments of the arms and shoulders alter considerably the position of the 
backbone; and you will find all the causes of this in my book of 


You, who reproduce the works of nature, behold the dimensions, the 
degrees of intensity, and the forms of the lights and shadows of each 
muscle, and observe in the lengths of their figures towards which 
muscle they are directed by the axis of their central lines. e 3 r. 



The background that surrounds the figures in any subject composi- 
tion ought to be darker than the illuminated part of these figures, and 
lighter than their part in shadow. e 4 r. 

That every part of a whole should be in proportion to its whole: 
thus if a man has a thick short figure that he should be the same in 
every one of his limbs, that is, with short thick arms, big hands, fingers 
thick and short, with joints of the same character and so with the rest. 



And I would have the same understood to apply to all kinds of animals 
and plants; thus, in diminishing the parts, do so in proportion to their 
size, as also in enlarging. 



In representing wind, in addition to showing the bending of the 
boughs and the inverting of their leaves at the approach of the wind, 
you should represent the clouds of fine dust mingled with the troubled 
air. e 6 v. 


The first requisite of painting is that the bodies which it represents 
should appear in relief, and that the scenes which surround them with 
effects of distance should seem to enter into the plane in which the pic- 
ture is produced by means of the three parts of perspective, namely the 
diminution in the distinctness of the form of bodies, the diminution in 
their size, and the diminution in their colour. Of these three divisions 
of perspective, the first has its origin in the eye, the two others are 
derived from the atmosphere that is interposed between the eye and the 
objects which the eye beholds. 

The second requisite of painting is that the actions should be appro- 
priate and have a variety in the figures, so that the men may not all 
look as though they were brothers. e 79 v. 


The painter ought to strive at being universal, for there is a great 
lack of dignity in doing one thing well and another badly, like many 
who study only the measurements and proportions of the nude figure 
and do not seek after its variety; for a man may be properly propor- 
tioned and yet be fat and short or long and thin, or medium. And who- 
ever does not take count of these varieties will always make his figures 
in one mould, so that they will all appear sisters, and this practice 
deserves severe censure. 




It is an easy matter for whoever knows how to represent man to 
afterwards acquire this universality, for all the animals which live upon 
the earth resemble each other in their limbs, that is in muscles, sinews 
and bones, and they do not vary at all, except in length or thickness as 
will be shown in the Anatomy. There are also the aquatic animals, of 
which there are many different kinds; but with regard to these I do not 
advise the painter to make a fixed standard, for they are of almost 
infinite variety; and the same is also true of the insect world, g 5 v. 



The air was dark from the heavy rain which was falling slantwise, 
bent by the cross-current of the winds, and formed itself in waves in the 
air, like those one sees formed by the dust, the only difference being 
that these drifts were furrowed by the lines made by the drops of the 
falling water. It was tinged by the colour of the fire produced by the 
thunder-bolts wherewith the clouds were rent and torn asunder, the 
flashes from which smote and tore open the vast waters of the flooded 
valleys, and as these lay open there were revealed their depths x the 
bowed tops of the trees. 

Neptune might be seen with his trident in the midst of the waters, 
and iEolus with his winds should be shown entangling the floating 
trees which had been uprooted and were mingled with the mighty 

The horizon and the whole firmament was overcast and lurid with 
the flashings of the incessant lightning. 

Men and birds might be seen crowded together upon the tall trees 
which over-topped the swollen waters, forming hills which surround 
the great abysses. g 6 v. 

1 Dr. Richter reads vertici. I have followed M. Ravaisson-Mollien in reading ventri. 
MS. has vertri. 




Those who are enamoured of practice without science are like a 
pilot who goes into a ship without rudder or compass and never ha* 
any certainty where he is going. 

Practice should always be based upon a sound knowledge of theory, 
of which perspective is the guide and gateway, and without it nothing 
can be done well in any kind of painting. c 8 r. 

Of the lights on the lower extremities of bodies packed tightly to- 
gether, such as men in battle: 

Of men and horses labouring in battle, the different parts should be 
darker in proportion as they are closer to the ground on which they are 
supported; and this is proved from the sides of wells, which become 
darker in proportion to their depth, this being due to the fact that the 
lowest part of the well sees and is seen by a lesser amount of the 
luminous atmosphere than any other part of it. And the pavements 
when they are the same colour as the legs of the men and horses will 
always seem in higher light within equal angles than will these same 
legs. c 15 r. 


