Studies of water passing obstacles and falling - by Leonardo da Vinci

Earth as an organism similar to the human body was one of Leonardo's concepts both for his paintings and his scientific works. He studied the human anatomy and the structure of the earth in direct sequence, apprehending direct links between the two.

His advocacy of the superiority of painting over sculpture was supported by his knowledge that the painter could show transparency while the sculptor could not. Leonardo's preoccupations as a philosopher and scientist informed his artist's concern for showing effects realistically.

His depiction here of the effects of flowing water in all its transparency, with waves and bubbles, is keenly observed, hinting at the length of time he must have spent watching the way in which water moved. In some way his drawings are always scientific diagrams and his diagrams always works of art, and it is this ambiguity and inter-relatedness that sometimes makes it difficult to discern which is which.

In these studies of water flowing past obstacles, dated around 1507, the accuracy of the observation is matched by the artistic beauty of the water patterns. The water pouring into the pool, with the natural patterns of the forms of the swirling waves, is reminiscent of his drawings of plants, such as the Star of Bethlehem.