Based on a series of paintings of the same name executed in 1971, Roman Notes mark a return to the looped script Twombly first developed in his so-called 'blackboard' paintings of the late 1960s. The influence of Leonardo da Vinci is often cited as one of Twombly's key sources of inspiration, and Roman Notes clearly owe much to the Leonardo's Codices in which he famously recorded observations about the natural world, ideas and inventions in a coded mirror-script. Twombly's repeated cyclical motion of loose, undulating and non-figurative marks echo Leonardo's graphic approach to interpreting the mysteries of the world, but, unlike the Codices, which can ultimately be decoded, Twombly's 'notes' transcend any specific associations or content. "Each line now is the actual experience with its own innate history. It does not illustrate - it is the sensation of its own realization. The imagery is one of the private or separate indulgencies rather than an abstract totality of visual perception [...] it is an involvement in essence (no matter how private) into a synthesis of feeling, intellect etc. occurring without separation in the impulse of action." (Cy Twombly, in: Cy Twombly: A Retrospective, ed. K. Varnedoe, exh.cat., New York, 1994, p.27).
'In his own particular way, Twombly tells us that the essence of writing is neither form nor usage but simply gesture - the gesture that produces it by allowing it to happen: a garble, almost a smudge, a negligence. We can reason this out through a comparison. What would be the essence of a pair of trousers (if it has one)? Certainly not that carefully prepared and rectilinear object found on the racks of department stores; rather the ball of cloth dropped on the floor by the negligent hand of a young boy when he undresses tired, lazy and indifferent. The essence of an object has something to do with the way it turns into trash. It is not necessarily what remains after the object has been used, it's rather what is thrown away in use. And so it is with Twombly's writings. They are the fragments of an indolence, and this makes them extremely elegant; it's as though the only thing left after the strongly erotic act of writing were the languid fatigue of love: a garment cast aside into a corner of the page." (R. Barthes, 'Non Multa Sed Multum 1976', in N. Del Roscio, ed., Writings on Cy Twombly, Shirmer/Mosel, Munich, 2002, p. 91).