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The Arts

(i) Botany The following pages contain a selection of Leonardo’s notes on plants. Other notes relating to landscape, such as studies of the formation of rocks, the movements of water and clouds, are given in Chapter II. Notes on atmosphere, light, and colour in landscape are given in Chapter IV, pp. 126 ff. Numerous drawings of trees and flowering plants indigenous to Italy are to be found in his manuscripts. He was interested in the influence of sunlight and water on their growth. He watched the process of ripening of a gourd (see p. 344). He observed the gravitational attraction of the earth on certain plants (geotropism) and the habit of others to turn towards the sun (heliotropism). He examined the sap of trees and discovered that their age corresponds to the number of rings in the cross-sections of the stems. His observation of the order according to which the leaves occupy various positions on the stem or axis was a first step in establishing the laws of phyllotaxis which were developed centuries later. He is not universal who does not love equally well all that is comprised in Painting. Someone for instance who does not care for landscapes and esteems them a matter involving merely cursory and simple investigations. So does our Botticelli, who said that such studies are vain since by merely throwing a sponge soaked with different colour at a wall a stain is formed wherein a lovely landscape might be discerned. I admit as quite true that in such a stain one might detect various inventions if one looks for them, like heads of men, different animals, battles, rocks, seas, clouds, trees, and the like, just as in listening to the chimes of bells one seems to hear whatever one chooses. But although such stains may suggest to you compositions, they do not teach you how to complete any detail. And this artist painted very poor landscapes!153 The representation of the four seasons of the year or of the things that participate therein In the autumn you will make things according to the progress of the season, that is, at the beginning the trees begin to fade

Leonardo da vinci  
Leonardo da vinci