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Recto: A sheet of pictographs drawn over astronomical studies. Verso: A sheet of pictographs, drawn over an architectural plan


RCIN 912692

Recto: a sheet of puzzle writing, chiefly in the form of pictographs; the majority of the pictographs are made up of animals and plants. Verso: pictographs similar to those on the recto; in the middle of them is the plan of a palace. Visual punning was popular in the Renaissance, and here Leonardo tried his hand at ‘picture writing’. Short phrases are formed from combinations of objects and symbols that sound the same as other words; below each sequence Leonardo wrote the ‘solution’ to the puzzle, in his habitual mirror-writing. Many of the sequences treat the usual theme of courtly poetry, the trials of love, with phrases such as ‘What can I do if the woman plucks my heart?’. Leonardo’s obsessive streak is evident in the relentless filling of the sheet, utilising the spaces in an architectural plan that he had drawn earlier.

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