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Title: Leonardo Da Vinci
Author: Brockwell, Maurice W., 1869-1958
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Leonardo Da Vinci" ***

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[Illustration: Plate 1--MONA LISA. Frontispiece

In the Louvre. No. 1601. 2 ft 6 ½ ins. By 1 ft. 9 ins. (0.77 x 0.53)]



Illustrated With Eight Reproductions in Colour


"Leonardo," wrote an English critic as far back as 1721, "was a Man
so happy in his genius, so consummate in his Profession, so
accomplished in the Arts, so knowing in the Sciences, and withal, so
much esteemed by the Age wherein he lived, his Works so highly
applauded by the Ages which have succeeded, and his Name and Memory
still preserved with so much Veneration by the present Age--that, if
anything could equal the Merit of the Man, it must be the Success he
met with. Moreover, 'tis not in Painting alone, but in Philosophy,
too, that Leonardo surpassed all his Brethren of the 'Pencil.'"

This admirable summary of the great Florentine painter's life's work
still holds good to-day.


His Birth
His Early Training
His Early Works
First Visit to Milan
In the East
Back in Milan
The Virgin of the Rocks
The Last Supper
The Court of Milan
Leonardo Leaves Milan
Mona Lisa
Battle of Anghiari
Again in Milan
In Rome
In France
His Death
His Art
His Mind
His Maxims
His Spell
His Descendants


I. Mona Lisa
  In the Louvre
II. Annunciation
  In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence
III. Virgin of the Rocks
  In the National Gallery, London
IV. The Last Supper
  In the Refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
V. Copy of the Last Supper
  In the Diploma Gallery, Burlington House
VI. Head of Christ
  In the Brera Gallery, Milan
VII. Portrait (presumed) of Lucrezia Crivelli
  In the Louvre
VIII. Madonna, Infant Christ, and St Anne.
  In the Louvre


Leonardo Da Vinci, the many-sided genius of the Italian Renaissance,
was born, as his name implies, at the little town of Vinci, which is
about six miles from Empoli and twenty miles west of Florence. Vinci
is still very inaccessible, and the only means of conveyance is the
cart of a general carrier and postman, who sets out on his journey
from Empoli at sunrise and sunset. Outside a house in the middle of
the main street of Vinci to-day a modern and white-washed bust of the
great artist is pointed to with much pride by the inhabitants.
Leonardo's traditional birthplace on the outskirts of the town still
exists, and serves now as the headquarters of a farmer and small wine

Leonardo di Ser Piero d'Antonio di Ser Piero di Ser Guido da
Vinci--for that was his full legal name--was the natural and
first-born son of Ser Piero, a country notary, who, like his father,
grandfather, and great-grandfather, followed that honourable
vocation with distinction and success, and who subsequently--when
Leonardo was a youth--was appointed notary to the Signoria of
Florence. Leonardo's mother was one Caterina, who afterwards married
Accabriga di Piero del Vaccha of Vinci.

[Illustration: Plate II.--Annunciation

In the Uffizi Gallery, Florence. No. 1288. 3 ft 3 ins. By 6 ft 11 ins.
(0.99 x 2.18)

Although this panel is included in the Uffizi Catalogue as being by
Leonardo, it is in all probability by his master, Verrocchio.]

The date of Leonardo's birth is not known with any certainty. His age
is given as five in a taxation return made in 1457 by his grandfather
Antonio, in whose house he was educated; it is therefore concluded
that he was born in 1452. Leonardo's father Ser Piero, who afterwards
married four times, had eleven children by his third and fourth wives.
Is it unreasonable to suggest that Leonardo may have had these numbers
in mind in 1496-1498 when he was painting in his famous "Last Supper"
the figures of eleven Apostles and one outcast?

However, Ser Piero seems to have legitimised his "love child" who very
early showed promise of extraordinary talent and untiring energy.


