Leonardo, the Observation of the Cosmos, and Renaissance Culture

Rodolfo Maffeis

The study of the astronomical and cosmological notes in Leonardo's manuscripts intersects various fields of Renaissance knowledge, such as natural philosophy, optics, perspective, geometry, mechanics and, of course, artistic practice. Leonardo's remarks are based on a vast literature − from the vernacular editions of Aristotle to those of Ptolemy, from Sacrobosco to Restoro d'Arezzo, from Dante to Albert of Saxony and the Florentine humanists − but these texts are integrated with and verified or even modified by the principles of his own practical knowledge. Correlations between his astronomical observations (moon spots, the reddening of the moon during an eclipse, sun reflections over sea waves, aerial perspective, the color of the sky) and his art abound, often bringing together different sphere of inquiry, as, for example, in the case of his drawings for planetary clocks derived from the toothed wheels of watermills. This project sheds new light on vexed questions, confirming the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to Leonardo's world.


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