The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci Page 12

The passage in question occurs in his edition as No. 833; and there also the drawings are wanting. The space for them has been left vacant, but in the Vatican copy 'niente' has been written on the margin; and in it, as well as in LUDWIG'S and MANZI'S edition, the text is mutilated.] four modes of growing one above another. The first, which is the most general, is that the sixth always originates over the sixth below [Footnote 8: la sesta di sotto. "Disposizione 2/5 o 1/5. Leonardo osservo probabilmente soltanto la prima" (UZIELLl).]; the second is that two third ones above are over the two third ones below [Footnote 10: terze di sotto: "Intende qui senza dubbio parlare di foglie decussate, in cui il terzo verticello e nel piano del primo" (UZIELLI).]; and the third way is that the third above is over the third below [Footnote 11: 3a di sotto: "Disposizione 1/2" (UZIELLI).].

[Footnote: See the four sketches on the upper portion of the page reproduced as fig. 2 on P1. XXVII.]



The ramification of the elm has the largest branch at the top. The first and the last but one are smaller, when the main trunk is straight.

The space between the insertion of one leaf to the rest is half the extreme length of the leaf or somewhat less, for the leaves are at an interval which is about the 3rd of the width of the leaf.

The elm has more leaves near the top of the boughs than at the base; and the broad [surface] of the leaves varies little as to [angle and] aspect.

[Footnote: See Pl. XXVII, No. 3. Above the sketch and close under the number of the page is the word 'olmo' (elm).]


In the walnut tree the leaves which are distributed on the shoots of this year are further apart from each other and more numerous in proportion as the branch from which this shoot springs is a young one. And they are inserted more closely and less in number when the shoot that bears them springs from an old branch. Its fruits are borne at the ends of the shoots. And its largest boughs are the lowest on the boughs they spring from. And this arises from the weight of its sap which is more apt to descend than to rise, and consequently the branches which spring from them and rise towards the sky are small and slender [20]; and when the shoot turns towards the sky its leaves spread out from it [at an angle] with an equal distribution of their tips; and if the shoot turns to the horizon the leaves lie flat; and this arises from the fact that leaves without exception, turn their underside to the earth [29].

The shoots are smaller in proportion as they spring nearer to the base of the bough they spring from.

[Footnote: See the two sketches on Pl XXVII, No. 4. The second refers to the passage lines 20-30.]



The thickness of a branch never diminishes within the space between one leaf and the next excepting by so much as the thickness of the bud which is above the leaf and this thickness is taken off from the branch above [the node] as far as the next leaf.

Nature has so placed the leaves of the latest shoots of many plants that the sixth leaf is always above the first, and so on in succession, if the rule is not [accidentally] interfered with; and this occurs for two useful ends in the plant: First that as the shoot and the fruit of the following year spring from the bud or eye which lies above and in close contact with the insertion of the leaf [in the axil], the water which falls upon the shoot can run down to nourish the bud, by the drop being caught in the hollow [axil] at the insertion of the leaf. And the second advantage is, that as these shoots develop in the following year one will not cover the next below, since the 5 come forth on five different sides; and the sixth which is above the first is at some distance.



The ramifications of any tree, such as the elm, are wide and slender after the manner of a hand with spread fingers, foreshortened. And these are seen in the distribution [thus]: the lower portions are seen from above; and those that are above are seen from below; and those in the middle, some from below and some from above. The upper part is the extreme [top] of this ramification and the middle portion is more foreshortened than any other of those which are turned with their tips towards you. And of those parts of the middle of the height of the tree, the longest will be towards the top of the tree and will produce a ramification like the foliage of the common willow, which grows on the banks of rivers.

Other ramifications are spherical, as those of such trees as put forth their shoots and leaves in the order of the sixth being placed above the first. Others are thin and light like the willow and others.


You will see in the lower branches of the elder, which puts forth leaves two and two placed crosswise [at right angles] one above another, that if the stem rises straight up towards the sky this order never fails; and its largest leaves are on the thickest part of the stem and the smallest on the slenderest part, that is towards the top. But, to return to the lower branches, I say that the leaves on these are placed on them crosswise like [those on] the upper branches; and as, by the law of all leaves, they are compelled to turn their upper surface towards the sky to catch the dew at night, it is necessary that those so placed should twist round and no longer form a cross.

[Footnote: See Pl. XXVII, No. 5.]


