By Costanza Beltrami

Inscribed “day of Holy Mary of the Snows on the 5th August 1473” in the top right corner, Leonardo da Vinci’s pen-and-ink view of the Tuscan hills is the first dated landscape in history. The drawing’s elastic lines perfectly capture the succession of precipitous slopes around Vinci, and their contrast with the gentler plain in the background. The vibrant lines also evoke the sweltering heat of summer’s hottest days.

Despite this strong impression of immediacy, the drawing is probably not an en plein air piece realized outdoors, in direct contact with the subject and under the influence of contemporary weather conditions. As noted by Martin Kemp, the drawing’s inscription suggests that Leonardo’s attention to the local landscape was motivated by the feast of Our Lady of the Snows, the commemoration of a miraculous unseasonable snowfall celebrated at the nearby Oratory of Greve in Chianti.

Reference: Martin Kemp, Leonardo Da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of a Tuscan Landscape, 1473, pen and ink. Florence, Uffizi.

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