First you should consider the figures whether they have the relief 
which their position requires, and the light that illuminates them, so 
that the shadows may not be the same at the extremities of the com- 
position as in the centre, because it is one thing for a figure to be 
surrounded by shadows, and another for it to have the shadows only on 
one side. Those figures are surrounded by shadows which are towards 
the centre of the composition, because they are shaded by the dark figures 
interposed between them and the light; and those are shaded on one 
side only which are interposed between the light and the main group, 
for where they do not face the light they face the group, and there they 
reproduce the darkness cast by this group, and where they do not face 
the group they face the brightness of the light, and there they reproduce 
its radiance. 

1 At margin of MS., 'See first the [Ars] Poetica of Horace'. 



Secondly, you should consider whether the distribution or arrange- 
ment of the figures is devised in agreement with the conditions you 
desire the action to represent. 

Thirdly, whether the figures are actively engaged on their purpose. 

g 19 r. 


A very important part of painting consists in the backgrounds of the 
things painted. Against these backgrounds the contour lines of such 
natural bodies as possess convex curves will always reveal the shapes of 
these bodies, even though the colours of the bodies are of the same hue 
as the background. 

This arises from the fact of the convex boundaries of the objects not 
being illuminated in the same manner as the background is by the same 
light, because frequently the contours are clearer or darker than the 

Should however these contours be of the same colour as the back- 
ground, then undoubtedly this part of the picture will interfere with the 
perception of the figure formed by these contour lines. Such a predica- 
ment in painting ought to be avoided by the judgment of good painters, 
since the painter's intention is to make his bodies appear detached from 
the background; and in the above-mentioned instance the contrary 
occurs, not only in the painting but in the objects in relief. g 23 v. 




There are many men who have a desire and love for drawing but 
no aptitude for it, and this can be discerned in children if they are not 
diligent and never finish their copies with shading. 

The painter is not worthy of praise who does only one thing well, 
as the nude, or a head, or draperies, or animal life, or landscapes, or 
such other special subject; for there is no one so dull of understanding 
that after devoting himself to one subject only and continually practis- 
ing at this, he will fail to do it well. g 25 r. 



[The representation of things in movement} 

Of the imitation of things which though they have movement in 
their own place, do not in this movement reveal themselves as they are 
in reality. 

Drops of water when it rains, a winder, the turning-wheel, stones 
under the action of water, firebrands whirled round in a circle, proceed 
continuously, among things which are not in continuous movement. 

g 35 r. 



The truth of this proposition is proved by the fact that the boundary 
of the substance is a surface, which is neither a part of the body enclosed 
by this surface nor a part of the atmosphere which surrounds this body, 
but is the medium interposed between the atmosphere and the body, 
as is proved in its place. 

But the lateral boundaries of these bodies are the boundary line of 
the surface, which line is of invisible thickness. Therefore, O painter, 
do not surround your bodies with lines, and especially when making 
objects less than their natural size, for these not only cannot show their 
lateral boundaries, but their parts will be invisible, from distance. 

g 37 r. 


The high lights or the lustre of any particular object will not be 
situated in the centre of the illuminated part, but will make as many 
changes of position as the eye that beholds it. h 90 [42] v. 

Painters have a good opportunity of observing actions in players, 
especially at ball or tennis or with the mallet when they are contending 
together, better indeed than in any other place or exercise. 1 48 v. 

It is the extremities of all things which impart to them grace or lack 
of grace. 1 92 [44] v. 

Men and words are actual, and you, painter, if you do not know how 
to execute your figures, will be like an orator who does not know how 
to use his words. k iio [30] v. 




9 ! 3 


It is a necessary thing for the painter, in order to be able to fashion 
the limbs correctly in the positions and actions which they can represent 
in the nude, to know the anatomy of the sinews, bones, muscles and 
tendons in order to know, in the various different movements and im- 
pulses, which sinew or muscle is the cause of each movement, and to 
make only these prominent and thickened, and not the others all over 
the limb, as do many who in order to appear great draughtsmen make 
their nudes wooden and without grace, so that it seems rather as if you 
were looking at a sack of nuts than a human form or at a bundle of 
radishes rather than the muscles of nudes. l 79 r. 

In all things seen one has to consider three things, namely the posi- 
tion of the eye that sees, the position of the object seen and the position 
of the light that illumines this body. m 80 r. 

