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Scientific analysis of Leonardo's drawings

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

Three emblems c.1508-10

Pen and ink, blue bodycolour, wash of ground red chalk(?) | 26.9 x 19.5 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 912701

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Three drawings of emblems, the first contained within an oval and the others set within circles: at the top is a plough, with the motto ‘Obstinate rigour’. At the centre is a compass being turned by a waterwheel, but keeping its needle pointing steadily at a sun sun containing three fleurs-de-lys, the symbol of the French king; in the margin is the motto ‘He is not turned around, who has such a fixed star’. Below is a candle blown by eight winds and yet remaining steady.

While working for the occupying French court in Milan, Leonardo seems to have designed these emblems for a courtier to express his steadfast devotion to King Louis XII. Each emblem has the theme of constancy.

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