In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Leonardo da Vinci

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Collections of Primary Sources
  • Individual Primary Sources
  • Manuscripts, Critical Editions
  • Manuscripts, Critical Studies
  • Writings and Language
  • Critical Editions of Drawings
  • Drawings, Collected Volumes, Critical Studies, and Prints
  • Anthologies
  • Serials and Collected Essays
  • Catalogues Raisonnés
  • Monographs
  • Exhibition Catalogues
  • Workshop Paintings and Controversial Attributions
  • Sculpture
  • Architecture and Theater Design
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Patronage
  • Pictorial Technique and Workshop Practices
  • Composition
  • Libro Di Pittura and Art Theory
  • Proportion, Anatomy, and Physiognomy
  • Optics and Perspective
  • Light and Shadow (Sfumato)
  • Plants, Landscape, and Cartography
  • Leonardo and Antiquity
  • Critical Reception, Artistic Influence, and Afterlife

Art History Leonardo da Vinci
Frank Zöllner, Sara Taglialagamba
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 January 2014
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199920105-0033


Leonardo da Vinci (b. 1452–d. 1519) ranks alongside Michelangelo, Raphael, and Titian as one of the most important artists of the Italian Renaissance. His influence and lasting fame rest not solely upon his innovative artistic oeuvre, but equally upon an extensive body of drawings, notes, reflections, treatises, and studies in almost all areas of knowledge. This very substantial artistic and written legacy, when read in conjunction with other contemporary source material, allows us to reconstruct a relatively detailed picture of Leonardo’s thinking, his creative oeuvre, and his intellectual development. We are today able to consult the surviving convolutes of Leonardo’s manuscripts, drawings, and studies in a number of different editions compiled with exemplary scholarship. In conjunction with modern findings on the handwriting, content, and sources of Leonardo’s writings, these convolutes remain the primary foundation for an understanding of the phenomenon that was Leonardo. The nature and extent of Leonardo’s authentic artistic oeuvre are meanwhile also largely established, not least on the basis of a large number of well-known primary sources. A number of recently discovered documents have led to the dates of certain paintings and drawings being revised, but they have also raised new questions, particularly concerning The Virgin of the Rocks and the Mona Lisa. Since the 1970s, scientific analysis and diagnostic scanning have on occasions yielded spectacular insights into paintings by Leonardo and his school. These discoveries have shed new light on the functioning and productivity of Leonardo’s workshop, but they have again raised new questions, such as the possibility that the master at times intervened directly on paintings by members of his workshop. Surprisingly intense and often very heated debate continues to surround the dating and attribution of autograph works by Leonardo, and of paintings by artists in his circle. The questions of interpretation and patronage that dominate the discussion of other artists play a noticeably less prominent role in Leonardo scholarship. By contrast, the relationship between Leonardo’s art and his science seems to be a perennial theme. Art historians have yet to reach a consensus as to whether these two spheres of Leonardo’s activity should be viewed as an inseparable whole. In almost every area of his interest, however, it is becoming increasingly apparent that we need to revise our perception of Leonardo as an isolated phenomenon, and that to situate his achievements within the context of the science and technology of his day is by no means to diminish his originality.


The literature on Leonardo da Vinci (like that on Michelangelo, it should be said) has been researched and catalogued in substantially greater depth than is the case with most other artists in European art history. This begins with the bibliography Verga 1931, which brought together every single work of Leonardo scholarship then published, accompanied in many cases by a critical appraisal. The bibliographies Heydenreich 1952 and Brizio 1968 do the same, whereas Lorenzi and Marani 1982 lists only titles. Guerrini 1987, Guerrini 1990, and online searches of the Biblioteca Leonardiana in some cases include lists of contents and occasionally brief summaries as well. The e-Leo digital archive shares the same Biblioteca Leonardiana platform and can be accessed via numerous libraries.

  • Baroni, Costantino, et al. Leonardo da Vinci. New York: Reynal, 1967.

    First published in 1938 (Milan: Hoepli). Alongside numerous essays on wide-ranging aspects of Leonardo scholarship, this weighty tome also contains a bibliography of the most important new publications from the years 1931–1952, grouped by subject. See pp. 527–543.

  • Biblioteca Leonardiana.

    This online database is regularly updated and allows users to search by author, title, subject, and keyword. The results are shown in alphabetical order by author, and they contain abstracts and occasionally cross-references. The page also offers links to libraries, periodicals, and Leonardo research projects.

  • Brizio, Anna Maria. “Rassegna degli studi Vinciani dal 1952 al 1968.” L’Arte 1 (1968): 107–120.

    Gives a very detailed overview of Leonardo scholarship between 1952 and 1968, with occasional commentaries on findings, current trends, and advances.

  • e-Leo: Archivio digitale di storia della tecnica e della scienza.

    A work in progress, the e-Leo digital archive aims to make Leonardo’s manuscripts, writings, and drawings available on the Internet. Various search functions are possible, including keyword indices and a glossary of Leonardo’s terminology.

  • Guerrini, Mauro. “Bibliografia leonardiana.” Raccolta Vinciana 22 (1987): 389–573.

    The bibliography continues in Raccolta Vinciana 23 (1989): 307–376; 24 (1992): 335–384; 25 (1993): 473–522; 26 (1995): 369–401; and 27 (1997): 471–569. The bibliographies, arranged chronologically and alphabetically by author, list the entire body of writings by and on Leonardo, and include a brief overview of the contents of individual monographs, as well as an index of names and periodicals.

  • Guerrini, Mauro. Biblioteca Leonardiana 1493–1989. 3 vols. Milan: Editrice Bibliografica, 1990.

    Structured in a similar fashion to the Raccolta Vinciana bibliographies, this monumental database in print covers the entire body of writings by and on Leonardo. This vast undertaking is divided into titles of manuscripts and works by Leonardo (Vol. 1); indices of authors, titles of publications, periodicals (including daily newspapers) and concordances (Vol. 2); and a detailed subject index and a list of further sources (Vol. 3).

  • Heydenreich, Ludwig Heinrich. “Leonardo-Bibliographie, 1939–1952.” Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, 15 (1952): 195–200.

    This short bibliography is organized into six subject areas. In addition to summaries of individual titles, it offers an assessment of the latest trends in research of the day.

  • Lorenzi, Alberto, Marani, Pietro C. Bibliografia Vinciana 1964–1979. Florence: Giunti Barbéra, 1982.

    Lists new publications from the period 1964–1979, organized alphabetically by author.

  • Verga, Ettore. Bibliografia vinciana. 2 vols. Bologna, Italy: Zanichelli, 1931.

    Verga’s bibliography, presented in chronological order, offers extensive, and often very precise, summaries of the individual titles, and it includes an index of subjects and names. Reprinted in 1970.

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