[With sketch] 

In the last folds of the joints of any limb everything which was in 
relief becomes a hollow, and similarly every hollow in the last of the 
said folds is changed into a protuberance when the end of the limb is 

He who has not knowledge of this, often makes very great mistakes 
through relying too much upon his own skill, and not having recourse 
to the imitation of nature. And such variation is found more in the 
middle of the sides than in front and more behind than at the sides. 

b.m. 44 r. 

The painter contends with and rivals nature. Forster in 44 v. 

[On draperies] 

Variety in the subjects. The draperies thin, thick, new, old, with folds 
broken and pleated, cride dolci [?soft lights], shadows obscure and less 
obscure, either with or without reflections, definite or indistinct accord- 
ing to the distances and the various colours; and garments according 
to the rank of those who are wearing them, long and short, fluttering 
or stiff in conformity with the movements; so encircling the figures as 
to bend or flutter with ends streaming upwards or downwards accord- 
ing to the folds, clinging close about the feet or separated from them, 
according as the legs are shown at rest or bending or twisting or strik- 
ing together within; either fitting closely or separating from the joints, 



according to the step or movement or whether the wind is represented. 

And the folds should correspond to the quality of the draperies 
whether transparent or opaque. 
| Repetition — the greatest defect in a painter} 

The greatest defect in a painter is to repeat the same attitudes and 
the same expressions ... in one . . . 
[ On draperies] 

On the thin clothes of the women in walking, running and jumping, 
and their variety. 
[Notes on painting] 

And in painting make a discourse on the clothes and other raiments. 

And you, O painter, who desire to perform great things, know that 
unless you first learn to do them well and with good foundations, the 
work that you do will bring you very little honour and less gain, but if 
you do it well it will produce you plenty of honour and be of great 
utility. Quaderni iv 15 r. 

When the subject of your picture is a history make two points, one 
of the eye and the other of the light, and make the latter as far distant 
as possible. Windsor: Drawings 12604 r - 

Nature of movements in man. Do not repeat the same actions in the 
limbs of men unless the necessity of their action constrains you. 

Windsor: Drawings 19149 v. 



Let the dark, gloomy air be seen beaten by the rush of opposing 
winds wreathed in perpetual rain mingled with hail, 1 and bearing 
hither and thither a vast network of the torn branches of trees mixed 
together with an infinite number of leaves. All around let there be seen 
ancient trees uprooted and torn in pieces by the fury of the winds. You 
should show how fragments of mountains, which have been already 
stripped bare by the rushing torrents, fall headlong into these very tor- 
rents and choke up the valleys, until the pent-up rivers rise in flood and 

1 MS. gravza. I have followed Dr. Richter's suggestion gragnuola. 



covei the wide plains and their inhabitants. Again there might be seen 
huddled together on the tops of many of the mountains many different 
sorts of animals, terrified and subdued at last to a state of tameness, in 
company with men and women who had fled there with their children. 
And the fields which were covered with water had their waves covered 
over in great part with tables, bedsteads, boats and various other kinds 
of rafts, improvised through necessity and fear of death, upon which 
were men and women with their children, massed together and utter- 
ing various cries and lamentations, dismayed by the fury of the winds 
which were causing the waters to roll over and over in mighty hurri- 
cane, bearing with them the bodies of the drowned; and there was no 
object that floated on the water but was covered with various different 
animals who had made truce and stood huddled together in terror, 
among them being wolves, foxes, snakes and creatures of every kind, 
fugitives from death. And all the waves that beat against their sides 
were striking them with repeated blows from the various bodies of the 
drowned, and the blows were killing those in whom life remained. 

Some groups of men you might have seen with weapons in their 
hands defending the tiny footholds that remained to them from the 
lions and wolves and beasts of prey which sought safety there. Ah, 
what dreadful tumults one heard resounding through the gloomy air, 
smitten by the fury of the thunder and the lightning it flashed forth, 
which sped through it, bearing ruin, striking down whatever withstood 
its course! Ah, how many might you have seen stopping their ears 
with their hands in order to shut out the loud uproar caused through 
the darkened air by the fury of the winds mingled together with the 
rain, the thunder of the heavens and the raging of the thunderbolts! 
Others were not content to shut their eyes, but placing their hands over 
them, one above the other, would cover them more tightly in order not 
to see the pitiless slaughter made of the human race by the wrath of 

