Read how, through his lifetime, Leonardo was fascinated by certain questions in particular. What causes vortices to form, and why do fossils appear in high places?

Such problems were of enormous importance for Leonardo. He investigated them repeatedly in the belief that they held the key to understanding the creative powers of nature that was essential for the creation of art or science by man.

But how radical or influential were his ideas? Leonardo’s most famous preoccupation was undoubtedly the dream of human flight. But how close did he come to a solution?


Fossil on the beaches at Charmouth

"The shells, oysters and other similar animals which originate in sea-mud, bear witness to the changes of the earth…Great rivers always run turbid…and this wearing disturbs the face of the strata made by...

The eye

Mona Lisa, Photo RMN - © Hervé Lewandowski / Thierry Le Mage

"The eye, the function of which is so clearly demonstrated by experience, has been defined until the present time by a great many authors in a certain way – but I find it to be completely different."


Daedalus, Giotto, after 1334

"...the first memory of my childhood is that it seemed to me, when I was in my cradle, that a kite came to me, and opened my mouth with its tail, and struck me several times with its tail inside my lips..."

Divine proportions

God the Creator as Divine Geometer

“Proportion is not only to be found in numbers and measures, but also in sounds, weights, intervals of time, and in every active force in existence.”

Motions of the mind

Diagrammatic drawing illustarting how sight works The Royal Collection © 2005, Her  Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

In 1435, Leon Battista Alberti in his treatise "On Painting" established a set of fundamental requirements for the creation of narrative art. The portrayal of the figure according to its inner feelings and emotional...

Leonardo and nature

Illustration of a dissection from the Fasciculo di Medicina, ed by Johannes Ketham, 1493

Leonardo’s legacy, his notes, drawings, paintings and inventions, all illustrate a unique and special relationship with nature. They also reveal a fascinating picture of his attitude towards man and...

Paragone: painting or sculpture?

Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (The Lady with the Ermine) © Czartoryski Museum

Which of the arts is best equipped to rival nature - painting or sculpture? Such a debate would probably be of little interest to a modern audience. While some of us might prefer one more than the other, most would accept that...

The vortex

Diagramme of Aristotle's four elements

Movement in water and air was Leonardo’s greatest preoccupation. As the most tangible evidence of natural force, spiraling forms and vortices held a particular fascination. Their forms pervade the entire spectrum of...