Carlo Urbino

Carlo Urbino
active 16th century
Codex Huygens (Urbino codex)
ca. 1560-1570
Mostly pen and brown ink on paper.
Original manuscript pages range from 130 to 135 mm x 180 mm. Binding: 312 x 223 mm (boards of the album); 301 x 215 mm (album leaves)
Purchased in 1938.

Inscribed in pen and brown ink, in upper right-hand corner of each folio, by Constantine Huygens, numbers 1 through 128.

Remy (Remigius) van Leemput (d. 1677); his widow, Mrs. Remy; from whom purchased in London on 2 March 1690 Constantine Huygens II; Confrerie Pictura, The Hague; A. [or M.] W.M. Mensing; purchased by the Pierpont Morgan Library in 1938.

The 128-page manuscript commonly known as the Codex Huygens, but entitled by its author Le Regole di Disegno, is partly a work of artistic theory but also a practical guide for the use of painters in a workshop.1 It was assembled by an artist in Milan familiar with Leonardo da Vinci’s writings, and it attests to the continuing influence of Leonardo. Although a number of the illustrations in the work are copied from Leonardo’s own drawings, that is, and even more are related to Leonardo’s writings, the watermark of the paper on which the Regole di Disegno is written suggests a date of around 1560–75, long after Leonardo’s death in 1519. The copies of Leonardo’s notes that the author consulted were probably those that remained with Francesco Melzi in Milan, and, because these were neglected by Melzi’s heirs after his death in 1568/70, the Codex Huygens was thus most likely assembled in the 1560s, when Melzi’s material was still readily available to be consulted. The subsequent early history of the work is unclear, but it wound up in Antwerp in the seventeenth century, where it was acquired by Constantijn Huygens, Jr., sometime after the death in 1675 of the painter Remigius van Leemput, but before 1690, when Huygens first described the work. The manuscript again disappeared from view until the early twentieth century, and it was acquired for the Morgan in 1938.2

The text of the manuscript explains that there were to be fourteen books, or regole, but only five seem actually to have been included in the codex. There are other sheets apparently related to the manuscript scattered in a handful of collections, but not enough to indicate that the treatise was ever carried beyond the initial five books, and even those parts at the Morgan are not entirely complete.3 These first five books are mainly concerned with the human figure—its form, structure, movement, and proportions—but also with the proportions of the horse and, in Book 5, studies of perspective, documenting the interaction of art and science in this particular milieu. The pages illustrated here include typical selections:4 folio 7 from Book 1, for example, is a study of human proportion obviously related to Leonardo da Vinci’s famous Vitruvian Man,5 and it and pages like folio 26 from Book 2, which shows a similarly theorized demonstration of the pattern of human movement, probably reflect a lost treatise by Leonardo.6 As Panofsky noted long ago, however, there is something laborious and pedestrian about the studies and accompanying text: they are Leonardesque, but probably not directly copied from Leonardo.7 Folio 84 from Book 4, one of a series of measured drawings of a horse, is labeled Siciliano. This must be the horse named Siciliano that Leonardo had himself drawn when searching for a model for the Sforza monument, further evidence that the illustrations of the Codex Huygens were based on a selection of Leonardo’s manuscripts and not simply one treatise. Finally, folio 114 from Book 5 is a representative page from the section on perspective, showing the effect of distance on foreshortening and on the correct viewpoint to be taken if one wanted to depict a giant on a ceiling as seen di sotto in su.8

The artist responsible for the codex long remained the subject of debate. Panofsky proposed Aurelio Luini; Irma Richter suggested Giovanni Ambrogio Figino; A. E. Popham argued for Bernardino Campi; Giulio Bora first suggested Gian Paolo Lomazzo in 1971 but then in 1977 switched to Carlo Urbino (a name also suggested if not published by Philip Pouncey); and in the same year Carlo Pedretti proposed Girolamo Figino.9 All of these artists were active in Milan in the 1560s and 1570s, and all created works that betray an interest in leonardismo and particularly in the perspectival studies of Book 5 of the codex. The matter was finally settled by Sergio Marinelli in 1981 when he discovered and published an engraving by Gaspare dall’Olio, a Bolognese printmaker and publisher active by the 1580s and into the early seventeenth century. Dall’Olio’s print, which incorporates aspects of several drawings from Book 5 of the codex (including folio 114), is inscribed, Tavola cavata dal quinto libro della Prospettiva delle regole del Disegno di Carlo Urbini pittore. As Marinelli argues, it was probably expedient for a later owner to have removed a title page naming Urbino the author of the codex, which could otherwise be sold as the work of Leonardo himself.10 Since Marinelli’s discovery, Urbino’s authorship has not really been questioned. As more has been discovered about the artist, close comparisons have been made between the Codex Huygens and his work more generally; for an example of his own use of the lessons of perspective demonstrated in Book 5 of the codex, see 1999.12.



