The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci


The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Page 04

13, 14. G. Govi observes upon it, that Leonardo is not to be regarded as the inventor of the Camera obscura, but that he was the first to explain by it the structure of the eye. An account of the Camera obscura first occurs in CESARE CESARINI's Italian version of Vitruvius, pub. 1523, four years after Leonardo's death. Cesarini expressly names Benedettino Don Papnutio as the inventor of the Camera obscura. In his explanation of the function of the eye by a comparison with the Camera obscura Leonardo was the precursor of G. CARDANO, Professor of Medicine at Bologna (died 1576) and it appears highly probable that this is, in fact, the very discovery which Leonardo ascribes to himself in section 21 without giving any further details.]

71.

HOW THE IMAGES OF OBJECTS RECEIVED BY THE EYE INTERSECT WITHIN THE CRYSTALLINE HUMOUR OF THE EYE.

An experiment, showing how objects transmit their images or pictures, intersecting within the eye in the crystalline humour, is seen when by some small round hole penetrate the images of illuminated objects into a very dark chamber. Then, receive these images on a white paper placed within this dark room and rather near to the hole and you will see all the objects on the paper in their proper forms and colours, but much smaller; and they will be upside down by reason of that very intersection. These images being transmitted from a place illuminated by the sun will seem actually painted on this paper which must be extremely thin and looked at from behind. And let the little perforation be made in a very thin plate of iron. Let a b e d e be the object illuminated by the sun and o r the front of the dark chamber in which is the said hole at n m. Let s t be the sheet of paper intercepting the rays of the images of these objects upside down, because the rays being straight, a on the right hand becomes k on the left, and e on the left becomes f on the right; and the same takes place inside the pupil.

[Footnote: This chapter is already known through a translation into French by VENTURI. Compare his 'Essai sur les ouvrages physico-mathématiques de L. da Vinci avec des fragments tirés de ses Manuscrits, apportés de l'Italie. Lu a la premiere classe de l'Institut national des Sciences et Arts.' Paris, An V (1797).]

The practice of perspective (72. 73).

72.

In the practice of perspective the same rules apply to light and to the eye.

73.

The object which is opposite to the pupil of the eye is seen by that pupil and that which is opposite to the eye is seen by the pupil.

Refraction of the rays falling upon the eye (74. 75)

74.

The lines sent forth by the image of an object to the eye do not reach the point within the eye in straight lines.

75.

If the judgment of the eye is situated within it, the straight lines of the images are refracted on its surface because they pass through the rarer to the denser medium. If, when you are under water, you look at objects in the air you will see them out of their true place; and the same with objects under water seen from the air.

The intersection of the rays (76-82).

76.

The inversion of the images.

All the images of objects which pass through a window [glass pane] from the free outer air to the air confined within walls, are seen on the opposite side; and an object which moves in the outer air from east to west will seem in its shadow, on the wall which is lighted by this confined air, to have an opposite motion.

77.

THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH THE IMAGES OF BODIES PASS IN BETWEEN THE MARGINS OF THE OPENINGS BY WHICH THEY ENTER.

What difference is there in the way in which images pass through narrow openings and through large openings, or in those which pass by the sides of shaded bodies? By moving the edges of the opening through which the images are admitted, the images of immovable objects are made to move. And this happens, as is shown in the 9th which demonstrates: [Footnote 11: per la 9a che dicie. When Leonardo refers thus to a number it serves to indicate marginal diagrams; this can in some instances be distinctly proved. The ninth sketch on the page W. L. 145 b corresponds to the middle sketch of the three reproduced.] the images of any object are all everywhere, and all in each part of the surrounding air. It follows that if one of the edges of the hole by which the images are admitted to a dark chamber is moved it cuts off those rays of the image that were in contact with it and gets nearer to other rays which previously were remote from it &c.

OF THE MOVEMENT OF THE EDGE AT THE RIGHT OR LEFT, OR THE UPPER, OR LOWER EDGE.