Practically nothing is known about Leonardo's boyhood, but Vasari
informs us that Ser Piero, impressed with the remarkable character of
his son's genius, took some of his drawings to Andrea del Verrocchio,
an intimate friend, and begged him earnestly to express an opinion on
them. Verrocchio was so astonished at the power they revealed that he
advised Ser Piero to send Leonardo to study under him. Leonardo thus
entered the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio about 1469-1470. In the
workshop of that great Florentine sculptor, goldsmith, and artist he
met other craftsmen, metal workers, and youthful painters, among whom
was Botticelli, at that moment of his development a jovial
_habitué_ of the Poetical Supper Club, who had not yet given any
premonitions of becoming the poet, mystic, and visionary of later
times. There also Leonardo came into contact with that unoriginal
painter Lorenzo di Credi, his junior by seven years. He also, no
doubt, met Perugino, whom Michelangelo called "that blockhead in art."
The genius and versatility of the Vincian painter was, however, in no
way dulled by intercourse with lesser artists than himself; on the
contrary he vied with each in turn, and readily outstripped his fellow
pupils. In 1472, at the age of twenty, he was admitted into the Guild
of Florentine Painters.

Unfortunately very few of Leonardo's paintings have come down to us.
Indeed there do not exist a sufficient number of finished and
absolutely authentic oil pictures from his own hand to afford
illustrations for this short chronological sketch of his life's work.
The few that do remain, however, are of so exquisite a quality--or
were until they were "comforted" by the uninspired restorer--that we
can unreservedly accept the enthusiastic records of tradition in
respect of all his works. To rightly understand the essential
characteristics of Leonardo's achievements it is necessary to
regard him as a scientist quite as much as an artist, as a philosopher
no less than a painter, and as a draughtsman rather than a colourist.
There is hardly a branch of human learning to which he did not at
one time or another give his eager attention, and he was engrossed in
turn by the study of architecture--the foundation-stone of all true
art--sculpture, mathematics, engineering and music. His versatility
was unbounded, and we are apt to regret that this many-sided genius
did not realise that it is by developing his power within certain
limits that the great master is revealed. Leonardo may be described as
the most Universal Genius of Christian times-perhaps of all time.


In the National Gallery. No. 1093. 6 ft. ½ in. h. by 3 ft 9 ½ in. w.
(1.83 x 1.15)

This picture was painted in Milan about 1495 by Ambrogio da Predis
under the supervision and guidance of Leonardo da Vinci, the
essential features of the composition being borrowed from the earlier
"Vierge aux Rochers," now in the Louvre.]


To about the year 1472 belongs the small picture of the
"Annunciation," now in the Louvre, which after being the subject of
much contention among European critics has gradually won its way to
general recognition as an early work by Leonardo himself. That it was
painted in the studio of Verrocchio was always admitted, but it was
long catalogued by the Louvre authorities under the name of Lorenzo di
Credi. It is now, however, attributed to Leonardo (No. 1602 A). Such
uncertainties as to attribution were common half a century ago when
scientific art criticism was in its infancy.

Another painting of the "Annunciation," which is now in the Uffizi
Gallery (No. 1288) is still officially attributed to Leonardo. This
small picture, which has been considerably repainted, and is perhaps
by Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo's master, is the subject of Plate

To January 1473 belongs Leonardo's earliest dated work, a pen-and-ink
drawing--"A Wide View over a Plain," now in the Uffizi. The
inscription together with the date in the top left-hand corner is
reversed, and proves a remarkable characteristic of Leonardo's
handwriting--viz., that he wrote from right to left; indeed, it has
been suggested that he did this in order to make it difficult for any
one else to read the words, which were frequently committed to paper
by the aid of peculiar abbreviations.

Leonardo continued to work in his master's studio till about 1477. On
January 1st of the following year, 1478, he was commissioned to paint
an altar-piece for the Chapel of St. Bernardo in the Palazzo Vecchio,
and he was paid twenty-five florins on account. He, however, never
carried out the work, and after waiting five years the Signoria
transferred the commission to Domenico Ghirlandajo, who also failed to
accomplish the task, which was ultimately, some seven years later,
completed by Filippino Lippi. This panel of the "Madonna Enthroned,
St. Victor, St. John Baptist, St. Bernard, and St. Zenobius," which is
dated February 20, 1485, is now in the Uffizi.

