Lecture: "Leonardo da Vinci's Way of Seeing Water. Wetlands, Mapping, and the Art of Painting" by Francesca Fiorani


Location: Rare Books and Special Collections 102 Hesburgh Library (View on map )

The Center for Italian Studies is pleased to host a lecture by Professor Francesca Fiorani (University of Virginia) titled: Leonardo da Vinci’s Way of Seeing Water. Wetlands, Mapping, and the Art of Painting

Leonardo da Vinci’s close observation of water is well known as is his unparalleled draftsmanship in rendering water eddies, turns, swirls, and flows. In this lecture, Prof. Fiorani focuses on the artist’s observations on wetlands—swamps, marshes, bayous, rivers, lakes—and on his representations of them in maps, drawings, and paintings. Prof. Fiorani will privilege texts and images that relate to specific places and moments of the artist’s life and that uniquely document the environmental history of various places in the Italian peninsula. Some of the texts and images on wetlands that Prof. Fiorani will examine relate to military campaigns, others to draining projects, other still to commerce and navigation, or to the improvement of mills or water lifting devises, or even to the destructive power of water. Above all, though, all these materials document Leonardo’s lifelong fascination with the wetland landscape itself, a fascination that came to play for him a foundational role in his way of painting and in his way of writing about art.

Francesca Fiorani is Professor of Art History at the University of Virginia, where she also served as Associate Dean for the Arts and Humanities and Chair of the Art Department. An expert on the intersections of art, science, and technology, she has now turned to the study of global networks of the early modern period, the transmission of Arab science into the Latin West, and Leonardo da Vinci's art theory. In collaboration with UVA’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, she created “Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting.” She is the author of numerous books, including The Shadow Drawing: How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint (2020) and The Marvel of Maps: Art, Cartography, and Politics in Renaissance Italy (2005).