Water as Microscope of Nature

Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Leicester

Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of Ginevra de' BenciLeonardo’s paintings resonate with the themes discussed in the Codex Leicester. The rock stratifications in the Virgin of the Rocks evoke the sedimentation processes illustrated in the Codex, while the blue tint of the sky references the explanation of the phenomenon as the effect of the impact of solar rays on the atoms of evaporated water against the dark background of the sky. The artist uses the process causing the Moon’s Earthshine to depict the secondary light on the face of Ginevra de’ Benci and in The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne. Traces of his scientific ideas are also visible in the landscape forming the background to the Mona Lisa’s enigmatic smile, which offers a compendium of his geological theories. There are mountains clearly displaying the strata generated over a very long period of time, and lakes formed by rivers encountering obstacles in their course: a nature marked, like an old man’s face, by the ceaseless action of the elements.