That Leonardo was by this time a facile draughtsman is evidenced by
his vigorous pen-and-ink sketch--now in a private collection in
Paris--of Bernardo Bandini, who in the Pazzi Conspiracy of April 1478
stabbed Giuliano de' Medici to death in the Cathedral at Florence
during High Mass. The drawing is dated December 29, 1479, the date of
Bandini's public execution in Florence.

In that year also, no doubt, was painted the early and, as might be
expected, unfinished "St. Jerome in the Desert," now in the Vatican, the
under-painting being in umber and _terraverte_. Its authenticity is
vouched for not only by the internal evidence of the picture itself, but
also by the similarity of treatment seen in a drawing in the Royal
Library at Windsor. Cardinal Fesch, a princely collector in Rome in the
early part of the nineteenth century, found part of the picture--the
torso--being used as a box-cover in a shop in Rome. He long afterwards
discovered in a shoemaker's shop a panel of the head which belonged to
the torso. The jointed panel was eventually purchased by Pope Pius IX.,
and added to the Vatican Collection.

In March 1480 Leonardo was commissioned to paint an altar-piece for
the monks of St. Donato at Scopeto, for which payment in advance was
made to him. That he intended to carry out this contract seems most
probable. He, however, never completed the picture, although it gave
rise to the supremely beautiful cartoon of the "Adoration of the
Magi," now in the Uffizi (No. 1252). As a matter of course it is
unfinished, only the under-painting and the colouring of the figures
in green on a brown ground having been executed. The rhythm of line,
the variety of attitude, the profound feeling for landscape and an
early application of chiaroscuro effect combine to render this one of
his most characteristic productions.

Vasari tells us that while Verrocchio was painting the "Baptism of
Christ" he allowed Leonardo to paint in one of the attendant angels
holding some vestments. This the pupil did so admirably that his
remarkable genius clearly revealed itself, the angel which Leonardo
painted being much better than the portion executed by his master.
This "Baptism of Christ," which is now in the Accademia in Florence
and is in a bad state of preservation, appears to have been a
comparatively early work by Verrocchio, and to have been painted
in 1480-1482, when Leonardo would be about thirty years of age.

To about this period belongs the superb drawing of the "Warrior," now
in the Malcolm Collection in the British Museum. This drawing may have
been made while Leonardo still frequented the studio of Andrea del
Verrocchio, who in 1479 was commissioned to execute the equestrian
statue of Bartolommeo Colleoni, which was completed twenty years later
and still adorns the Campo di San Giovanni e Paolo in Venice.


About 1482 Leonardo entered the service of Ludovico Sforza, having
first written to his future patron a full statement of his various
abilities in the following terms:--

"Having, most illustrious lord, seen and pondered over the experiments
made by those who pass as masters in the art of inventing instruments
of war, and having satisfied myself that they in no way differ from
those in general use, I make so bold as to solicit, without prejudice
to any one, an opportunity of informing your excellency of some of my
own secrets."


Refectory of St. Maria delle Grazie, Milan. About 13 feet
8 ins. h. by 26 ft. 7 ins. w. (4.16 x 8.09)]

He goes on to say that he can construct light bridges which can be
transported, that he can make pontoons and scaling ladders, that he
can construct cannon and mortars unlike those commonly used, as well
as catapults and other engines of war; or if the fight should take
place at sea that he can build engines which shall be suitable alike
for defence as for attack, while in time of peace he can erect public
and private buildings. Moreover, he urges that he can also execute
sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and, with regard to painting,
"can do as well as any one else, no matter who he may be." In
conclusion, he offers to execute the proposed bronze equestrian statue
of Francesco Sforza "which shall bring glory and never-ending honour
to that illustrious house."

It was about 1482, the probable date of Leonardo's migration from
Florence to Milan, that he painted the "Vierge aux Rochers," now in
the Louvre (No. 1599). It is an essentially Florentine picture, and
although it has no pedigree earlier than 1625, when it was in the
Royal Collection at Fontainebleau, it is undoubtedly much earlier and
considerably more authentic than the "Virgin of the Rocks," now in the
National Gallery (Plate III.).

