• Leonardo Studies

Leonardo Studies


Kim H. Veltman

Leonardo da Vinci's Perspective and Optics. Elements of a Scientific World View

Wolfenbütteler Renaissance Mitteilungen, Wolfenbüttel, Jg. III, Heft 1, (April 1979), pp. 81-82.

This study began in February 1973 at the instigation of Dr. Kenneth Keele, who suggested that in order to understand Leonardo da Vinci's writings on linear perspective one would need take one or two key quantitative passages, follow the instructions, and determine whether they were based on actual experiments.

Throughout the spring and summer of 1973 Dr. Keele and the writer, under the auspices of the Wellcome Institute in London, reconstructed the procedure of several passages and concluded firmly that Leonardo's linear perspective was experimentally based. The results were recorded in the form of a paper originally intended for the Annals of Science.

Meanwhile it became apparent that the methods used in these experiments had served in turn as the basis for Leonardo's approach to colour perspective, diminution of form perspective, and indeed the whole of his "science", including the physics of light, heat, motion. Soon the paper pointed towards a monograph.

A joint grant from the Wellcome Foundation to both Dr. Keele and the writer made it possible, once the latter had completed a dissertation on the history of perspective at the Warburg Institute, to begin on the project full time as of July 1975. But meanwhile Dr. Keele had been beckoned to help with a new edition of the anatomical manuscripts in her Majesty's collection at Windsor.

These new commitments restricted Dr. Keele's direct involvement in the project to weekly or fortnightly sessions. Nonetheless, work continued and by the summer of 1976 it had become clear that Leonardo's related studies of optics would require a second volume and not just a further chapter.

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