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Quotes of the day: Leonardo da Vinci

Published Tuesday, April 14, 2015 @ 3:59 PM EDT
Apr 14 2015

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) was an Italian polymath, painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. His genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance humanist ideal. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance Man, a man of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination". According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent and "his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, the man himself mysterious and remote". Marco Rosci states that while there is much speculation about Leonardo, his vision of the world is essentially logical rather than mysterious, and that the empirical methods he employed were unusual for his time. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A beautiful body perishes, but a work of art dies not.

A well-spent day brings happy sleep, so life well used brings happy death.

Anyone who conducts an argument by appealing to authority is not using his intelligence; he is just using his memory.

Art is never finished, only abandoned.

As every divided kingdom falls, so every mind divided between many studies confounds and saps itself.

Beyond a doubt truth bears the same relation to falsehood as light to darkness.

Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!

Every action needs to be prompted by a motive.

Experience does not err. Only your judgments err by expecting from her what is not in her power.

He who does not punish evil commands it to be done.

He who is fixed to a star does not change his mind.

He who loves practice without theory is like the sailor who boards ship without a rudder and compass and never knows where he may cast.

He who wishes to be rich in a day will be hanged in a year.

How many emperors and how many princes have lived and died and no record of them remains, and they only sought to gain dominions and riches in order that their fame might be ever-lasting.

Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple or more direct than does nature because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.

I have wasted my hours.

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.

Intellectual passion drives out sensuality.

Iron rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity, and in cold weather become frozen: even so does inaction sap the vigors of the mind.

It is better to imitate ancient than modern work.

It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.

Just as courage imperils life, fear protects it.

Just as food eaten without appetite is a tedious nourishment, so does study without zeal damage the memory by not assimilating what it absorbs.

Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Learning never exhausts the mind.

Life well spent is long.

Man and the animals are merely a passage and channel for food, a tomb for other animals, a haven for the dead, giving life by the death of others, a coffer full of corruption.

Marriage is like putting your hand into a bag of snakes in the hope of pulling out an eel.

Men of genius sometimes accomplish most when they work the least, for they are thinking out inventions and forming in their minds the perfect idea that they subsequently express with their hands.

Nature is the source of all true knowledge. She has her own logic, her own laws, she has no effect without cause nor invention without necessity.

Nature never breaks her own laws.

Nothing strengthens authority so much as silence.

Our life is made by the death of others.

People of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

People talk to people who perceive nothing, who have open eyes and see nothing; they shall talk to them and receive no answer; they shall adore those who have ears and hear nothing; they shall burn lamps for those who do not see.

Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master.

Simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication.

The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.

The natural desire of good men is knowledge.

The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.

The one who relies on authority during a discussion does not use his mind but his memory.

The poet ranks far below the painter in the representation of visible things, and far below the musician in that of invisible things.

The senses are of the earth, the reason stands apart from them in contemplation.

The smallest feline is a masterpiece.

The truth of things is the chief nutriment of superior intellects.

There are three classes of people: those who see, those who see when they are shown, those who do not see.

Time abides long enough for those who make use of it.

To such an extent does nature delight and abound in variety that among her trees there is not one plant to be found which is exactly like another; and not only among the plants, but among the boughs, the leaves and the fruits, you will not find one which is exactly similar to another.

Where the spirit does not work with the hand, there is no art.

Where there is shouting, there is no true knowledge.

While I thought that I was learning how to live, I have been learning how to die.

Who sows virtue reaps honor.

Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the imagination when awake?

You can have no dominion greater or less than that over yourself.

You do ill if you praise, but worse if you censure, what you do not understand.


(April 15 is also the birthday of Bruce Sterling and Thomas Szasz.)

Categories: Leonardo da Vinci, Quotes of the day


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