If you move the right side of the opening the image on the left will move [being that] of the object which entered on the right side of the opening; and the same result will happen with all the other sides of the opening. This can be proved by the 2nd of this which shows: all the rays which convey the images of objects through the air are straight lines. Hence, if the images of very large bodies have to pass through very small holes, and beyond these holes recover their large size, the lines must necessarily intersect.

[Footnote: 77. 2. In the first of the three diagrams Leonardo had drawn only one of the two margins, et m.]

78.

Necessity has provided that all the images of objects in front of the eye shall intersect in two places. One of these intersections is in the pupil, the other in the crystalline lens; and if this were not the case the eye could not see so great a number of objects as it does. This can be proved, since all the lines which intersect do so in a point. Because nothing is seen of objects excepting their surface; and their edges are lines, in contradistinction to the definition of a surface. And each minute part of a line is equal to a point; for smallest is said of that than which nothing can be smaller, and this definition is equivalent to the definition of the point. Hence it is possible for the whole circumference of a circle to transmit its image to the point of intersection, as is shown in the 4th of this which shows: all the smallest parts of the images cross each other without interfering with each other. These demonstrations are to illustrate the eye. No image, even of the smallest object, enters the eye without being turned upside down; but as it penetrates into the crystalline lens it is once more reversed and thus the image is restored to the same position within the eye as that of the object outside the eye.

79.

OF THE CENTRAL LINE OF THE EYE.

Only one line of the image, of all those that reach the visual virtue, has no intersection; and this has no sensible dimensions because it is a mathematical line which originates from a mathematical point, which has no dimensions.

According to my adversary, necessity requires that the central line of every image that enters by small and narrow openings into a dark chamber shall be turned upside down, together with the images of the bodies that surround it.

80.

AS TO WHETHER THE CENTRAL LINE OF THE IMAGE CAN BE INTERSECTED, OR NOT, WITHIN THE OPENING.

It is impossible that the line should intersect itself; that is, that its right should cross over to its left side, and so, its left side become its right side. Because such an intersection demands two lines, one from each side; for there can be no motion from right to left or from left to right in itself without such extension and thickness as admit of such motion. And if there is extension it is no longer a line but a surface, and we are investigating the properties of a line, and not of a surface. And as the line, having no centre of thickness cannot be divided, we must conclude that the line can have no sides to intersect each other. This is proved by the movement of the line a f to a b and of the line e b to e f, which are the sides of the surface a f e b. But if you move the line a b and the line e f, with the frontends a e, to the spot c, you will have moved the opposite ends f b towards each other at the point d. And from the two lines you will have drawn the straight line c d which cuts the middle of the intersection of these two lines at the point n without any intersection. For, you imagine these two lines as having breadth, it is evident that by this motion the first will entirely cover the other--being equal with it--without any intersection, in the position c d. And this is sufficient to prove our proposition.

81.

HOW THE INNUMERABLE RAYS FROM INNUMERABLE IMAGES CAN CONVERGE TO A POINT.

Just as all lines can meet at a point without interfering with each other--being without breadth or thickness--in the same way all the images of surfaces can meet there; and as each given point faces the object opposite to it and each object faces an opposite point, the converging rays of the image can pass through the point and diverge again beyond it to reproduce and re-magnify the real size of that image. But their impressions will appear reversed--as is shown in the first, above; where it is said that every image intersects as it enters the narrow openings made in a very thin substance.

Read the marginal text on the other side.

In proportion as the opening is smaller than the shaded body, so much less will the images transmitted through this opening intersect each other. The sides of images which pass through openings into a dark room intersect at a point which is nearer to the opening in proportion as the opening is narrower. To prove this let a b be an object in light and shade which sends not its shadow but the image of its darkened form through the opening d e which is as wide as this shaded body; and its sides a b, being straight lines (as has been proved) must intersect between the shaded object and the opening; but nearer to the opening in proportion as it is smaller than the object in shade. As is shown, on your right hand and your left hand, in the two diagrams a b c n m o where, the right opening d e, being equal in width to the shaded object a b, the intersection of the sides of the said shaded object occurs half way between the opening and the shaded object at the point c. But this cannot happen in the left hand figure, the opening o being much smaller than the shaded object n m.