He certainly set to work about this time on the projected statue of
Francesco Sforza, but probably then made very little progress with it.
He may also in that year or the next have painted the lost portrait of
Cecilia Gallerani, one of the mistresses of Ludovico Sforza. It has,
however, been surmised that that lady's features are preserved to us
in the "Lady with a Weasel," by Leonardo's pupil Boltraffio, which is
now in the Czartoryski Collection at Cracow.


The absence of any record of Leonardo in Milan, or elsewhere in Italy,
between 1483 and 1487 has led critics to the conclusion, based on
documentary evidence of a somewhat complicated nature, that he spent
those years in the service of the Sultan of Egypt, travelling in
Armenia and the East as his engineer.


In 1487 he was again resident in Milan as general artificer--using
that term in its widest sense--to Ludovico. Among his various
activities at this period must be mentioned the designs he made for
the cupola of the cathedral at Milan, and the scenery he constructed
for "Il Paradiso," which was written by Bernardo Bellincioni on the
occasion of the marriage of Gian Galeazzo with Isabella of Aragon.
About 1489-1490 he began his celebrated "Treatise on Painting" and
recommenced work on the colossal equestrian statue of Francesco
Sforza, which was doubtless the greatest of all his achievements as a
sculptor. It was, however, never cast in bronze, and was ruthlessly
destroyed by the French bowmen in April 1500, on their occupation of
Milan after the defeat of Ludovico at the battle of Novara. This is
all the more regrettable as no single authentic piece of sculpture
has come down to us from Leonardo's hand, and we can only judge of his
power in this direction from his drawings, and the enthusiastic
praise of his contemporaries.


In the Diploma Gallery, Burlington House

This copy is usually ascribed to Marco d'Oggiono, but some critics
claim that it is by Gianpetrino. It is the same size as the original.]


The "Virgin of the Rocks" (Plate III.), now in the National Gallery,
corresponds exactly with a painting by Leonardo which was described by
Lomazzo about 1584 as being in the Chapel of the Conception in the
Church of St. Francesco at Milan. This picture, the only _oeuvre_
in this gallery with which Leonardo's name can be connected, was
brought to England in 1777 by Gavin Hamilton, and sold by him to the
Marquess of Lansdowne, who subsequently exchanged it for another
picture in the Collection of the Earl of Suffolk at Charlton Park,
Wiltshire, from whom it was eventually purchased by the National
Gallery for £9000. Signor Emilio Motta, some fifteen years ago,
unearthed in the State Archives of Milan a letter or memorial from
Giovanni Ambrogio da Predis and Leonardo da Vinci to the Duke of
Milan, praying him to intervene in a dispute, which had arisen between
the petitioners and the Brotherhood of the Conception, with regard to
the valuation of certain works of art furnished for the chapel of the
Brotherhood in the church of St. Francesco. The only logical deduction
which can be drawn from documentary evidence is that the "Vierge aux
Rochers" in the Louvre is the picture, painted about 1482, which
between 1491 and 1494 gave rise to the dispute, and that, when it was
ultimately sold by the artists for the full price asked to some
unknown buyer, the National Gallery version was executed for a
smaller price mainly by Ambrogio da Predisunder the supervision, and
with the help, of Leonardo to be placed in the Chapel of the

The differences between the earlier, the more authentic, and the more
characteristically Florentine "Vierge aux Rochers," in the Louvre, and
the "Virgin of the Rocks," in the National Gallery, are that in the
latter picture the hand of the angel, seated by the side of the Infant
Christ, is raised and pointed in the direction of the little St. John
the Baptist; that the St John has a reed cross and the three principal
figures have gilt nimbi, which were, however, evidently added much
later. In the National Gallery version the left hand of the Madonna,
the Christ's right hand and arm, and the forehead of St. John the
Baptist are freely restored, while a strip of the foreground right
across the whole picture is ill painted and lacks accent. The head of
the angel is, however, magnificently painted, and by Leonardo; the
panel, taken as a whole, is exceedingly beautiful and full of charm
and tenderness.


