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Southampton City Art Gallery

This drawing shows a number of designs for gun-barrels, and mortars intended to discharge an incendiary substance known as ‘Greek fire’, to burn the rigging and sails of enemy ships. The largest drawing, at the bottom of the sheet, shows

Recto: Designs for gun-barrels and mortars. Verso: A town wall being blown up


Leonardo trained in Florence as a painter, but when he moved to Milan in the 1480s his interest in science and technology blossomed. He made many drawings of fanciful weapons – chariots, enormous catapults and crossbows, and guns, cannon and mortars that exploited the recent introduction of gunpowder.

Here he studies mortars discharging an incendiary substance known as ‘Greek fire’ to burn the rigging and sails of an enemy ship, and a number of finely engineered gun-barrels. One has two barrels mounted on a rotating cradle so that a barrel could be loaded while the other was fired.

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