It is impossible that the images of objects should be seen between the objects and the openings through which the images of these bodies are admitted; and this is plain, because where the atmosphere is illuminated these images are not formed visibly.

When the images are made double by mutually crossing each other they are invariably doubly as dark in tone. To prove this let d e h be such a doubling which although it is only seen within the space between the bodies in b and i this will not hinder its being seen from f g or from f m; being composed of the images a b i k which run together in d e h.

[Footnote: 81. On the original diagram at the beginning of this chapter Leonardo has written "azurro" (blue) where in the facsimile I have marked A, and "giallo" (yellow) where B stands.]

[Footnote: 15--23. These lines stand between the diagrams I and III.]

[Footnote: 24--53. These lines stand between the diagrams I and II.]

[Footnote: 54--97 are written along the left side of diagram I.]

82.

An experiment showing that though the pupil may not be moved from its position the objects seen by it may appear to move from their places.

If you look at an object at some distance from you and which is below the eye, and fix both your eyes upon it and with one hand firmly hold the upper lid open while with the other you push up the under lid--still keeping your eyes fixed on the object gazed at--you will see that object double; one [image] remaining steady, and the other moving in a contrary direction to the pressure of your finger on the lower eyelid. How false the opinion is of those who say that this happens because the pupil of the eye is displaced from its position.

How the above mentioned facts prove that the pupil acts upside down in seeing.

[Footnote: 82. 14--17. The subject indicated by these two headings is fully discussed in the two chapters that follow them in the original; but it did not seem to me appropriate to include them here.]

Demostration of perspective by means of a vertical glass plane (83-85).

83.

OF THE PLANE OF GLASS.

Perspective is nothing else than seeing place [or objects] behind a plane of glass, quite transparent, on the surface of which the objects behind that glass are to be drawn. These can be traced in pyramids to the point in the eye, and these pyramids are intersected on the glass plane.

84.

Pictorial perspective can never make an object at the same distance, look of the same size as it appears to the eye. You see that the apex of the pyramid f c d is as far from the object c d as the same point f is from the object a b; and yet c d, which is the base made by the painter's point, is smaller than a b which is the base of the lines from the objects converging in the eye and refracted at s t, the surface of the eye. This may be proved by experiment, by the lines of vision and then by the lines of the painter's plumbline by cutting the real lines of vision on one and the same plane and measuring on it one and the same object.

85.

PERSPECTIVE.

The vertical plane is a perpendicular line, imagined as in front of the central point where the apex of the pyramids converge. And this plane bears the same relation to this point as a plane of glass would, through which you might see the various objects and draw them on it. And the objects thus drawn would be smaller than the originals, in proportion as the distance between the glass and the eye was smaller than that between the glass and the objects.

PERSPECTIVE.

The different converging pyramids produced by the objects, will show, on the plane, the various sizes and remoteness of the objects causing them.

PERSPECTIVE.

All those horizontal planes of which the extremes are met by perpendicular lines forming right angles, if they are of equal width the more they rise to the level of eye the less this is seen, and the more the eye is above them the more will their real width be seen.

PERSPECTIVE.

The farther a spherical body is from the eye the more you will see of it.

The angle of sight varies with the distance (86-88)

86.

A simple and natural method; showing how objects appear to the eye without any other medium.

