Leslie Geddes specializes in Italian Renaissance and Baroque art and architecture. Her research broadly concerns how early modern artists studied and depicted the natural landscape. Her work investigates the interrelation of art and science, specifically how early modern artists, architects, engineers, and cartographers observed, measured, rendered, and shaped the world around them.
Her book, Watermarks: Leonardo da Vinci and the Mastery of Nature (Princeton University Press, 2020), examines the work of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) and his peers to analyze the subject of water in art in conjunction with the practical undertakings of hydraulic engineering. A revision of her prize-winning dissertation, the book was awarded subventions from the Barr Ferree Publication Fund and Tulane’s School of Liberal Arts.
Her current book project, Weapons of Atlas: The Art and Science of Early Modern Cartography (1580–1640), foregrounds how mechanical instruments and art theory in tandem had profound implications for map design in Italy and beyond. The expanding world required firsthand observation, oftentimes aided by tools, and effective means of transcribing and interpreting terrain. Key to map production, the use of optical devices and measuring instruments, i.e., the compass and rule, magnetic compasses, astrolabes, and sextants, shaped habits of visualization formed through the use of pen and ink. In turn, artistic representation provided an expressive pictorial idiom for synthesizing the quantitative assessment and visual apprehension of land and sea.
Her current research has been supported by the Huntington Library (2022) and the Newberry Library (2022). She is an Affiliated Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. She has been awarded funding by the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies at Villa I Tatti via a Robert Lehman Fellowship (2020–2021), a Lila Wallace – Reader’s Digest Special Project Grant (2016), and a Readership in Renaissance Studies (2007). She has participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar at The Newberry Library as well as an NEH Summer Institute at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence.
She received her Ph.D. in art history from Princeton University and her B.A. from Columbia University. Prior to coming to Tulane in 2015, she was a curatorial research assistant at the Drawing Institute at the Morgan Library & Museum and a bibliographer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She has been invited to present lectures in Charleston, Chicago, Denver, Edinburgh, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Ottawa, Rochester, Rome, Turin, and elsewhere.
Professor Geddes is the Art History Director of Undergraduate Studies. She is an affiliated faculty member of the Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program (MEMS) and is a member of the Faculty Advisory Committee for the Environmental Studies Program (EVST) at Tulane. Her teaching interests include Italian Renaissance art and Baroque art; early modern architecture; landscape theory; the reception of antiquity; the history of science and scientific illustration (including cartography); courses centered on enduring figures such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo; artistic rivalries; the art of Rome; prints and the history of the book; and old master drawings. She warmly welcomes working with graduate students interested in these and related topics.
Watermarks: Leonardo da Vinci and the Mastery of Nature (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2020). 256 pp., 124 color + 14 b/w illus. ISBN: 9780691192697
For an interview about Watermarks, see the recording of the event “Leonardo’s Drawing Operations: Leslie Geddes and Allan Doyle in Conversation,” part of the Creative Conversations Lecture Series at the Royal Drawing School, London, held February 17, 2021.
“Watermarks,” Tulane University School of Liberal Arts Magazine, Fall 2019.
"Drawing Bridges: Leonardo da Vinci on Mastering Nature." In Illuminating Leonardo: A Festschrift for Carlo Pedretti Celebrating His 70 Years of Leonardo Scholarship (1944–2014), edited by Constance Moffatt and Sara Taglialagamba, 278–92. Leonardo Studies 1. Leiden: Brill, 2016.
“‘Infinite Slowness and Infinite Velocity’: The Representation of Time and Motion in Leonardo's Studies of Geology and Water." In Leonardo on Nature, edited by Alessandro Nova and Fabio Frosini, 269–83. Studi e Ricerche 11. Venice: Marsilio, 2015.
Review of Francesca Fiorani, The Shadow Drawing. How Science Taught Leonardo How to Paint. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2020, in Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Réforme 44.3 (Summer 2022): 262–265.
Review of François Quiviger, Leonardo da Vinci: Self, Art and Nature, London: Reaktion Books, 2019, in Renaissance Quarterly 74.1 (Spring 2021): 249–250.
Catalogue entry in Marcantonio Raimondi, Raphael and the Image Multiplied, exh. cat., edited by Edward H. Wouk (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016), 192–93.