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- Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci - 50/159 -


from a single point and makes its base in the first body, whence the second, of the same size, can never be seen.

[Footnote: This passage contains the solution of the problem proposed in No. 29, lines 10-14. Leonardo was evidently familiar with the law of optics on which the construction of the stereoscope depends. Compare E. VON BRUCKE, _Bruchstucke aus der Theorie der bildenden Kunste_, pg. 69: "_Schon Leonardo da Vinci wusste, dass ein noch so gut gemaltes Bild nie den vollen Eindruck der Korperlichkeit geben kann, wie ihn die Natur selbst giebt. Er erklart dies auch in Kap. LIII und Kap. CCCXLI_ (ed. DU FRESNE) _des_ 'Trattato' _in sachgemasser Weise aus dem Sehen mit beiden Augen_."

Chap. 53 of DU FRESNE'S edition corresponds to No. 534 of this work.]

535.

WHY OF TWO OBJECTS OF EQUAL SIZE A PAINTED ONE WILL LOOK LARGER THAN A SOLID ONE.

The reason of this is not so easy to demonstrate as many others. Still I will endeavour to accomplish it, if not wholly, at any rate in part. The perspective of diminution demonstrates by reason, that objects diminish in proportion as they are farther from the eye, and this reasoning is confirmed by experience. Hence, the lines of sight that extend between the object and the eye, when they are directed to the surface of a painting are all intersected at uniform limits, while those lines which are directed towards a piece of sculpture are intersected at various limits and are of various lengths. The lines which are longest extend to a more remote limb than the others and therefore that limb looks smaller. As there are numerous lines each longer than the others--since there are numerous parts, each more remote than the others and these, being farther off, necessarily appear smaller, and by appearing smaller it follows that their diminution makes the whole mass of the object look smaller. But this does not occur in painting; since the lines of sight all end at the same distance there can be no diminution, hence the parts not being diminished the whole object is undiminished, and for this reason painting does not diminish, as a piece of sculpture does.

On the choice of a position (536-537)

536.

HOW HIGH THE POINT OF SIGHT SHOULD BE PLACED.

The point of sight must be at the level of the eye of an ordinary man, and the farthest limit of the plain where it touches the sky must be placed at the level of that line where the earth and sky meet; excepting mountains, which are independent of it.

537.

OF THE WAY TO DRAW FIGURES FOR HISTORICAL PICTURES.

The painter must always study on the wall on which he is to picture a story the height of the position where he wishes to arrange his figures; and when drawing his studies for them from nature he must place himself with his eye as much below the object he is drawing as, in the picture, it will have to be above the eye of the spectator. Otherwise the work will look wrong.

The apparent size of figures in a picture (538-539)

538.

OF PLACING A FIGURE IN THE FOREGROUND OF A HISTORICAL PICTURE.

You must make the foremost figure in the picture less than the size of nature in proportion to the number of braccia at which you place it from the front line, and make the others in proportion by the above rule.

539.

PERSPECTIVE.

You are asked, O Painter, why the figures you draw on a small scale according to the laws of perspective do not appear--notwithstanding the demonstration of distance--as large as real ones--their height being the same as in those painted on the wall.

And why [painted] objects seen at a small distance appear larger than the real ones?

The right position of the artist, when painting, and of the spectator (540-547)

540.

OF PAINTING.

When you draw from nature stand at a distance of 3 times the height of the object you wish to draw.

541.

OF DRAWING FROM RELIEF.

In drawing from the round the draughtsman should so place himself that the eye of the figure he is drawing is on a level with his own. This should be done with any head he may have to represent from nature because, without exception, the figures or persons you meet in the streets have their eyes on the same level as your own; and if you place them higher or lower you will see that your drawing will not be true.

542.

WHY GROUPS OF FIGURES ONE ABOVE ANOTHER ARE TO BE AVOIDED.

The universal practice which painters adopt on the walls of chapels is greatly and reasonably to be condemned. Inasmuch as they represent one historical subject on one level with a landscape and buildings, and then go up a step and paint another, varying the point [of sight], and then a third and a fourth, in such a way as that on one wall there are 4 points of sight, which is supreme folly in such painters. We know that the point of sight is opposite the eye of the spectator of the scene; and if you would [have me] tell you how to represent the life of a saint divided into several pictures on one and the same wall, I answer that you must set out the foreground with its point of sight on a level with the eye of the spectator of the scene, and upon this plane represent the more important part of the story large and then, diminishing by degrees the figures, and the buildings on various hills and open spaces, you can represent all the events of the history. And on the remainder of the wall up to the top put trees, large as compared with the figures, or angels if they are appropriate to the story, or birds or clouds or similar objects; otherwise do not trouble yourself with it for your whole work will be wrong.

543.

A PICTURE OF OBJECTS IN PERSPECTIVE WILL LOOK MORE LIFELIKE WHEN SEEN FROM THE POINT FROM WHICH THE OBJECTS WERE DRAWN.

If you want to represent an object near to you which is to have the effect of nature, it is impossible that your perspective should not look wrong, with every false relation and disagreement of proportion that can be imagined in a wretched work, unless the spectator, when he looks at it, has his eye at the very distance and height and direction where the eye or the point of sight was placed in doing this perspective. Hence it would be necessary to make a window, or rather a hole, of the size of your face through which you can look at the work; and if you do this, beyond all doubt your work, if it is correct as to light and shade, will have the effect of nature; nay you will hardly persuade yourself that those objects are painted; otherwise do not trouble yourself about it, unless indeed you make your view at least 20 times as far off as the greatest width or height of the objects represented, and this will satisfy any spectator placed anywhere opposite to the picture.

If you want the proof briefly shown, take a piece of wood in the form of a little column, eight times as high as it is thick, like a column without any plinth or capital; then mark off on a flat wall 40 equal spaces, equal to its width so that between them they make 40 columns resembling your little column; you then must fix, opposite the centre space, and at 4 braccia from the wall, a thin strip of iron with a small round hole in the middle about as large as a big pearl. Close to this hole place a light touching it. Then place your column against each mark on the wall and draw the outline of its shadow; afterwards shade it and look through the hole in the iron plate.

[Footnote: In the original there is a wide space between lines 3 and 4 in which we find two sketches not belonging to the text. It is unnecessary to give prominence to the points in which my reading differs from that of M. RAVAISSON or to justify myself, since they are all of secondary importance and can also be immediately verified from the photograph facsimile in his edition.]

544.

A diminished object should be seen from the same distance, height and direction as the point of sight of your eye, or else your knowledge will produce no good effect.

And if you will not, or cannot, act on this principle--because as the plane on which you paint is to be seen by several persons you would need several points of sight which would make it look discordant and wrong--place yourself at a distance of at least 10 times the size of the objects.

The lesser fault you can fall into then, will be that of representing all the objects in the foreground of their proper size, and on whichever side you are standing the objects thus seen will diminish themselves while the spaces between them will have no definite ratio. For, if you place yourself in the middle of a straight row [of objects], and look at several columns arranged in a line you will see, beyond a few columns separated by intervals, that the columns touch; and beyond where they touch they cover each other, till the last column projects but very little beyond the last but one. Thus the spaces between the columns are by degrees entirely lost. So, if your method of perspective is good, it will produce the same effect; this effect results from standing near the line in which the columns are placed. This method is not satisfactory unless the objects seen are viewed from a small hole, in the middle of which is your point of sight; but if you proceed thus your work will


Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci - 50/159

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