The object that is nearest to the eye always seems larger than another of the same size at greater distance. The eye m, seeing the spaces o v x, hardly detects the difference between them, and the. reason of this is that it is close to them [Footnote 6: It is quite inconceivable to me why M. RAVAISSON, in a note to his French translation of this simple passage should have remarked: Il est clair que c'est par erreur que Leonard a ècrit per esser visino au lieu de per non esser visino. (See his printed ed. of MS. A. p. 38.)]; but if these spaces are marked on the vertical plane n o the space o v will be seen at o r, and in the same way the space v x will appear at r q. And if you carry this out in any place where you can walk round, it will look out of proportion by reason of the great difference in the spaces o r and r q. And this proceeds from the eye being so much below [near] the plane that the plane is foreshortened. Hence, if you wanted to carry it out, you would have [to arrange] to see the perspective through a single hole which must be at the point m, or else you must go to a distance of at least 3 times the height of the object you see. The plane o p being always equally remote from the eye will reproduce the objects in a satisfactory way, so that they may be seen from place to place.

87.

How every large mass sends forth its images, which may diminish through infinity.

The images of any large mass being infinitely divisible may be infinitely diminished.

88.

Objects of equal size, situated in various places, will be seen by different pyramids which will each be smaller in proportion as the object is farther off.

89.

Perspective, in dealing with distances, makes use of two opposite pyramids, one of which has its apex in the eye and the base as distant as the horizon. The other has the base towards the eye and the apex on the horizon. Now, the first includes the [visible] universe, embracing all the mass of the objects that lie in front of the eye; as it might be a vast landscape seen through a very small opening; for the more remote the objects are from the eye, the greater number can be seen through the opening, and thus the pyramid is constructed with the base on the horizon and the apex in the eye, as has been said. The second pyramid is extended to a spot which is smaller in proportion as it is farther from the eye; and this second perspective [= pyramid] results from the first.

90.

SIMPLE PERSPECTIVE.

Simple perspective is that which is constructed by art on a vertical plane which is equally distant from the eye in every part. Complex perspective is that which is constructed on a ground-plan in which none of the parts are equally distant from the eye.

91.

PERSPECTIVE.

No surface can be seen exactly as it is, if the eye that sees it is not equally remote from all its edges.

92.

WHY WHEN AN OBJECT IS PLACED CLOSE TO THE EYE ITS EDGES ARE INDISTINCT.

When an object opposite the eye is brought too close to it, its edges must become too confused to be distinguished; as it happens with objects close to a light, which cast a large and indistinct shadow, so is it with an eye which estimates objects opposite to it; in all cases of linear perspective, the eye acts in the same way as the light. And the reason is that the eye has one leading line (of vision) which dilates with distance and embraces with true discernment large objects at a distance as well as small ones that are close. But since the eye sends out a multitude of lines which surround this chief central one and since these which are farthest from the centre in this cone of lines are less able to discern with accuracy, it follows that an object brought close to the eye is not at a due distance, but is too near for the central line to be able to discern the outlines of the object. So the edges fall within the lines of weaker discerning power, and these are to the function of the eye like dogs in the chase which can put up the game but cannot take it. Thus these cannot take in the objects, but induce the central line of sight to turn upon them, when they have put them up. Hence the objects which are seen with these lines of sight have confused outlines.

The relative size of objects with regard to their distance from the eye (93-98).

93.

PERSPECTIVE.

Small objects close at hand and large ones at a distance, being seen within equal angles, will appear of the same size.

94.

PERSPECTIVE.

There is no object so large but that at a great distance from the eye it does not appear smaller than a smaller object near.

95.

Among objects of equal size that which is most remote from the eye will look the smallest. [Footnote: This axiom, sufficiently clear in itself, is in the original illustrated by a very large diagram, constructed like that here reproduced under No. 108.

The same idea is repeated in C. A. I a; I a, stated as follows: Infra le cose d'equal grandeza quella si dimostra di minor figura che sara più distante dall' ochio.--]

96.

Why an object is less distinct when brought near to the eye, and why with spectacles, or without the naked eye sees badly either close or far off [as the case may be].

97.

PERSPECTIVE.

Among objects of equal size, that which is most remote from the eye will look the smallest.

98.

PERSPECTIVE.

No second object can be so much lower than the first as that the eye will not see it higher than the first, if the eye is above the second.

PERSPECTIVE.

And this second object will never be so much higher than the first as that the eye, being below them, will not see the second as lower than the first.

PERSPECTIVE.

