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Title: Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Water
Authors: Geddes, Leslie
Advisors: Pinto, John A.
Contributors: Art and Archaeology Department
Keywords: Artist-engineer
Early Modern
Subjects: Art history
History of science
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Among his memorable drawings exploring the natural environment, Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519) produced extraordinary studies of water. In their virtuosity and complexity, the drawings stand out as distinct in the Western canon: the scholarship has treated them as perplexing outliers. This dissertation proposes a reexamination of these drawings that gives equal attention to their artistic qualities and intellectual content. Since Leonardo's interest in water was so longstanding and his methods for depicting its characteristics so varied, his works form a rich and complex basis for investigating the intersections between art and water in early modern Italy. Water's necessity to early modern life cannot be overstated. Developing ways to harness, channel, or traverse water challenged the minds of artist-engineers and drained the financial resources of their patrons. In the hands of Leonardo and his peers, drawing offered a mode of problem solving integral to their understanding of the natural environment. Drawings--including analytic diagrams, regional maps, machine designs, nature studies, and views--demonstrate the richly varied approaches artist-engineers used to interpret and shape the natural and built environment. Both a practical necessity and a powerful symbol, water moreover presents one of the most challenging problems in visuality due to its formlessness, clarity, and mutability. A better understanding of Leonardo's engagement with water deepens our knowledge of the scientific and aesthetic discourses in which he took part. This dissertation places the study and use of water within an intellectual history of early modern Italy. The significance of the project is threefold: to shed light on drawings and writings long neglected in Leonardo's oeuvre, to connect these drawings to the artistic and engineering practices of his day, and to address critical questions about modes of seeing and picturing in the early modern period. In doing so, the dissertation interrogates the ways drawing--as an intellectual practice, as scientific investigation, as a component of painting--exposes how artists navigated the limits of perception and the visual representation of nature.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Art and Archaeology

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