A leaf always turns its upper side towards the sky so that it may the better receive, on all its surface, the dew which drops gently from the atmosphere. And these leaves are so distributed on the plant as that one shall cover the other as little as possible, but shall lie alternately one above another as may be seen in the ivy which covers the walls. And this alternation serves two ends; that is, to leave intervals by which the air and sun may penetrate between them. The 2nd reason is that the drops which fall from the first leaf may fall onto the fourth or--in other trees--onto the sixth.


Every shoot and every fruit is produced above the insertion [in the axil] of its leaf which serves it as a mother, giving it water from the rain and moisture from the dew which falls at night from above, and often it protects them against the too great heat of the rays of the sun.



That part of the body will be most illuminated which is hit by the luminous ray coming between right angles.

[Footnote: See Pl. XXVIII, No. 1.]


Young plants have more transparent leaves and a more lustrous bark than old ones; and particularly the walnut is lighter coloured in May than in September.



The accidents of colour in the foliage of trees are 4. That is: shadow, light, lustre [reflected light] and transparency.


These accidents of colour in the foliage of trees become confused at a great distance and that which has most breadth [whether light or shade, &c.] will be most conspicuous.

The proportions of light and shade in a leaf (423-426).



Sometimes a leaf has three accidents [of light] that is: shade, lustre [reflected light] and transparency [transmitted light]. Thus, if the light were at n as regards the leaf s, and the eye at m, it would see a in full light, b in shadow and c transparent.


A leaf with a concave surface seen from the under side and up-side-down will sometimes show itself as half in shade, and half transparent. Thus, if o p is the leaf and the light m and the eye n, this will see o in shadow because the light does not fall upon it between equal angles, neither on the upper nor the under side, and p is lighted on the upper side and the light is transmitted to its under side. [Footnote: See Pl. XXVIII, No. 2, the upper sketch on the page. In the original they are drawn in red chalk.]


Although those leaves which have a polished surface are to a great extent of the same colour on the right side and on the reverse, it may happen that the side which is turned towards the atmosphere will have something of the colour of the atmosphere; and it will seem to have more of this colour of the atmosphere in proportion as the eye is nearer to it and sees it more foreshortened. And, without exception the shadows show as darker on the upper side than on the lower, from the contrast offered by the high lights which limit the shadows.

The under side of the leaf, although its colour may be in itself the same as that of the upper side, shows a still finer colour--a colour that is green verging on yellow--and this happens when the leaf is placed between


the eye and the light which falls upon it from the opposite side.

And its shadows are in the same positions as those were of the opposite side. Therefore, O Painter! when you do trees close at hand, remember that if the eye is almost under the tree you will see its leaves [some] on the upper and [some] on the under side, and the upper side will be bluer in proportion as they are seen more foreshortened, and the same leaf sometimes shows part of the right side and part of the under side, whence you must make it of two colours.

Of the transparency of leaves (427-429).


The shadows in transparent leaves seen from the under side are the same shadows as there are on the right side of this leaf, they will show through to the underside together with lights, but the lustre [reflected light] can never show through.


When one green has another [green] behind it, the lustre on the leaves and their transparent [lights] show more strongly than in those which are [seen] against the brightness of the atmosphere.

And if the sun illuminates the leaves without their coming between it and the eye and without the eye facing the sun, then the reflected lights and the transparent lights are very strong.

It is very effective to show some branches which are low down and dark and so set off the illuminated greens which are at some distance from the dark greens seen below. That part is darkest which is nearest to the eye or which is farthest from the luminous atmosphere.


Never paint leaves transparent to the sun, because they are confused; and this is because on the transparency of one leaf will be seen the shadow of another leaf which is above it. This shadow has a distinct outline and a certain depth of shade and sometimes is [as much as] half or a third of the leaf which is shaded; and consequently such an arrangement is very confused and the imitation of it should be avoided.

The light shines least through a leaf when it falls upon it at an acute angle.

The gradations of shade and colour in leaves (430-434).


The shadows of plants are never black, for where the atmosphere penetrates there can never be utter darkness.


If the light comes from m and the eye is at n the eye will see the colour of the leaves a b all affected by the colour of m --that is of the atmosphere; and b c will be seen from the under side as transparent, with a beautiful green colour verging on yellow.

If m is the luminous body lighting up the leaf s all the eyes that see the under side of this leaf will see it of a beautiful light green, being transparent.

In very many cases the positions of the leaves will be without shadow [or in full light], and their under side will be transparent and the right side lustrous [reflecting light].