If the eye sees a second square through the centre of a smaller one, that is nearer, the second, larger square will appear to be surrounded by the smaller one.

PERSPECTIVE--PROPOSITION.

Objects that are farther off can never be so large but that those in front, though smaller, will conceal or surround them.

DEFINITION.

This proposition can be proved by experiment. For if you look through a small hole there is nothing so large that it cannot be seen through it and the object so seen appears surrounded and enclosed by the outline of the sides of the hole. And if you stop it up, this small stopping will conceal the view of the largest object.

The apparent size of objects defined by calculation (99-105)

99.

OF LINEAR PERSPECTIVE.

Linear Perspective deals with the action of the lines of sight, in proving by measurement how much smaller is a second object than the first, and how much the third is smaller than the second; and so on by degrees to the end of things visible. I find by experience that if a second object is as far beyond the first as the first is from the eye, although they are of the same size, the second will seem half the size of the first and if the third object is of the same size as the 2nd, and the 3rd is as far beyond the second as the 2nd from the first, it will appear of half the size of the second; and so on by degrees, at equal distances, the next farthest will be half the size of the former object. So long as the space does not exceed the length of 20 braccia. But, beyond 20 braccia figures of equal size will lose 2/4 and at 40 braccia they will lose 9/10, and 19/20 at 60 braccia, and so on diminishing by degrees. This is if the picture plane is distant from you twice your own height. If it is only as far off as your own height, there will be a great difference between the first braccia and the second.

[Footnote: This chapter is included in DUFRESNE'S and MANZI'S editions of the Treatise on Painting. H. LUDWIG, in his commentary, calls this chapter "eines der wichtigsten im ganzen Tractat", but at the same time he asserts that its substance has been so completely disfigured in the best MS. copies that we ought not to regard Leonardo as responsible for it. However, in the case of this chapter, the old MS. copies agree with the original as it is reproduced above. From the chapters given later in this edition, which were written at a subsequent date, it would appear that Leonardo corrected himself on these points.]

100.

OF THE DIMINUTION OF OBJECTS AT VARIOUS DISTANCES.

A second object as far distant from the first as the first is from the eye will appear half the size of the first, though they be of the same size really.

OF THE DEGREES OF DIMINUTION.

If you place the vertical plane at one braccio from the eye, the first object, being at a distance of 4 braccia from your eye will diminish to 3/4 of its height at that plane; and if it is 8 braccia from the eye, to 7/8; and if it is 16 braccia off, it will diminish to 15/16 of its height and so on by degrees, as the space doubles the diminution will double.

101.

Begin from the line m f with the eye below; then go up and do the same with the line n f, then with the eye above and close to the 2 gauges on the ground look at m n; then as c m is to m n so will n m be to n s.

If a n goes 3 times into f b, m p will do the same into p g. Then go backwards so far as that c d goes twice into a n and p g will be equal to g h. And m p will go into h p as often as d c into o p.

[Footnote: The first three lines are unfortunately very obscure.]

102.

I GIVE THE DEGREES OF THE OBJECTS SEEN BY THE EYE AS THE MUSICIAN DOES THE NOTES HEARD BY THE EAR.

Although the objects seen by the eye do, in fact, touch each other as they recede, I will nevertheless found my rule on spaces of 20 braccia each; as a musician does with notes, which, though they can be carried on one into the next, he divides into degrees from note to note calling them 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th; and has affixed a name to each degree in raising or lowering the voice.

103.

PERSPECTIVE.

Let f be the level and distance of the eye; and a the vertical plane, as high as a man; let e be a man, then I say that on the plane this will be the distance from the plane to the 2nd man.

104.

The differences in the diminution of objects of equal size in consequence of their various remoteness from the eye will bear among themselves the same proportions as those of the spaces between the eye and the different objects.

Find out how much a man diminishes at a certain distance and what its length is; and then at twice that distance and at 3 times, and so make your general rule.

105.

The eye cannot judge where an object high up ought to descend.

106.

PERSPECTIVE.

