Artibus et Historiae no. 63 (XXXII)

2011, ISSN 0391-9064

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LIANA DE GIROLAMI CHENEY - Leonardo da Vinci’s Uffizi Annunciation: The Holy Spirit

In his Notebooks, Leonardo da Vinci explains how our knowledge has its formation in our perceptions. “The eyes, which are called the windows of the soul, are the chief mean whereby the understanding may most full and abundantly appreciate the infinite works of nature”. Leonardo continues: “all true sciences are the result of experiences which has passed through our senses”. He invites the observer to first experience nature and then with reason investigates the causes and effects of the experience. The presentation focuses on an aspect of creativity, the similarity between artistic and scientific creativity as espoused in Leonardo’s Notebooks and, in particular, visualized in his Annunciation of 1472 at the Galleria degli Uffizi.

In analyzing Leonardo’s Annunciation, one is able to reflect on Leonardo’s concept of creativity as well as on his theory on painting. This earlier painting in Leonardo’s artistic career is fundamental and serves as a fulcrum in the history of art and science in Italian Renaissance art. In the Annunciation, the young Leonardo begins to conceptualize his theories on optics and perception, fusing natural phenomena with spiritual signification.

For all that Leonardo wrote it is to his visual explorations that he entrusts the primary task of representing nature. Because for Leonardo art is an instrument of discovery, a form of knowing and not merely an illustration of what is already known, the application of color and tone reveal a process of visual reasoning, a science of painting.

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