The Getty has an incredible collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s notes and sketches on exhibit through June 20th. They are absolutely fascinating…I’ve never seen anything like them.
No longer must we guess about what went through the mind of Leonardo. Pages and pages of his revolutionary thoughts are on display, showing his studies of anatomy, sketches of robots and machines, diagrams, face studies, and notes. They are such intimate things to look at, especially considering the great care he took to guard his notes; he knew his thoughts were coveted and his knowledge treasured. On some of the pages you can see how he concealed some of his ideas with ink smudges.
I doubt that Leonardo ever sat around during a three-day weekend and found himself bored. It’s obvious that he found the world indefatigably fascinating, and he studied and explored the things he found interesting. Just one sheet of notes includes such varied subjects as a diagram for a water clock, a sketch of a costume, and a diagram of the human esophagus and stomach. Another page shows a drawing by one of Leonardo’s students, and Leonardo’s correction drawn over part of the sketch in pen. (Could you imagine being Leonardo’s student?! No pressure!)
A funny thing about Leonardo…he always wrote down the same phrase when he was testing out a new pen—“Tell me if ever.” This phrase has been found over fifty times in his writing. What do you write down when you test a new pen? I used to write down the sentence “I will return my homework on time.” (Always thinking of Bart writing on the chalkboard during the opening credits of The Simpsons while I did so.)
Leonardo’s handwriting is gorgeous. His Italian looked swiftly yet meticulously scratched down, and was written from left to right (he was left-handed). It’s beautiful to look at (I would love it as wallpaper) and I think only rivals the beauty of Jane Austen’s script. Just for fun, you can use a handwriting generator to copy his handwriting here.
Leonardo wrote that “Learning never exhausts the mind.” He must have not been in seminary. (Joke!) Seriously, I love how curious he was and how he relished learning about the world. I love that he used his knowledge to create beautiful things. I would have loved to have known him; the most interesting people I know are the ones who are interested...in things, in people, in life.