The willow and other similar trees, which have their boughs lopped every 3 or 4 years, put forth very straight branches, and their shadow is about the middle where these boughs spring; and towards the extreme ends they cast but little shade from having small leaves and few and slender branches. Hence the boughs which rise towards the sky will have but little shade and little relief; and the branches which are at an angle from the horizon, downwards, spring from the dark part of the shadow and grow thinner by degrees up to their ends, and these will be in strong relief, being in gradations of light against a background of shadow.

That tree will have the least shadow which has the fewest branches and few leaves.



When the leaves are interposed between the light and the eye, then that which is nearest to the eye will be the darkest, and the most distant will be the lightest, not being seen against the atmosphere; and this is seen in the leaves which are away from the centre of the tree, that is towards the light.

[Footnote: See Pl. XXVIII, No. 2, the lower sketch.]



The lights on such leaves which are darkest, will be most near to the colour of the atmosphere that is reflected in them. And the cause of this is that the light on the illuminated portion mingles with the dark hue to compose a blue colour; and this light is produced by the blueness of the atmosphere which is reflected in the smooth surface of these leaves and adds to the blue hue which this light usually produces when it falls on dark objects.


But leaves of a green verging on yellow when they reflect the atmosphere do not produce a reflection verging on blue, inasmuch as every thing which appears in a mirror takes some colour from that mirror, hence the blue of the atmosphere being reflected in the yellow of the leaf appears green, because blue and yellow mixed together make a very fine green colour, therefore the lustre of light leaves verging on yellow will be greenish yellow.

A classification of trees according to their colours.


The trees in a landscape are of various kinds of green, inasmuch as some verge towards blackness, as firs, pines, cypresses, laurels, box and the like. Some tend to yellow such as walnuts, and pears, vines and verdure. Some are both yellowish and dark as chesnuts, holm-oak. Some turn red in autumn as the service-tree, pomegranate, vine, and cherry; and some are whitish as the willow, olive, reeds and the like. Trees are of various forms ...

The proportions of light and shade in trees (436-440).



That part of the trees will be seen to lie in the least dark shadow which is farthest from the earth.

To prove it let a p be the tree, n b c the illuminated hemisphere [the sky], the under portion of the tree faces the earth p c, that is on the side o, and it faces a small part of the hemisphere at c d. But the highest part of the convexity a faces the greatest part of the hemisphere, that is b c. For this reason--and because it does not face the darkness of the earth--it is in fuller light. But if the tree has dense foliage, as the laurel, arbutus, box or holm oak, it will be different; because, although a does not face the earth, it faces the dark [green] of the leaves cut up by many shadows, and this darkness is reflected onto the under sides of the leaves immediately above. Thus these trees have their darkest shadows nearest to the middle of the tree.



The shadows of verdure are always somewhat blue, and so is every shadow of every object; and they assume this hue more in proportion as they are remote from the eye, and less in proportion as they are nearer. The leaves which reflect the blue of the atmosphere always present themselves to the eye edgewise.


The illuminated portion, at a great distance, will appear most nearly of its natural colour where the strongest light falls upon it.



In trees that are illuminated [both] by the sun and the atmosphere and that have leaves of a dark colour, one side will be illuminated by the atmosphere [only] and in consequence of this light will tend to blueness, while on the other side they will be illuminated by the atmosphere and the sun; and the side which the eye sees illuminated by the sun will reflect light.



The trees and plants which are most thickly branched with slender branches ought to have less dark shadow than those trees and plants which, having broader leaves, will cast more shadow.



In the position of the eye which sees that portion of a tree illuminated which turns towards the light, one tree will never be seen to be illuminated equally with the other. To prove this, let the eye be c which sees the two trees b d which are illuminated by the sun a; I say that this eye c will not see the light in the same proportion to the shade, in one tree as in the other. Because, the tree which is nearest to the sun will display so much the stronger shadow than the more distant one, in proportion as one tree is nearer to the rays of the sun that converge to the eye than the other; &c.

You see that the eye c sees nothing of the tree d but shadow, while the same eye c sees thè tree b half in light and half in shade.

When a tree is seen from below, the eye sees the top of it as placed within the circle made by its boughs[23].

Remember, O Painter! that the variety of depth of shade in any one particular species of tree is in proportion to the rarity or density of their branches.

[Footnote: The two lower sketches on the left of Pl XXVIII, No. 3, refer to lines 21-23. The upper sketch has apparently been effaced by Leonardo himself.]

The distribution of light and shade with reference to the position of the spectator (441-443).


