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This flamboyant term is what Mary Garrard uses to describe the women in Leonardo Da Vinci’s paintings (though she acknowledges the term's flamboyance, Garrard nevertheless notes, quite rightly, that "no other term will do" (pg. 75). Indeed). The macro/micro homology staged between female anatomy and geological landscape formations in Leonardo's portraits suggests a relation between Woman and natural processes that aligns closely with the ancient notion of natura naturans, an epicurean concept which understood the generative force of the universe to be fundamentally female, and, importantly, to be immanent in all matter. In contradistinction to the concept of natura naturata predominant during the Renaissance, which also conceived of nature as feminine, but as inert feminine matter to be shaped by Man, Leonardo presented in his artwork a definition of Nature as indomitable, and intimately connected to strong female figures who are not only nutritive, but also generative. As Garrard explains, “over and over…Leonardo explicitly associated powerful female images with highly developed, visually extraordinary surrounding landscapes, as if to assert the unity between the physical universe and the female cosmic generative principle as a philosophical claim” (pg. 74).


Leonard Da Vinci, Virgin of the Rocks, 1483-1486                 Ana Mendieta, Tree of Life, 1974