Starting in 2007 this blog documents the multiple attempts to write a book about Leonardo da Vinci, with random thoughts and posts along the way. In early 2016 I finally gave up (or in?) on that and it was the most free'ing decision I've ever made. Maybe i'll go back to it eventually but now i'm able to focus on my other passions. The things I wanted to do "Once I finish, someday." I learned what I didn't like and what didn't work. Now it's time to figure out what I do want and what does.
It's interesting that some of the things that are considered new today- were new in the past. The same basic concepts were there but new technology advanced these ideas considerably further.
One Wheeled Motor Cycle
This sketch is titled “The Ermine as a symbol of Purity” and
is a visual representation of that title. These types of sketches are
similar to a complicated type of “Pictionary.”
- “The ermine out of moderation never eats but once a day, and it
would rather let itself be captured by hunters than take refuge in a dirty
lair, in order not to stain its purity” - “Moderation curbs all the
vices: the ermine prefers to die rather than soil itself.” Discovering Da Vinci Daily: Day 31: Ermine = Purity
c.1487-90Pen and ink30.0 x 25.3 cm
"A sheet of puzzle writing, chiefly in the form of pictographs; the majority of the pictographs are made up of animals and plants. Verso: pictographs similar to those on the recto; in the middle of them is the plan of a palace.
Visual punning was popular in the Renaissance, and here Leonardo tried his hand at ‘picture writing’. Short phrases are formed from combinations of objects and symbols that sound the same as other words; below each sequence Leonardo wrote the ‘solution’ to the puzzle, in his habitual mirror-writing. Many of the sequences treat the usual theme of courtly poetry, the trials of love, with phrases such as ‘What can I do if the woman plucks my heart?’. Leonardo’s obsessive streak is evident in the relentless filling of the sheet, utilizing the spaces in an architectural plan that he had drawn earlier."
Leonardo da Vinci was ranked 29th of the most significant historical figures of all time. #1 of the most significant artists (pre 20th century) but still the #1 genius (In other rankings.) Out of everyone else on the lists Leonardo probably has the best chance of still moving up since we are still discovering more about him today.
Leonardo designed what we now consider to be the first "tank" or armored vehicle. He imagined it with 360 degrees worth of cannons and being propelled by men turning a lever from inside. Interestingly in his sketches he drew some of the technical specifications wrong, possibly to thwart anyone from using his designs if his notebooks were stolen. Discovering Da Vinci Daily: Day 30: Tanks
For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.
It's unknown whether Leonardo was actually successful in testing any of his flight inventions. In this quote he seems to be imagining what it would be like to fly, or maybe he really did... Discovering Da Vinci Daily: Day 29: Skyward Bound
Oysters open completely when the moon is full; and when
the crab sees one it throws a piece of stone or seaweed into it and the oyster
cannot close again so that it serves the crab for meat. Such is the fate of him
who opens his mouth too much and thereby puts himself at the mercy of the
listener. Discovering Da Vinci Daily: Day 28: Crab Trap
Not only did Leonardo sketch a highly detailed tongue he noted its possible movements, how it created sounds, the different vowels, and how it worked with the shapes of the lips.
OF THE MUSCLES WHICH MOVE THE TONGUE
"No member needs so great a number of muscles as the
tongue,—twenty-four of these being already known apart from the others which I
have discovered; and of all the members which are moved by voluntary action
this exceeds all the rest in the number of its movements.
And if you shall say
that this is rather the function of the eye, which receives all the infinite
varieties of form and colour of the objects set before it, and of the smell
with its infinite mixture of odours, and of the ear with its sounds, we may
reply that the tongue also perceives an infinite number of flavours both simple
and compounded ; but this is not to our purpose, for our intention is to treat
only of the particular movement of each member. Consider carefully how by the
movement of the tongue, …
"Evil thinking is either envy or ingratitude." This quote is written accompanying the sketch. Leonardo would often draw abstract cartoon-like symbols that are almost impossible to figure out without any instructions. Many of the allegories and metaphors are difficult to interpret 500 years later and become even more complex since he used visual and phonic puns. In this sketch there are two characters riding on some type of animal. One aiming a bow and arrow, the other dangling a type of flag or ribbon, and a skeletal angel walking behind them holding a cup. How this symbolizes "Evil thinking is either envy or ingratitude" is difficult to discern but it does make you realize how complex simple sketches can be. The more you look at each character - what they are doing, their expressions, and even their emotions the more you will understand the obscured symbology. Discovering Da Vinci Daily: Day 26: Evil Thinking