The shadows of trees placed in a landscape do not display themselves in the same position in the trees on the right hand and those on the left; still more so if the sun is to the right or left. As is proved by the 4th which says: Opaque bodies placed between the light and the eye display themselves entirely in shadow; and by the 5th: The eye when placed between the opaque body and the light sees the opaque body entirely illuminated. And by the 6th: When the eye and the opaque body are placed between darkness and light, it will be seen half in shadow and half in light.

[Footnote: See the figure on the right hand side of Pl. XXVIII, No. 3. The first five lines of the text are written below the diagram and above it are the last eight lines of the text, given as No. 461.]



Of the plants which take a shadow from the plants which spring among them, those which are on this side [in front] of the shadow have the stems lighted up on a background of shadow, and the plants on which the shadows fall have their stems dark on a light background; that is on the background beyond the shadow.


Of the trees which are between the eye and the light the part in front will be light; but this light will be broken by the ramifications of transparent leaves--being seen from the under side--and lustrous leaves--being seen from the upper side; and the background below and behind will be dark green, being in shadow from the front portion of the said tree. This occurs in trees placed above the eye.



Landscapes should be represented so that the trees may be half in light and half in shadow; but it is better to do them when the sun is covered with clouds, for then the trees are lighted by the general light of the sky, and the general darkness of the earth. And then they are darkest in certain parts in proportion as those parts are nearest to the middle of the tree and to the earth.

The effects of morning light (444-448).



When the sun is in the east the trees to the South and to the North have almost as much light as shadow. But a greater share of light in proportion as they lie to the West and a greater share of shadow in proportion as they lie to the East.


If the sun is in the East the verdure of the meadows and of other small plants is of a most beautiful green from being transparent to the sun; this does not occur in the meadows to the West, and in those to the South and North the grass is of a moderately brilliant green.



When the sun is in the East all the portions of plants lighted by it are of a most lively verdure, and this happens because the leaves lighted by the sun within the half of the horizon that is the Eastern half, are transparent; and within the Western semicircle the verdure is of a dull hue and the moist air is turbid and of the colour of grey ashes, not being transparent like that in the East, which is quite clear and all the more so in proportion as it is moister.

The shadows of the trees to the East cover a large portion of them and are darker in proportion as the foliage of the trees is thicker.



When the sun is in the East the trees seen towards the East will have the light which surrounds them all round their shadows, excepting on the side towards the earth; unless the tree has been pruned [below] in the past year. And the trees to the South and North will be half in shade and half in light, and more or less in shade or in light in proportion as they are more or less to the East or to the West.

The [position of] the eye above or below varies the shadows and lights in trees, inasmuch as the eye placed above sees the tree with the little shadow, and the eye placed below with a great deal of shadow.

The colour of the green in plants varies as much as their species.



The sun being in the East [to the right], the trees to the West [or left] of the eye will show in small relief and almost imperceptible gradations, because the atmosphere which lies between the eye and those trees is very dense [Footnote 7: per la 7a di questo. This possibly referred to something written on the seventh page of this note book marked G. Unfortunately it has been cut out and lost.], see the 7th of this--and they have no shade; for though a shadow exists in every detail of the ramification, it results that the images of the shade and light that reach the eye are confused and mingled together and cannot be perceived on account of their minuteness. And the principal lights are in the middle of the trees, and the shadows to wards the edges; and their separation is shown by the shadows of the intervals between the trees; but when the forests are thick with trees the thin edges are but little seen.



When the sun is in the East the trees are darker towards the middle while their edges are light.

The effects of midday light.



To represent a landscape choose that the sun shall be at noon and look towards the West or East and then draw. And if you turn towards the North, every object placed on that side will have no shadow, particularly those which are nearest to the [direction of the] shadow of your head. And if you turn towards the South every object on that side will be wholly in shadow. All the trees which are towards the sun and have the atmosphere for their background are dark, and the other trees which lie against that darkness will be black [very dark] in the middle and lighter towards the edges.

The appearance of trees in the distance (450. 451).



The spaces between the parts in the mass of trees, and the spaces between the trees in the air, are, at great distances, invisible to the eye; for, where it is an effort [even] to see the whole it is most difficult to discern the parts.--But a confused mixture is the result, partaking chiefly of the [hue] which predominates. The spaces between the leaves consist of particles of illuminated air which are very much smaller than the tree and are lost sight of sooner than the tree; but it does not therefore follow that they are not there. Hence, necessarily, a compounded [effect] is produced of the sky and of the shadows of the tree in shade, which both together strike the eye which sees them.


