Leonardo da Vinci and his treatise on painting

Leonardo da Vinci and his treatise on painting is a digital archive dedicated to the Treatise on painting. This is a disorganized, fragmented, and misleading text that was compiled by Francesco Melzi, one of the pupils of Leonardo da Vinci, around 1540 but that was regarded as a Leonardo original for centuries. The work circulated widely. Artists, scientists, and scholars, including Nicholas Poussin and Galileo Galilei, read it as an authoritative record of Leonardo’s thoughts. When Leonardo’s original manuscripts became available in the nineteenth century, scholars realized that the text poorly reflected his ideas.

This project focuses on the inaccurate but highly influential interpretation of Leonardo’s legacy transmitted in the Treatise on painting. It includes over forty manuscript copies of the work, dating from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-seventeenth century, as well as early printed editions in Italian (1651), French (1651), and English (1721). It also has bibliographical records for numerous other editions of the text. In addition, the website includes Francesco Melzi’s Libro di pittura: a work compiled from Leonardo’s original manuscripts, which was never printed and which was drastically abridged in a text that came to be known as Leonardo’s Treatise on painting. The website anticipates expanding its coverage as new manuscripts and printed editions of Leonardo’s Treatise on painting become available for inclusion.

Each work can be viewed by page (including also the pages that may be extraneous to the Treatise on painting, but that were nonetheless bound together in a manuscript or included in a printed volume), chapter, illustration, or transcription (in December 2014, the project offers complete transcriptions of the three printed editions, and selected transcriptions of manuscripts). Images are shown in high definition. Pages can be downloaded in JPEG format.

‘Leonardo da Vinci and his treatise on painting’ is a project at the University of Virginia in partnership with the Institute of Advanced Technology in the Humanities. It is housed at the University of Virginia.

Last update

Tuesday, 26 May 2015 - 10:39am
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