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Leonardo Da Vinci on Nature and Living Well

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8 months ago

Leonardo Da Vinci said

“Thou, O God, dost sell unto us all good things at the price of labor.

Music has two ills, the one mortal, the other wasting; the mortal is ever allied with the instant which follows that of the music’s utterance, the wasting ill lies in its repetition, making it seem contemptible and mean.

Where there is most power of feeling, there of martyrs is the greatest martyr.

Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?

The lover is drawn by the thing loved, as the sense is by that which it perceives, and it unites with it, and they become one and the same thing. The work is the first thing born of the union; if the thing that is loved be base, the lover becomes base. When the thing taken into union is in harmony with that which receives it, there follow rejoicing and pleasure and satisfaction. When the lover is united to that which is loved it finds rest there: when the burden is laid down there it finds rest.

In youth acquire that which may requite you for the deprivations of old age; and if you are mindful that old age has wisdom for its food, you will so exert yourself in youth, that your old age will not lack sustenance.

As a well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.

Just as eating contrary to the inclination is injurious to the health, so study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.

The idea or the faculty of imagination is both rudder and bridle to the senses, inasmuch as the thing imagined moves the sense. Pre-imagining is the imagining of things that are to be. Post-imagining is the imagining of things that are past.

Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.

There is no result in nature without a cause; understand the cause and you will have no need of the experiment.

Intellectual passion drives out sensuality.

Pleasure and Pain are represented as twins, as though they were joined together, for there is never the one without the other; and they turn their backs because they are contrary to each other. If you shall choose pleasure know that he has behind him one who will deal out to you tribulation and repentance. They are made growing out of the same trunk because they have one and the same foundation, for the foundation of pleasure is labor with pain, and the foundations of pain are vain and lascivious pleasures. In Tuscany reeds are put to support beds to signify that here occurs vain dreams, and here is consumed a great part of life: here is squandered much useful time, namely that of the morning when the mind is composed and refreshed, and the body therefore is fitted to resume new labors. There also are taken many vain pleasures both with the mind imagining impossible things, and with the body taking those pleasures which are often the cause of the failing of life; so that for this the reed is held as representing such foundations.

If you kept your body in accordance with virtue your desires would not be of this world.

To the ambitious, whom neither the boon of life nor the beauty of the world suffice to content, it comes as penance that life with them is squandered, and that they possess neither the benefits nor the beauty of the world.

We support life by the death of others. In dead matter there remains insensible life, which on becoming re-united to the stomachs of the living resumes the life of the senses and of the intellect.

Man has great power of speech, but the greater part there of is empty and deceitful. The animals have little, but that little is useful and true; and better is a small and certain thing than a great falsehood.

Although human subtlety makes a variety of inventions answering by different means to the same end, it will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple, or more direct than does nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous; and she needs no countervailing weights when she creates limbs fitted for movement in the bodies of the animals, but puts within them the soul of the body which forms them, that is the soul of the mother which first constructs within the womb the shape of the man, and in due time awakens the soul that is to be its inhabitant.

Though nature has given sensibility to pain to such living organisms as have the power of movement, in order thereby to preserve the members which in this movement are liable to diminish and be destroyed, the living organisms which have no power of movement do not have to encounter opposing objects, and plants consequently do not need to have a sensibility to pain, and so it comes about that if you break them they do not feel anguish in their members as do the animals.

Drawn on by my eager desire, anxious to behold the mighty of the varied and strange forms created by the artificer nature, having wandered for some distance among the overhanging rocks, I came to the mouth of a huge cavern before which for a time I remained stupefied, not having been aware of its existence, my back bent to an arch, my left hand clutching my knee, while with the right I made a shade for my lowered and contracted eyebrows; bending continually first one way and then another in order to see whether I could discern anything inside, though this was rendered impossible by the intense darkness within; and after remaining there for a time, suddenly there were awakened within me two emotions--fear and desire,--fear of the dark, threatening cavern, desire to see whether there might be any marvelous thing therein.

The mind of the painter should be like a mirror which always takes the color of the thing that it reflects and which is filled by as many images as there are things placed before it. Knowing therefore that you cannot be a good master unless you have a universal power of representing by your art all the varieties of the forms which nature produces, which indeed you will not know how to do unless you see them and retain them in your mind.

We know well that mistakes are more easily detected in the works of others than in one’s own, and that oftentimes while censuring the small faults of others you will overlook you own great faults. In order to avoid such ignorance make yourself first of all a master of perspective, then gain a complete knowledge of the proportions of man and other animals, and also make yourself a good architect, that is in so far as concerns the form of the buildings and of the other things which are upon the earth, which are infinite in form; and the more knowledge you have of these the more will your work be worthy of praise; and for those things in which you have no practice do not disdain to draw from nature. But to return to what has been promised above, I say that when you are painting you should take a flat mirror and often look at your work within it, and it will then be seen in reverse, and will appear to be by the hand of some other master, and you will be better able to judge of its faults than in any other way. It is also a good plan every now and then to go away and have a little relaxation; for then when you come back to the work your judgment will be surer, since to remain constantly at work will cause you to lose the power of judgment. It is also advisable to go some distance away, because then the work appears smaller, and more of it is taken in at a glance, and a lack of harmony or proportion in the various parts and in the colors of the objects is more readily seen.

Make your work to be in keeping with your purpose and design; that is, when you make your figure you should consider carefully who it is and what you wish it to be doing.

From small beginnings shall arise that which shall rapidly become great; and it shall have respect for no created thing, but its power shall be such as to enable it to transform almost everything from its natural condition.

Bodies without souls shall by their sayings supply precepts which shall help us to die well.”





Painting: The Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci

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