Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was famous in his day as an artist. Today he is just as well known for his scientific investigations, which he recorded in his notebooks and in thousands of drawings.

The unifying theme of Leonardo’s researches was an urge to understand the phenomena of nature. This would allow the artist to create a true image of the world, and indeed some of Leonardo’s most beautiful drawings of plants and animals were studies for his paintings and sculptures. He also intended to write a treatise on the theory of painting, which would cover many aspects of the appearance of the natural world. This in turn spawned separate treatises - never completed - on anatomy (both human and animal), on the movement of water, and on botany, concentrating on the physical structure of plants and trees.

The six hundred drawings by Leonardo in the Royal Library were acquired, probably by Charles II, in the late seventeenth century.


A rocky ravine
An outcrop of stratified rock
A rearing horse
Studies of a horse
A horse from the front
The anatomy of a bear’s foot
Star of Bethlehem, wood anemone and sun spurge
Marsh marigold and wood anemone
Job’s tears
Oak and dyer’s greenweed
The seed-heads of two rushes
A tree
The uterus of a gravid cow
Cats, lions and a dragon
Horses, St George and the Dragon, and a lion
The chest and hindquarters of a horse