Ah me, how many lamentations! How many in their terror flung 
themselves down from the rocks! You might have seen huge branches 
of the giant oaks laden with men borne along through the air by the 
fury of the impetuous winds. How many boats were capsized and 
lying, some whole, others broken in pieces, on the top of men struggling 
to escape with acts and gestures of despair which foretold an awful 



death. Others with frenzied acts were taking their own lives, in despair 
of ever being able to endure such anguish; some of these were flinging 
themselves down from the lofty rocks, others strangled themselves with 
their own hands; some seized hold of their own children, and with 
mighty violence slew them at one blow; some turned their arms against 
themselves to wound and slay; others falling upon their knees were 
commending themselves to God. 

Alas! how many mothers were bewailing their drowned sons, hold- 
ing them upon their knees, lifting up open arms to heaven, and with 
divers cries and shrieks declaiming against the anger of the gods! 
Others with hands clenched and fingers locked together gnawed and 
devoured them with bites that ran blood, crouching down so that their 
breasts touched their knees in their intense and intolerable agony. 

Herds of animals, such as horses, oxen, goats, sheep, were to be seen 
already hemmed in by the waters and left isolated upon the high peaks 
of the mountains, all huddling together, and those in the middle climb- 
ing to the top and treading on the others, and waging fierce battles with 
each other, and many of them dying from want of food. 

And the birds had already begun to settle upon men and other 
animals, no longer finding any land left unsubmerged which was not 
covered with living creatures. Already had hunger, the minister of 
death, taken away their life from the greater number of the animals, 
when the dead bodies already becoming lighter began to rise from out 
the bottom of the deep waters, and emerged to the surface among the 
contending waves; and there lay beating one against another, and as 
balls puffed up with wind rebound back from the spot where they 
strike, these fell back and lay upon the other dead bodies. 

And above these horrors the atmosphere was seen covered with 
murky clouds that were rent by the jagged course of the raging thun- 
derbolts of heaven, which flashed light hither and thither amid the 
obscurity of the darkness. 

The velocity of the air is seen by the movement of the dust stirred 
by the running of a horse; and it moves as swiftly to fill up the void left 
in the air which had enclosed the horse as is the speed of the horse in 
passing away from the aforesaid space of air. 

But it will perhaps seem to you that you have cause to censure me for 
having represented the different courses taken in the air by the move- 



ment of the wind, whereas the wind is not of itself visible in the air; to 
this I reply thai it is not the movement of the wind itself but the move- 
ment of the things carried by it which alone is visible in the air. 

The divisions 

Darkness, wind, tempest at sea, deluge of water, woods on fire, rain, 
thunderbolts from the sky, earthquakes and destruction of mountains, 
levelling of cities. 

Whirlwinds which carry water and branches of trees and men 
through the air. 

Branches torn away by the winds crashing together at the meeting 
of the winds, with people on the top of them. 

Trees broken of! laden with people. 

Ships broken in pieces dashed upon the rocks. 

Hail, thunderbolts, whirlwinds. 

Herds of cattle. 

People on trees which cannot bear them: trees and rocks, towers, 
hills crowded with people, boats, tables, troughs and other contrivances 
for floating, — hills covered with men and women and animals, with 
lightnings from the clouds which illumine the whole scene. 

Windsor: Drawings 12665 v * 


First of all let there be represented the summit of a rugged mountain 
with certain of the valleys that surround its base, and on its sides let the 
surface of the soil be seen slipping down together with the tiny roots of 
the small shrubs, and leaving bare a great part of the surrounding 
rocks. Sweeping down in devastation from these precipices, let it pursue 
its headlong course, striking and laying bare the twisted and gnarled 
roots of the great trees and overturning them in ruin. And the moun- 
tains becoming bare should reveal the deep fissures made in them by 
the ancient earthquakes; and let the bases of the mountains be in great 
part covered over and clad with the debris of the shrubs which have 
fallen headlong from the sides of the lofty peaks of the said mountains, 
and let these be mingled together with mud, roots, branches of trees, 



with various kinds of leaves thrust in among the mud and earth and 
stones. And let the fragments of some of the mountains have fallen 
clown into the depth of one of the valleys, and there form a barrier to 
the swollen waters of its river, which having already burst the barrier 
rushes on with immense waves, the greatest of which are striking and 
laying in ruin the walls of the cities and farms of the valley. And from 
the ruins of the lofty buildings of the aforesaid cities let there rise a 
great quantity of dust, mounting up in the air with the appearance of 
smoke or of wreathed clouds that battle against the descending rain. 

