The south end of the UVA Lawn at night

The Shadow Drawing: How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint


Online, Live Captioning



Lifetime Learning invites you to join Francesca Fiorani, professor of art history at UVA, as she shares her new insight into Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man trained as an artist and later turned scientist. A lot has been said about Leonardo, but in Fiorani’s new book, she argues that we cannot understand him unless we see that he was a scientist all through his career. To understand his use of science, we must look closely at his shadow drawings as they taught him precisely how to paint the human soul; this is Leonardo’s true legacy and how he wanted to be remembered. For him, the ultimate expression of knowledge, even scientific knowledge, was painting. If he could paint something, it meant he understood it.


Francesca Fiorani

Professor of Art History, College and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Francesca Fiorani is a professor of art history at the University of Virginia, where she has served as associate dean for the arts and humanities and chair of the Department of Art. A leading authority on Renaissance art and its connections to science and technology, she is an expert on Leonardo da Vinci. In collaboration with UVA’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, she created Leonardo da Vinci and His Treatise on Painting, a resource that scholars worldwide now access and use. She is the author of numerous books, including The Shadow Drawing: How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2020) and The Marvel of Maps: Art, Cartography and Politics in Renaissance Italy (Yale University Press, 2005).


Registration is free and open to all.

After you register, you will receive a confirmation email with your link to the Zoom webinar. Please check your spam folder for emails from Eventbrite. We will also send a reminder email two days before and two hours before the event.

Program Host

Lifetime Learning is a program in the Office of Engagement. You can follow us on FacebookTwitter, the Thoughts From the Lawn blog, or subscribe to our email list and we will send you notifications about upcoming Lifetime Learning events, information, and offerings.