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Teaching Leonardo: An Integrated Approach - Renaissance Notebook Assignment

Rick Faloon (The Ross School)

Over the course of this trimester each of you will create pages for a Renaissance notebook inspired by the work of Leonardo Da Vinci and by other Renaissance artists. The objective of this project is to give you an opportunity to perform like a Renaissance person by making your own observational sketches, perspective studies, mathematical calculations, scientific notes and drawings.

Your notebook must contain competent examples of the following:


  • Imagined creature drawing blind contour drawing (palm of hand)
  • Modified contour drawing (hand)
  • Mechanical drawing (from boat or from mechanical objects in class)
  • Leaf drawing (using contour in ink and pencil)
  • Tonal drawing of torso (using chiaroscuro sfumato)
  • Silverpoint drawing
  • 10 quotations from Leonardo
  • 10 quotes from others including the Vasari quotation (relating to Leonardo’s seven traits)
  • Leonardo biography page
  • List of seven traits of Leonardo with your commentary on your own traits
  • Anatomy drawing from model (with muscles labeled)
  • Gesture drawings of figure (using ink, conte, etc)
  • Facial expression drawing
  • Backwards writing
  • Art history images/pages with notes
  • Master copies
  • Michelangelo back drawing (crosshatching)
  • Mantegna - Dead Christ (foreshortening)
  • 3 copies of works of Leonardo or other Renaissance artists


  • 2 drawings of Platonic Solids using 1 or 2 point perspective. Show area and volume.
  • Tiled Piazza in 1 point linear perspective. Show all measurements and correct perspective. Include quotation by Pierro della Francesca.
  • Vitruvian Man and Golden Mean
  • Fibonacci Sequence
  • Mathematical evaluation of a Renaissance Painting showing horizon line, vanishing point, orthogonal lines, eye point, and correct ratios demonstrating correct linear perspective.


  • 2 Dissection drawings (done in science class in conjunction with dissection)
  • Drawing of simple machine in Leonardo style; explanation of physics of mechanism

On the following pages are examples of students' work from the mathematics section of the project.

Rick Faloon (The Ross School), "Teaching Leonardo: An Integrated Approach - Renaissance Notebook Assignment," Loci (June 2010), DOI:10.4169/loci002172