If two similar and equal objects are placed one beyond the other at a given distance the difference in their size will appear greater in proportion as they are nearer to the eye that sees them. And conversely there will seem to be less difference in their size in proportion as they are remote from the eve.

This is proved by the proportions of their distances among themselves; for, if the first of these two objects were as far from the eye, as the 2nd from the first this would be called the second proportion: since, if the first is at 1 braccia from the eye and the 2nd at two braccia, two being twice as much as one, the first object will look twice as large as the second. But if you place the first at a hundred braccia from you and the second at a hundred and one, you will find that the first is only so much larger than the second as 100 is less than 101; and the converse is equally true. And again, the same thing is proved by the 4th of this book which shows that among objects that are equal, there is the same proportion in the diminution of the size as in the increase in the distance from the eye of the spectator.

On natural perspective (107--109).

107.

OF EQUAL OBJECTS THE MOST REMOTE LOOK THE SMALLEST.

The practice of perspective may be divided into ... parts [Footnote 4: in ... parte. The space for the number is left blank in the original.], of which the first treats of objects seen by the eye at any distance; and it shows all these objects just as the eye sees them diminished, without obliging a man to stand in one place rather than another so long as the plane does not produce a second foreshortening.

But the second practice is a combination of perspective derived partly from art and partly from nature and the work done by its rules is in every portion of it, influenced by natural perspective and artificial perspective. By natural perspective I mean that the plane on which this perspective is represented is a flat surface, and this plane, although it is parallel both in length and height, is forced to diminish in its remoter parts more than in its nearer ones. And this is proved by the first of what has been said above, and its diminution is natural. But artificial perspective, that is that which is devised by art, does the contrary; for objects equal in size increase on the plane where it is foreshortened in proportion as the eye is more natural and nearer to the plane, and as the part of the plane on which it is figured is farther from the eye.

And let this plane be d e on which are seen 3 equal circles which are beyond this plane d e, that is the circles a b c. Now you see that the eye h sees on the vertical plane the sections of the images, largest of those that are farthest and smallest of the nearest.

108.

Here follows what is wanting in the margin at the foot on the other side of this page.

Natural perspective acts in a contrary way; for, at greater distances the object seen appears smaller, and at a smaller distance the object appears larger. But this said invention requires the spectator to stand with his eye at a small hole and then, at that small hole, it will be very plain. But since many (men's) eyes endeavour at the same time to see one and the same picture produced by this artifice only one can see clearly the effect of this perspective and all the others will see confusion. It is well therefore to avoid such complex perspective and hold to simple perspective which does not regard planes as foreshortened, but as much as possible in their proper form. This simple perspective, in which the plane intersects the pyramids by which the images are conveyed to the eye at an equal distance from the eye is our constant experience, from the curved form of the pupil of the eye on which the pyramids are intersected at an equal distance from the visual virtue.

[Footnote 24: la prima di sopra i. e. the first of the three diagrams which, in the original MS., are placed in the margin at the beginning of this chapter.]

109.

OF A MIXTURE OF NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL PERSPECTIVE.

This diagram distinguishes natural from artificial perspective. But before proceeding any farther I will define what is natural and what is artificial perspective. Natural perspective says that the more remote of a series of objects of equal size will look the smaller, and conversely, the nearer will look the larger and the apparent size will diminish in proportion to the distance. But in artificial perspective when objects of unequal size are placed at various distances, the smallest is nearer to the eye than the largest and the greatest distance looks as though it were the least of all; and the cause of this is the plane on which the objects are represented; and which is at unequal distances from the eye throughout its length. And this diminution of the plane is natural, but the perspective shown upon it is artificial since it nowhere agrees with the true diminution of the said plane. Whence it follows, that when the eye is somewhat removed from the [station point of the] perspective that it has been gazing at, all the objects represented look monstrous, and this does not occur in natural perspective, which has been defined above. Let us say then, that the square a b c d figured above is foreshortened being seen by the eye situated in the centre of the side which is in front.

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