Renaissance: Da Vinci’s “Comparison of the Arts”

Initial Reaction to the Work

The work, which is within the analytical scope of this paper, is the “Comparison of the Arts,” which is the chapter from Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks, translated to English by MacCurdy (1955). Before dwelling upon the profound analysis of the work, it is essential to provide an initial reaction to the written passage. It is possible to state the chapter is quite short; however, its contents are of high significance. The initial purpose of the work is stated in its title, as the artist compares various forms of art (primarily, painting, poetry, and sculpture), claiming that painting is superior to other art forms. Da Vinci writes in a vivid and expressive language, which reveals that he was also talented as a writer. Thus, his arguments against poetry could be considered credible. It could be stated that I was moved by the author’s reasoning as he provides several examples of the painting’s superiority to other arts. Particularly, the artist observes that the painting possesses its own lights, shades, and perspective, while the sculpture is dependent on external lights and shades.

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Analysis of the Work

Description of the Historical Context

As the initial thoughts on the work were discussed, it is possible to dwell upon the analysis of the chapter under discussion. First of all, the historical context, in which the work had been created, should be observed. One can hardly doubt that Da Vinci is one of the most famous and talented artists in the world history. However, the historical context in which he created his works is sometimes not paid enough attention when his art is discussed.

Da Vinci was born in 1452 in Vinci, a small Tuscan town, in the family of a wealthy Florentine notary, but his mother was a peasant, and thus his birth was illegitimate (West, 2017). His artistic abilities were revealed at a considerably early age, and in 1482 Da Vinci moved to Milan, where he started working in various spheres of arts and sciences. The most evident aspect of the historical context that should be taken into account is that the era of Renaissance was in its bloom in the lifetime of the artist, and he eventually became the symbol of this epoch. Renaissance is characterized by the rapid growth of various sciences and arts. This process was inspired by the revival of the Ancient Greek traditions as numerous works from that period became available for artists and scientists that lived in XV-XVI centuries.

Discussion of the Insights Gained from the Author’s Biography

The insights from the author’s biography are determined by the historical context of his or her lifetime to a considerable extent. In the case of Leonardo Da Vinci, this assumption is remarkably true, as he was the ideal man of the Renaissance. West (2017) states that Da Vinci is known for his work in various spheres of science and art: painting sculpture, medicine, anatomy, engineering, mechanics, and numerous others.

Based on this information, it is appropriate to assume that the artist was experienced significantly and profoundly in the majority of existing crafts. For example, referencing Fritz et al. (2016), the artist is “often credited with developing the medium of red chalk as well as the use of tinted paper for his drawings as they afforded a greater range of tonal contrasts” (p. 4). Therefore, it could be concluded that his assumptions, provided in the “Comparison of the Arts,” are based on his experiences, not solely on theoretical reasonings. This insight, gained from the biography of Da Vinci, puts the work under consideration into a more comprehensive context.

How the Work Explores a Particular Theme from its Period

Further, it is essential to discuss how the work under consideration explores a particular theme of its period. The historical context also plays an immensely important role in the understanding of this aspect of the work. Fritz et al. (2016) mention the era of the Renaissance is marked by the evolution of the understanding of the nature of art and science. Despite the fact that the Renaissance has its roots in the Ancient Greek revival, it was able to develop its own philosophy on the basis of the Ancient Greek works.

This particular theme is explored by Da Vinci in the “Comparison of the Arts” as well as in his notebooks in general. The form of the critical comparison itself is borrowed from the Ancient Greek tradition of philosophical dialogues. Accordingly, as it was in Ancient Greece, the discussions about the nature of the art were highly important for artists, philosophers, and scientists. It could be stated with certainty that Leonardo Da Vinci was the combination of the artist, philosopher, and scientist, and thus it was immensely important for him to argue about the core aspects of the art. Therefore, the “Comparison of the Arts” evidently represents an exploration of the topic, which was very important for the era of the Renaissance.

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The Relevance of This Work for Today’s Audiences

Despite the fact that it has been more than five centuries since the lifetime of Da Vinci, it is possible to state that his works are significantly relevant to this day. The most evident examples are his immensely famous paintings, such as Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. These paintings are within the cultural baggage of the majority of the Western society. Therefore, it could be assumed that his critical work about the nature of the art (such as the “Comparison of the Arts”) is also relevant to a considerable extent since they represent the unique approach to art that made Da Vinci a great artist.

Discussion of the Gained Knowledge

The conducted analysis of the historical context and other factors surrounding the work under consideration has expanded my understanding of the work significantly. Initially, I perceived the “Comparison of the Arts” positively due to the fact that the majority of the author’s arguments were in accordance with my understanding of the arts. Moreover, some of them were new and refreshing insights for me, and they allowed me to understand the excellence of painting from a more profound perspective. However, after the analysis was conducted, I was able to appreciate the context in which the work has been created. The place of Leonardo Da Vinci in the history of art and science makes his assumptions about the nature of art to be more significant. While the overall perception of the “Comparison of the Arts” did not change drastically as I still perceive it as an excellent piece of critical work, I am able to appreciate the importance of the Da Vinci’s contribution to the development of fine arts in general.


Fritz, C. M., Humphrey, P., Mendoza-Ferguson, S., Pattiz, S., Race, R., Richards, I.,… Gallery, T. (2016). From artist to audience: Italian drawings and prints from the 15th through 18th centuries. Web.

MacCurdy, E. (1955). The notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci. New York, NY: George Braziller.

West, J. B. (2017). Leonardo da Vinci: Engineer, bioengineer, anatomist, and artist. American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, 312(3), L392-L397.

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"Renaissance: Da Vinci's "Comparison of the Arts"." StudyCorgi, 30 June 2021,

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StudyCorgi. "Renaissance: Da Vinci's "Comparison of the Arts"." June 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Renaissance: Da Vinci's "Comparison of the Arts"." June 30, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Renaissance: Da Vinci's "Comparison of the Arts"'. 30 June.

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