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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

Studies of two sedges c.1510-15

RCIN 912427

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A study of the head of a rush with clusters of seeds like ears of corn breaking at the points, with notes beside it. Below is a study of the head of a rush with long leaves and clusters of thin curving seed-pods, again with notes beside it. Melzi's number 153.

The sheet is laid out in the same formal manner as many of Leonardo’s other scientific sheets. The accompanying notes - in Leonardo’s habitual mirror-writing -discuss the form and habitat of the rushes. The names of the individual species were not known to Leonardo, who referred to them as the ‘third’ and ‘fourth kind of rush’.

Leonardo drew plants and flowers throughout his life, following the tradition of naturalistic detail in fifteenth-century Italian art. His finest botanical drawings were made in connection with a painting of Leda and the Swan, but what started as studies towards a painting soon became scientific studies in their own right, apparently towards a treatise on the structure of plants and trees.

Text adapted from Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing, London, 2018