But the swollen waters should be coursing round the pool which con- 
fines them, and striking against various obstacles with whirling eddies, 
leaping up into the air in turbid foam, and then falling back and caus- 
ing the water where they strike to be dashed up into the air; and the 
circling waves which recede from the point of contact are impelled by 
their impetus right across the course of the other circling waves which 
move in an opposite direction to them, and after striking against these 
they leap up into the air without becoming detached from their base. 

And where the water issues forth from the said pool, the spent waves 
are seen spreading out towards the outlet; after which, falling or 
descending through the air, this water acquires weight and impetus; 
and then piercing the water where it strikes, it tears it apart and dives 
down in fury to reach its depth, and then recoiling, it springs back 
again towards the surface of the lake accompanied by the air which has 
been submerged with it, and this remains in the slimy foam * mingled 
with the driftwood and other things lighter than the water, and around 
these again are formed the beginnings of the waves, which increase the 
more in circumference as they acquire more movement; and this move- 
ment makes them lower in proportion as they acquire a wider base, and 
therefore they become almost imperceptible as they die away. But if the 
waves rebound against various obstacles then they leap back and oppose 
the approach of the other waves, following the same law of develop- 
ment in their curve as they have already shown in their original move- 
ment. The rain as it falls from the clouds is of the same colour as these 
clouds, that is on its shaded side, unless, however, the rays of the sun 

1 Richtcr's transcript (§609) is 'vissci cholla', and he reads 'nella ttscita colla 
sciuma'. The MS. has, I think, 'visscichosa', which I have taken as a variant of 'vis- 



should penetrate there, for if this were so the rain would appear less 
dark than the cloud. And if the great masses of the debris of huge 
mountains or of large buildings strike in their fall the mighty lakes oi 
the waters, then a vast quantity of water will rebound in the air, and its 
course will be in an opposite direction to that of the substance which 
struck the water, that is to say the angle of reflection will be equal to 
the angle of incidence. 

Of the objects borne along by the current of the waters, that will be 
at a greater distance from the two opposite banks which is heavier or of 
larger bulk. The eddies of the waters revolve most swiftly in those parts 
which are nearest to their centre. The crests of the waves of the sea fall 
forward to their base, beating and rubbing themselves against the 
smooth particles which form their face; and by this friction the water as 
it falls is ground up in tiny particles, 1 and becomes changed to thick 
mist, and is mingled in the currents of the winds in the manner of 
wreathing smoke or winding clouds, and at last rises up in the air and 
becomes changed into clouds. But the rain which falls through the air, 
being beaten upon and driven by the current of the winds, becomes rare 
or dense according to the rarity or density of these winds, and by this 
means there is produced throughout the air a flood of transparent 
clouds which is formed by the aforesaid rain, and becomes visible in it 
by means of the lines made by the fall of the rain which is near to the 
eye of the spectator. 2 The waves of the sea that beats against the shelv- 
ing base of the mountains which confine it, rush 3 foaming in speed up 
to the ridge of these same hills, and in turning back meet the onset of 
the succeeding wave, and after loud roaring return in a mighty flood 
to the sea from whence they came. A great number of the inhabitants, 
men and different animals, may be seen driven by the rising of the 
deluge up towards the summits of the hills which border on the said 
Waves of the sea at Piombino all of foaming water. 

1 MS., e ttal confreghatione trita in minute partichule la dissciente acqua. 

2 MS., 'ce p(er) quessto si gienera infrallaria vna innondatione di trasspareti nuvoli 
la quale effacta dalla p{r)edetta pioggia e inquassta si fa manijessta mediante i linia- 
meti fatti dal disscieso della pioggia che e vicina all ochio che la vede'. The words printed 
in italics are wanting in the text as given by Dr. Richter (§609). 

3 Dr. Richter reads saranno (for MS. sarrano), but the text is, I think, scorrano, 
presumably for scorrono. 



Of the water that leaps up — [of the place where the great masses fall 
and strike the waters] * — of the winds of Piombino. 

Eddies of winds and of rain with branches and trees mingled with 
the air. 

The emptying the boats of the rain water. 

Windsor: Drawings 12665 r * 

1 The sentence within brackets is crossed through in the MS.