Trattato della Pittura

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Illustrations for Leonardo's Trattato , based on the Codex Vaticanus, 1792

The Trattato della pittura (German treatise on painting , also known as Codex Urbinas or Codex Urbinus Latinus 1270 ) is a collection of writings by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), in which he deals with fundamental and technical problems in painting.

The manuscript

In addition to instructions for painting and drawing, the treatise deals with philosophical and knowledge-theoretical questions. For Leonardo, painting is the first and highest of the arts, as it has more differentiated possibilities of expression than, for example, sculpture.

After Leonardo's death, his heir Francesco Melzi (around 1491/92 - around 1570) put together a collection of writings that circulated in various academic circles in Italy under the name Trattato della pittura and thus in the art-historical discourse of the time, especially in Paragone , played an important role. Melzi used eighteen Leonardo's notebooks as a source. Ten of them are missing today. One of these copies belonged to the painter and Theatine monk Matteo Zaccolini (1574–1630), whose own writings on painting refer to Leonardo's texts and apparently arose out of knowledge of a lost writing by Leonardo on light and shadow . The copy of Zaccolini was acquired by Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588–1657), a Roman patron and secretary of Cardinal Francesco Barberini (1597–1679), for his library.

The printed edition

Leonardo had provided the texts with a few brief, explanatory drawings. For the printed edition, the painter Nicolas Poussin (1594–1665) produced nineteen wash pen drawings on behalf of dal Pozzos. Dal Pozzo pasted these original drawings into his own copy and had copies made for printing. However, the book did not appear until 1651, in parallel in an Italian and a French version. The Italian version contains a biography of Leonardos and the text De statua by Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472). These two texts are missing in the French edition edited by Charles du Fresne (1610–1688), which contains a bibliography for them. Poussin's drawings were engraved by Charles Errard (before 1607–1689) in a slightly modified narrative form that was adapted to contemporary tastes.


“Il bono pittore ha da dipingere due cose principali, cioè l'homo e il concetto della mente sua. Il primo è facile, il secondo difficile perché s'ha a figurare con gesti e movimente delle membra. "

- Leonardo da Vinci




  • Leonardo da Vinci: Trattato della Pittura. Condotto sul Cod.Vaticano Urbinate 127 . Introduzione e apparati a cura di Ettore Camesasca (= Arti e tecniche: serie blu ), Neri Pozza, Vicenza 2000, ISBN 88-7305-705-5 .
  • Léonard de Vinci: Traité de la peinture. Traduit intégralement pour la première fois en français sur le codex vaticanus (urbinus), 1270 . Delagrave, Paris 1910.
  • The most useful treatise from the Mahlerey by the excellent Florentine Mahler Lionardo da Vinci. Translated from Italian and French into German; Even after the original with lots of coppers and clean woodcuts: and with the added life of the Auctoris promoted to print by Johann Georg Böhm. Johann Christoph Weigel Nuremberg 1724 (further editions 1747 and 1786); Duchess Anna Amalia Library Weimar

Secondary literature

  • Carlo Pedretti : Leonardo da Vinci on Painting . University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles 1964 ( digitized ).
  • Carlo Pedretti: The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci: A Commentary to Jean Paul Richter's Edition. 2 volumes. Berkeley 1977.
  • Elizabeth Cropper: Poussin and Leonardo: Evidence from the Zaccolini MSS in: Art Bulletin, 62, 1980, pp. 570-583.
  • J. Bell: Cassiano dal Pozzo's Copy of the Zaccolini Mss'. In: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 1988, pp. 103-125.
  • Charles Nicholl : Leonardo da Vinci - The biography . S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 978-3-10-052405-8 .

Web links

Commons : Trattato della Pittura  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Trattato della Pittura  - Sources and full texts (Italian)

Individual evidence

  1. Nicholl, p. 22
  2. German: A good painter has two main things to paint, namely the person and the conception of his mind. The first is easy, the second is difficult because you have to represent it with gestures and the movements of your limbs .