Between 1496 and 1498 Leonardo painted his _chef d'oeuvre_, the
"Last Supper," (Plate IV.) for the end wall of the Refectory of the
Dominican Convent of S. Maria delle Grazie at Milan. It was originally
executed in tempera on a badly prepared stucco ground and began to
deteriorate a very few years after its completion. As early as 1556 it
was half ruined. In 1652 the monks cut away a part of the fresco
including the feet of the Christ to make a doorway. In 1726 one
Michelangelo Belotti, an obscure Milanese painter, received £300 for
the worthless labour he bestowed on restoring it. He seems to have
employed some astringent restorative which revived the colours
temporarily, and then left them in deeper eclipse than before. In 1770
the fresco was again restored by Mazza. In 1796 Napoleon's cavalry,
contrary to his express orders, turned the refectory into a stable,
and pelted the heads of the figures with dirt. Subsequently the
refectory was used to store hay, and at one time or another it has
been flooded. In 1820 the fresco was again restored, and in 1854 this
restoration was effaced. In October 1908 Professor Cavenaghi completed
the delicate task of again restoring it, and has, in the opinion of
experts, now preserved it from further injury. In addition, the
devices of Ludovico and his Duchess and a considerable amount of
floral decoration by Leonardo himself have been brought to light.

Leonardo has succeeded in producing the effect of the _coup de
théâtre_ at the moment when Jesus said "One of you shall betray
me." Instantly the various apostles realise that there is a traitor
among their number, and show by their different gestures their
different passions, and reveal their different temperaments. On the
left of Christ is St. John who is overcome with grief and is
interrogated by the impetuous Peter, near whom is seated Judas
Iscariot who, while affecting the calm of innocence, is quite unable
to conceal his inner feelings; he instinctively clasps the money-bag
and in so doing upsets the salt-cellar.

It will be remembered that the Prior of the Convent complained to
Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, that Leonardo was taking too long to
paint the fresco and was causing the Convent considerable
inconvenience. Leonardo had his revenge by threatening to paint the
features of the impatient Prior into the face of  Judas Iscariot. The
incident has been quaintly told in the following lines:--

  "Padre Bandelli, then, complains of me
  Because, forsooth, I have not drawn a line
  Upon the Saviour's head; perhaps, then, he
  Could without trouble paint that head divine.
  But think, oh Signor Duca, what should be
  The pure perfection of Our Saviour's face--
  What sorrowing majesty, what noble grace,
  At that dread moment when He brake the bread,
  And those submissive words of pathos said:

  "'By one among you I shall be betrayed,'--
  And say if 'tis an easy task to find
  Even among the best that walk this Earth,
  The fitting type of that divinest worth,
  That has its image solely in the mind.
  Vainly my pencil struggles to express
  The sorrowing grandeur of such holiness.
  In patient thought, in ever-seeking prayer,
  I strive to shape that glorious face within,
  But the soul's mirror, dulled and dimmed by sin,
  Reflects not yet the perfect image there.
  Can the hand do before the soul has wrought;
  Is not our art the servant of our thought?

  "And Judas too, the basest face I see,
  Will not contain his utter infamy;
  Among the dregs and offal of mankind
  Vainly I seek an utter wretch to find.
  He who for thirty silver coins could sell
  His Lord, must be the Devil's miracle.
  Padre Bandelli thinks it easy is
  To find the type of him who with a kiss
  Betrayed his Lord. Well, what I can I'll do;
  And if it please his reverence and you,
  For Judas' face I'm willing to paint his."

       *       *       *       *       *

  "... I dare not paint
  Till all is ordered and matured within,
  Hand-work and head-work have an earthly taint,
  But when the soul commands I shall begin;
  On themes like these I should not dare to dwell
  With our good Prior--they to him would be
  Mere nonsense; he must touch and taste and see,
  And facts, he says, are never mystical."


