Francesca Fiorani will receive an $80,000 grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation in support of the “Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting” digital archive. This is the second grant that the project has received from the Kress Foundation. The work will focus on creating comparative structures that can analyze Leonardo da Vinci’s original manuscripts on the theory and practice of art.
The archive documents the Leonardo's legacy on the science of art via his Treatise on Painting, a disorganized, fragmented, and misleading text compiled by one of Leonardo's pupils but long considered an authoritative record of Leonardo's thoughts. Leonardo's manuscripts are exceedingly difficult to read: not only did he write backwards, but he never brought any of his writings to completion. His writings are a series of incomplete and repetitious drafts across different notebooks written throughout his life. The Treatise on Painting, while known to be a compilation created after Leonardo's death, is much more accessible for most readers.
In the digital archive, each chapter of the Treatise on Painting can be analyzed across manuscripts of different periods and across selected printed editions. The next phase of work will relate chapters to pertinent texts in Leonardo’s original manuscripts that have been identified as either the direct source or the most similar surviving text. This will make it possible to search Leonardo’s original manuscripts comparatively — while Leonardo’s original manuscripts are available digitally elsewhere, they can be consulted only as individual manuscripts and cannot be analyzed comparatively — and, for the first time, digital images of Leonardo’s original manuscripts will be related systematically to the Treatise on Painting. This will include facsimile images of Leonardo’s original manuscripts and pertinent additional materials in English, thus extending the scope and coverage of material in the existing archive. The addition of crucial English-language materials, as well as the continuation of the archive’s free and worldwide access, will enhance knowledge of Leonardo’s original writings well beyond the restricted group of Leonardo’s specialists.
The work aims to adopt new representational and interpretative methodologies that integrate traditional art historical scholarship with new research tools in information technology. It includes more than forty manuscripts and printed editions of the Treatise on Painting provided by Italian, French, Russian, and U.S. repositories.
Francesca Fiorani is an IATH Fellow and Associate Professor of Art at UVA. This archive is a collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH).