Images and Theories

The Study of Fossils in Leonardo, Scilla and Hooke

In: Nuncius

Abstract

The paper examines how images, technological-artistic knowledge and theories interacted with each other in early modern geology. Casting techniques provided Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) with an analogical model for the study of fossils, which he expounded using only texts and theories, not images. For painter Agostino Scilla, on the other hand, images of fossils and animals (La Vana speculazione disingannata dal senso, Napoli, 1670) were the key-feature of his approach, intentionally limited to the external aspects of the specimen, the very domain of the painter. Theories and microscopic examination of the internal aspects orientated Robert Hooke’s visual comparisons in Micrographia (London, 1665), aimed at demonstrating the organic origin of fossils, while, in the same period, visual comparisons were used to support opposite interpretations of fossils as well, like in the case of Francesco Stelluti.

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