That part of a tree will show the fewest spaces, behind which a large number of trees are standing between the tree and the air [sky]; thus in the tree a the spaces are not concealed nor in b, as there is no tree behind. But in c only half shows the spaces filled up by the tree d, and part of the tree d is filled up by the tree e and a little farther on all the spaces in the mass of the trees are lost, and only that at the side remains.



What outlines are seen in trees at a distance against the sky which serves as their background?

The outlines of the ramification of trees, where they lie against the illuminated sky, display a form which more nearly approaches the spherical on proportion as they are remote, and the nearer they are the less they appear in this spherical form; as in the first tree a which, being near to the eye, displays the true form of its ramification; but this shows less in b and is altogether lost in c, where not merely the branches of the tree cannot be seen but the whole tree is distinguished with difficulty. Every object in shadow, of whatever form it may be, at a great distance appears to be spherical. And this occurs because, if it is a square body, at a very short distance it loses its angles, and a little farther off it loses still more of its smaller sides which remain. And thus before the whole is lost [to sight] the parts are lost, being smaller than the whole; as a man, who in such a distant position loses his legs, arms and head before [the mass of] his body, then the outlines of length are lost before those of breadth, and where they have become equal it would be a square if the angles remained; but as they are lost it is round.

[Footnote: The sketch No. 4, Pl. XXVIII, belongs to this passage.]

The cast shadow of trees (452. 453).


The image of the shadow of any object of uniform breadth can never be [exactly] the same as that of the body which casts it.

[Footnote: See Pl. XXVIII, No. 5.]

Light and shade on groups of trees (453-457).


All trees seen against the sun are dark towards the middle and this shadow will be of the shape of the tree when apart from others.

The shadows cast by trees on which the sun shines are as dark as those of the middle of the tree.

The shadow cast by a tree is never less than the mass of the tree but becomes taller in proportion as the spot on which it falls, slopes towards the centre of the world.

The shadow will be densest in the middle of the tree when the tree has the fewest branches.

[Footnote: The three diagrams which accompany this text are placed, in the original, before lines 7-11. At the spots marked B Leonardo wrote Albero (tree). At A is the word Sole (sun), at C Monte (mountain) at D piano (plain) and at E cima (summit).]

Every branch participates of the central shadow of every other branch and consequently [of that] of the whole tree.

The form of any shadow from a branch or tree is circumscribed by the light which falls from the side whence the light comes; and this illumination gives the shape of the shadow, and this may be of the distance of a mile from the side where the sun is.

If it happens that a cloud should anywhere overshadow some part of a hill the [shadow of the] trees there will change less than in the plains; for these trees on the hills have their branches thicker, because they grow less high each year than in the plains. Therefore as these branches are dark by nature and being so full of shade, the shadow of the clouds cannot darken them any more; but the open spaces between the trees, which have no strong shadow change very much in tone and particularly those which vary from green; that is ploughed lands or fallen mountains or barren lands or rocks. Where the trees are against the atmosphere they appear all the same colour--if indeed they are not very close together or very thickly covered with leaves like the fir and similar trees. When you see the trees from the side from which the sun lights them, you will see them almost all of the same tone, and the shadows in them will be hidden by the leaves in the light, which come between your eye and those shadows.


[Footnote 29: The heading alberi vicini (trees at a short distance) is in the original manuscript written in the margin.] When the trees are situated between the sun and the eye, beyond the shadow which spreads from their centre, the green of their leaves will be seen transparent; but this transparency will be broken in many places by the leaves and boughs in shadow which will come between you and them, or, in their upper portions, they will be accompanied by many lights reflected from the leaves.


The trees of the landscape stand out but little from each other; because their illuminated portions come against the illuminated portions of those beyond and differ little from them in light and shade.


Of trees seen from below and against the light, one beyond the other and near together. The topmost part of the first will be in great part transparent and light, and will stand out against the dark portion of the second tree. And thus it will be with all in succession that are placed under the same conditions.

Let s be the light, and r the eye, c d n the first tree, a b c the second. Then I say that r, the eye, will see the portion c f in great part transparent and lighted by the light s which falls upon it from the opposite side, and it will see it, on a dark ground b c because that is the dark part and shadow of the tree a b c.

But if the eye is placed at t it will see o p dark on the light background n g.

Of the transparent and shadowy parts of trees, that which is nearest to you is the darkest.

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