  1. The best complete account of the Codex Huygens remains Panofsky 1940. Much of the later bibliography is concerned with the question of the manuscript’s author, with the addition of newly discovered details about the history of the manuscript, or with studies of particular drawings or sections.
  2. The Morgan’s 2006 inventory number reflects the moment when the leaves of the disbound manuscript were individually catalogued rather than the date of the acquisition. The first modern reference to the codex is Mensing 1915.
  3. For other leaves seemingly from the manuscript, see Byam Shaw 1976, 291, although Byam Shaw argues that the sheets at the Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford, are more likely draft pages than fragments of the Codex Huygens itself.
  4. The entire manuscript is available online at
  5. Gallerie dell’Accademia, Venice, inv. 228.
  6. Folio 26 is also among the small selection of pages copied by the engraver Edward Cooper around 1690 and issued in a very rare volume entitled General Instructions for Drawing and Designing Humane [sic] Figures Reduced to Geometrical Rule from the Original Drawings of Lionard d’Vinci, for which see Pedretti 1965.
  7. Panofsky 1940, 122–24.
  8. Regarding this image, see Kemp 1990, 74–76.
  9. Panofsky 1940; Richter 1941; Popham 1958; Bora 1971; Bora 1977, 70; Pedretti 1977.
  10. Marinelli 1981.

Rhoda Eitel-Porter and and John Marciari, Italian Renaissance Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York, 2019, no. 52.
Selected references: Mensing 1915; Panofsky 1940; Richter 1941; New York 1965-66, no. 150; Pedretti 1965; van Gelder 1968, 140; Bora 1971, under nos. 51, 53, 58, and 60; Nuremberg 1971, no. 479; Ehresmann 1972, 308; Smith 1974, 243-47; Kaufmann 1975; Byam Shaw 1976, under nos. 1149-50; Ruggeri 1976, 18; Bora 1977, 70; Pedretti 1977, 1:1x-x, 48-75; Perrig 1977, 112-13; Ruggeri 1978; Bora 1979, 95-96; Bora 1980, 57; Bora 1980a, 306-16; Marinelli 1981; Jacobs 1984, 405; Zöllner 1985; Zöllner 1989, 334-52; Kemp 1990, 74-76; Cropper 1994, 27, 36-37; Marconi 1998; Cremante 1999; Edinburgh and London 2002-3, 24; Bologna 2004, 41-43; New York 2004, 30-31; Cirillo 2005, 80-85; Laurenza 2005, 339; Laurenza 2006, 173ff.; Gaudio 2008, 121-22; Farago 2009, 8, 43, 44, 419; New York 2013-14, 151-79; Salvi 2016.
Erwin Panofsky, The Codex Huygens and Leonardo da Vinci's Art Theory, The Pierpont Morgan Library Codex M.A. 1139 (Studies of the Warburg Institute, XIII), London, 1940.
Italian Drawings from the Collection of Janos Scholz, exh., Thomas J. Watson Library Galleries, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 9 May-12 September 1965, no. 150.


Watermark: on paper of album, "Strassburg" lily with initials C.D.G., i.e. Claude de George, who died 1683 (Churchill 1935: no. 412); on original manucript, crowned serpent coupled with the initials B.M. (Briquet 13691: Bergamo, 1573).
Formerly attributed to an Anonymous Italian Milanese artist of the 16th century.
This volume comprises 128 leaves with text and drawings made by the Milanese artist and author, Carlo Urbino, for a projected treatise on the theory of art, "Le Regole del disegno". The treatise deals with perspective, a theory of light and shade, the structure and proportions of the male and female figure, a theory of human movement, and the proportions of the horse. Urbino also copied and traced a number of drawings from Leonardo da Vinci's studies of human and equine proportions, as well as a number of lost originals.

Artist page: