Francesca Fiorani

Francesca Fiorani

Robert Lehman Visiting Professor
Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting: Expanding Access of a Web-Based Publication


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).

Project Summary

The web-based publication “Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting,” which was launched in 2012 by Francesca Fiorani in collaboration with the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH), aims to document and make available restricted visual and verbal materials of Leonardo da Vinci’s Treatise on Painting. Unlike Leonardo’s original manuscripts, which remained largely unavailable until the nineteenth century, this text, which was compiled by Leonardo’s pupil Francesco Melzi, circulated widely in Renaissance and Baroque Europe. The digital publication assembles, for the first time, in a single place, the more than forty manuscript copies of the text that arrived to us; it provides analytical and comparative functions to demonstrate breakdowns and misinterpretations of Leonardo's legacy throughout the centuries; and it facilitates broad access to Leonardo’s highly complex written legacy. A repository of archival materials and a novel research tool, “Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting” has been used widely by both specialists and non-specialists. Eight years after its launch, “Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting” needs to be updated and enhanced to further expand its global access and use. The project’s new phase will involve work on existing content and metadata to prepare for their migration to a new platform that will make it possible to add additional content and innovative research tools.