Sources of Fantasy in a Scientific Mind
At the end of an earlier chapter a fundamental problem arose from contrasts between the strict naturalism and the fantastic in Leonardo's drawings. By using the material subsequently recorded it may now become possible to approach this problem with some hope of a first tentative solution. Why did a lifetime of pilgrimage in pursuit of scientific method entail such a startling outrage upon nature as his grotesque monstrosities, and why did his mind finally dwell upon catastrophe in spite of having experienced its vision of serenity?
Since I have associated his final outlook with that of Greek science, attained initially through Moslem and Italian teachers and later by first-hand acquaintance, the possibility cannot be omitted that the most puzzling of his drawings are due to some influence of Greek art. But quite a brief consideration is sufficient to prove this inadequate. The serene and the bestial and the tempestuous in his drawings are all foreign to Greek aesthethic principles. The Greeks did not etherialise their women, and even the decadence of post-classical sculpture never permitted the intrusion of anything like his intensity of strained effort and maniac horror, while cosmic subjects are relatively unknown in Greek art. It is true that gracefulness can be characteristically Greek, but in human form and not in the animal shapes so common with Leonardo. Serenity can also be Greek, but is pre-Alexandrian and belongs to an era with which Leonardo was not so acquainted. Hellenic, not Hellenistic, serenity was unselfconscious and did not carry such disturbing suggestion of mystery when it characterised the age of Pericles. In fact the serenity of Greek art is essentially reposeful, at the opposite extreme from the intense spirituality of Leonardo's expressions which sometimes even suggest the ecstasy of martyrdom.
Even where Greek artistic affinities are discoverable they must be ascribed to the natural evolution in him of similar character. rather than considered as learnt from any classical model. He was only rarely acquainted with the art of the Greeks, in spite of so