The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci

The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci

The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci

The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci

Excerpt

This volume includes practically all the drawings which have any interest for the student of Leonardo as a painter or sculptor, which have an æsthetic and not a purely scientific or mechanical interest, as well as a small selection of drawings of the latter sort. The manuscripts are full of sketches, the greater part of them diagrammatic but occasionally, in MS. B in particular, of positive interest and beauty, apart from the text which they explain. It would be possible to make a very agreeable and entertaining collection of snippets from these, as in fact was done by J. P. Richter to illustrate his excerpts from Leonardo's manuscripts. Few of these, however, have any relation to Leonardo's works in painting; an occasional scrawl may be of importance for the reconstruction or dating of some work; it is rarely the sort of drawing which will stand alone. I have in all cases reproduced the whole of the sheet and avoided the practice of making excerpts, which seems to me often misleading and confusing.

The survival over a period of 500 years of objects so frail as drawings can only be attributable to a whole series of fortunate chances. In the first place the artist who drew them must exhibit what in the lesser man posterity will judge to have been vanity, in the greater a justified conviction of the importance of his achievements. If the presence of this conviction, which indeed is rarely absent in the self-conscious artist of the Italian Renaissance, is essential for the survival of drawings, there is another less obvious prerequisite for their preservation in any quantity: That is a passion for hoarding on the part of the artist. Leonardo clearly had this passion and, unmethodical as he was, hated to destroy any scrap of paper marked by his pen or pencil. We can be certain that the gaps in the series of Leonardo drawings are not due to any systematic weeding out by him. The gaps, and they are unfortunately numerous and important in spite of the enormous mass of material from Leonardo's hand which has been pre-

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