Disegno in Italian means "drawing," but an English speaker would not be entirely misled by the similarity of the word to the English design ; for, as Nicholas Turner explains in his introduction to this collection of drawings from the British Museum, disegno was for the Florentines "the animating force uniting the different arts." He quotes from Giorgio Vasari, who wrote in 1568: "Seeing that Disegno , the parent of our three arts, Architecture, Sculpture, and Painting, having its origin in the intellect, draws out from many single things a general judgement, it is like a form or idea of all the objects in nature, most marvellous in what it compasses, for not only in the bodies of men and of animals but also in plants, in buildings, in sculpture and in painting, design is cognizant of the proportion of the whole to the parts and of the parts to each other and to the whole."
The collection offers outstanding drawings by Leonardo, Michelangelo, and others. In the drawing reproduced above, a relative curiosity, the central figure is that of Nature, whose overflowing fecundity the artist seeks to imitate. Trumpets extend from beneath Nature's arms because, as Cellini explains in a note, artists win their fame with their arms (or as we would say, with their own hands).