Through confused and undefined things the mind is awakened to new discoveries  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

In his Treatise on Painting Leonardo da Vinci famously said "through confused and undefined things the mind is awakened to new discoveries."

This is the Italian original[1]

This is an English translation:

" I shall not omit to give a place among these directions to a newly-discovered sort of observation, which may, indeed, make a small and almost ludicrous appearance, but which is, nevertheless, very useful in awakening the mind to various discoveries. It consists in this, that thou shouldst regard various walls which are covered with all manner of spots, or stone of different composition. If thou hast any capacity for discovery, thou mayest behold there things which resemble various landscapes decked with mountains, rivers, cliffs, trees, large plains, hills and valleys of many a sort. Thou canst also behold all manner of battles, life-like positions of strange, unfamiliar figures, expressions of face, costumes, - and numberless things which thou mayest put into good and perfect form. The experience with regard to walls and stone of this sort is similar to that of the ringing of bells, in the strokes of which thou willst find anew every name and every word that thou mayest imagine to thyself."
"Do not despise this opinion of mine when I counsel thee sometimes not to let it appear burdensome to thee to pause and look at the spots on walls, or the ashes in the fire, or the clouds, or mud, or other such places; thou wilt make very wonderful discoveries in them, if thou observest them rightly. For the mind of the painter is stimulated by them to many new discoveries, be it in the composition of battles, of animals and human beings, or in various compositions of landscapes, and of monstrous things, as devils and the like, which are calculated to bring thee honor. For through confused and undefined things the mind is awakened to new discoveries. But take heed, first, that thou understandest how to shape well all the members of the things that thou wishest to represent, for instance, the limbs of living beings, as also the parts of a landscape, namely the stones, trees, and the like." --via The Analysis of Sensations (1897) by Ernst Mach. Mach based himself on a German translation of Lenardo's treatise on painting by Heinrich Ludwig, Quellenschriften zur Kunstgeschichte, Vienna, Braumüller, 1882, Vol. XVIII.).

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