Leonardo’s Landscape (1473)
Leonardo dated this landscape drawing as though it was a realistic rendering on a particular day in 1473 though scholars are divided. Some argue that, yes, the castle on the left existed while others believe that the scene is imaginative and point out specific spatial inconsistencies to support their view.1 From our point of view, though, the idea that any visual poet would draw such a realistic landscape is absurd. It cannot be so. Even later landscapes by artists actually described as Realists or Impressionists are not what they seem. Indeed scholars (some unaware of each other’s views) have shown how metamorphic figures appear in landscapes in every century since the Renaissance. Schongauer, Dürer, Altdorfer and Herri met de Bles drew such scenes in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, as did Corot, Courbet , Cézanne and Van Gogh in the nineteenth.2 Among modern artists in the twentieth century metamorphic landscapes are far more obvious because they made less attempt to hide them.
First, see if you can find a face in the drawing on your own. It is always good practice. Then, click on the next thumbnail to continue.
Here Leonardo has drawn the scene around the transparent fragment of a human face, as indicated in the diagram. Only the nose, beard and one eye are clearly marked. Although the lack of clarity will never convince skeptics, Leonardo’s careful positioning of key features are so meaningful that they are unlikely to be coincidental. For instance, a most unlikely waterfall pours over the “eye”, suggestive of tears, while huge trees (one green in diagram), inaccurately large, grow in “his mind”. Trees, among other ideas, symbolize the fertility of a creative soul. Although the face is not a self-portrait, it is not disimilar to other heads Leonardo drew and includes the horizontal creases of a frown. It is the mind of the artist-poet at the moment of the drawing’s creation, a specific moment which might explain Leonardo’s inscription. It is the date when the drawing was created.3
See conclusion below
More Works by Leonardo
Leonardo's closely observed landscape turns into something else entirely but only if you expect it
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