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Botany and landscape

Leonardo’s finest botanical drawings were made in connection with his painting of Leda and the Swan, whose foreground was to be rich in plants and flowers. But, as so often, his studies for a painting excited his interest and the botany soon became an investigation in its own right, and it seems that Leonardo considered writing a treatise on the structure of plants and trees.

Leonardo had an instinctive response to natural forces, and his writings describing the interaction of water and rock were paralleled by the landscapes of timeless universality in many of his drawings and paintings. In his early career the landscapes were ancient but stable, whereas in drawings from the last decade of his life their rocks are subject to massive forces that wrench them from the earth, emphasising Leonardo’s conception of the earth as a place of infinite flux.

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