Leonardo da Vinci on painting vs. poetry


You say that a science is correspondingly more noble to the extent that it embraces a more worthy subject, and accordingly, that a spurious speculation about the nature of god is more valuable than one concerned with something less elevated. In reply we will state that painting, which embraces only the works of God, is more worthy than poetry, which only embraces the lying fictions of the works of man. – Leonardo da Vinci, Trattato della pittura (“Treatise on Painting”)

We have in our library a collection of the writings of Leonardo da Vinci, which includes various passages wherein he defends painting against those who maintain that as a mechanical art it is inferior to the liberal arts. I can’t say that I agree with all of his arguments placing painting above poetry, but one has to admire the energy with which he defends his beloved art.

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