Leonardo's Shadows: Images of Knowledge in Renaissance Art and Culture


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at Villa I Tatti during academic year 2009-2010


This project considers shadows as images of knowledge in Renaissance art, natural philosophy, and culture. Its visual evidence ranges from individual paintings to optical diagrams, from quick sketches to diligent drawings, and from jotted notes to full-fledged treatises. The research focuses on a case study of unprecedented richness and consequences: how Leonardo da Vinci (145-1519) observed, drew, and painted shadows and how he wrote about them. This interdisciplinary approach to Leonardo’s shadows intersects optical theory with artistic practice, art with natural philosophy, and phenomenology with culture. From this analysis, shadows emerge as a fundamental means of articulating and visualizing the relations between objectivity and imagination