Codex Madrid II

Discover this treatise on fortification, statics, and geometry, written by Leonardo da Vinci.

Façade of the National Library of Spain (2010) by Francisco JareñoAcción Cultural Española, AC/E

Among the treasures at the National Library of Spain are two manuscripts, signed by da Vinci, which have been named by specialists as the Madrid Codices I and II.

Codex Madrid II, cover recto (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

Various Treatises on Fortification, Statics, and Geometry

Codex II addresses different themes and can be divided into two clearly differentiated parts; the second of these is the booklet detailing the casting of Leonardo's Horse, which was added at an unknown date.

Codex Madrid II, f.9r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

Section A: A Notebook

The first part (called Section A) takes the form of a notebook with layers of graphic elements, both verbal and representative. The content covers both personal and scientific fields indiscriminately.

Codex Madrid II, f.24r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

The annotations were not made in order but at different times, even within the same page. Some pages give the impression of having been produced at the rhythm of the ideas flowing from da Vinci's mind.

Codex Madrid II, f.1r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

A large part of this notebook is written in sanguine: a reddish-colored pigment made from a variety of iron oxide called hematite. 

This page provides an example of where the author had to retrace some landscapes with black ink, after the sanguine colorant disappeared over time due to the fixing process used.

Codex Madrid II, f. 17v en horizontal (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

The notebook includes some ethereal drawings of mountains in sanguine, created during a series of mapping operations in the Arno valley.

Codex Madrid II, f. 52v - 53r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

Likewise, this plan of Pisa, including the mouth of the river Arno, serves as a reminder that, in 1503, da Vinci was engrossed in one of his dreams: the project to divert the Arno and build a canal to connect Florence with the sea.

Codex Madrid II, f.79r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

There are also drawings on architecture and military engineering, and others on geometry, especially regarding certain problems he was particularly intent on, such as squaring the circle. Others dealt with the flight of birds, the movement of waves, and musical instruments.

Codex Madrid II, f.84r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

"Humans will never be able to reproduce the noise or buzzing generated when wings are flapped at speed by birds themselves, even if birds' wings were applied to a fast-moving instrument".

Codex Madrid II, f.112r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

"On Saint Andrew's Day, I discovered the conclusion of squaring the circle; and it was completed as the candle waned, and night fell, and the paper I was writing on ran out, at the very end of the day."

Codex Madrid II, f.76r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

Musical Instruments

Page 76r of this codex includes some partial drawings of two musical instruments: the viola organista and the paper organ. These sketches can also be seen in Manuscript H at the Institut de France and in the Codex Atlanticus at the Ambrosian Library (Biblioteca Ambrosiana) in Milan.

Da Vinci was fascinated by the viola organista throughout his life. Around 30 partial drawings exist, but there is no completed design, so it is believed that he never built the definitive model. His intention was to develop a keyboard instrument with bowed strings that would simulate the sound of a group of violas.

The Japanese manufacturer Akio Obuchi has reconstructed several models of viola organista, using five wooden wheels covered with horse hairs. Played at different speeds, with the mechanisms described by da Vinci, a vibration is created which reproduces the sound of a group of metallic strings.

These videos show the prototype designed by Akio Obuchi, demonstrating how the modulation can be varied using a rotation handle, introduced after the solutions offered by da Vinci.

Codex Madrid II, f.76r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

The description of da Vinci's paper organ calls for a complete rethink of the composition of the elements of the barrel organ (organetto) as it existed at the time and had been constructed over various centuries. He made it lighter and added a continuous airstream via two vertical bellows placed side by side.

Codex Madrid II, f.151v (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

Section B: The Casting of Leonardo's Horse

The second part (named Section B) is a monographic study. It is wholly dedicated to describing the technique of reproducing medals and plastic works in bronze.

Codex Madrid II, f.157r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

An entire installment is allocated to the casting of Leonardo's Horse for the equestrian monument to Francesco Sforza. In 1482, the Duke of Milan commissioned da Vinci to create what would have been the largest equestrian statue in the world.

Da Vinci made a clay model more than 23 feet (7 mt) high, which was eventually to be constructed in bronze. However, in 1499, war came to Milan, and the horse made from clay was destroyed and never rebuilt. The bronze that would have been used to cast the sculpture was diverted to manufacturing weaponry for the war.

Codex Madrid II, f.157v (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

"May 17, 1491, in the afternoon, here is a list of everything related to the project of the bronze horse on which I am currently working."

Codex Madrid II, f.118r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

Date

The nature of some of the themes covered (such as the project to divert the river Arno), confirm that da Vinci started to write Section A in the summer of 1503 and that the latest notes were not made after the middle of the year 1505.

Codex Madrid II, f.154r (15th-16th Century) by Leonardo da VinciOriginal Source: Biblioteca Nacional de España

On the other hand, the only two dates mentioned in Section B—May 17, 1491 and December 20, 1493—are related to the procedures devised by da Vinci to create the equestrian statue commissioned by Ludovico Sforza.

Credits: Story

This exhibition has been developed based on the images in the Madrid Codices I and II, available on the webpage of the Hispanic Digital Library (Biblioteca Digital Hispánica) of the National Library of Spain. The texts have been adapted from different publications written by the National Library of Spain.

The two videos were created for the exhibition "The Imagination of Leonardo: The Madrid Codices in the National Library of Spain" (El Imaginario de Leonardo: Códices Madrid de la Biblioteca Nacional de España), which was held in 2012 in the National Library of Spain. Both these videos, among others, are available on the institution's YouTube channel.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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