In the Brera Gallery, Milan. No. 280. 1 ft. 0-1/2 ins. by
1 ft. 4 ins. (0.32 x 0.40)]

The copy of the "Last Supper" (Plate V.) by Marco d'Oggiono, now in
the Diploma Gallery at Burlington House, was made shortly after the
original painting was completed. It gives but a faint echo of that
sublime work "in which the ideal and the real were blended in perfect
unity." This copy was long in the possession of the Carthusians in
their Convent at Pavia, and, on the suppression of that Order and
the sale of their effects in 1793, passed into the possession of a
grocer at Milan. It was subsequently purchased for £600 by the Royal
Academy on the advice of Sir Thomas Lawrence, who left no stone
unturned to acquire also the original studies for the heads of the
Apostles. Some of these in red and black chalk are now preserved
in the Royal Library at Windsor, where there are in all 145 drawings
by Leonardo.

Several other old copies of the fresco exist, notably the one in the
Louvre. Francis I. wished to remove the whole wall of the Refectory to
Paris, but he was persuaded that that would be impossible; the
Constable de Montmorency then had a copy made for the Chapel of the
Château d'Ecouen, whence it ultimately passed to the Louvre.

The singularly beautiful "Head of Christ" (Plate VI.), now in the
Brera Gallery at Milan, is the original study for the head of the
principal figure in the fresco painting of the "Last Supper." In
spite of decay and restoration it expresses "the most elevated
seriousness together with Divine Gentleness, pain on account of
the faithlessness of His disciples, a full presentiment of His own
death, and resignation to the will of His Father."


Ludovico, to whom Leonardo was now court-painter, had married Beatrice
d'Este, in 1491, when she was only fifteen years of age. The young
Duchess, who at one time owned as many as eighty-four splendid gowns,
refused to wear a certain dress of woven gold, which her husband had
given her, if Cecilia Gallerani, the Sappho of her day, continued to
wear a very similar one, which presumably had been given to her by
Ludovico. Having discarded Cecilia, who, as her tastes did not lie in
the direction of the Convent, was married in 1491 to Count Ludovico
Bergamini, the Duke in 1496 became enamoured of Lucrezia Crivelli, a
lady-in-waiting to the Duchess Beatrice.

Leonardo, as court painter, perhaps painted a portrait, now lost, of
Lucrezia, whose features are more likely to be preserved to us in the
portrait by Ambrogio da Predis, now in the Collection of the Earl of
Roden, than in the quite unauthenticated portrait (Plate VII.), now in
the Louvre (No. 1600).

On January 2, 1497, Beatrice spent three hours in prayer in the church
of St. Maria delle Grazie, and the same night gave birth to a
stillborn child. In a few hours she passed away, and from that moment
Ludovico was a changed man. He went daily to see her tomb, and was
quite overcome with grief.

In April 1498, Isabella d'Este, Beatrice's elder, more beautiful, and
more graceful sister, "at the sound of whose name all the muses rise
and do reverence" wrote to Cecilia Gallerani, or Bergamini, asking her
to lend her the portrait which Leonardo had painted of her some
fifteen years earlier, as she wished to compare it with a picture by
Giovanni Bellini. Cecilia graciously lent the picture--now presumably
lost--adding her regret that it no longer resembled her.


Among the last of Leonardo da Vinci's works in Milan towards the end
of 1499 was, probably, the superb cartoon of "The Virgin and Child
with St. Anne and St. John," now at Burlington House. Though little
known to the general public, this large drawing on _carton_, or
stiff paper, is one of the greatest of London's treasures, as it
reveals the sweeping line of Leonardo's powerful draughtsmanship. It
was in the Pompeo Leoni, Arconati, Casnedi, and Udney Collections
before passing to the Royal Academy.

In 1499 the stormy times in Milan foreboded the end of Ludovico's
reign. In April of that year we read of his giving a vineyard to
Leonardo; in September Ludovico had to leave Milan for the Tyrol to
raise an army, and on the 14th of the same month the city was sold by
Bernardino di Corte to the French, who occupied it from 1500 to 1512.
Ludovico may well have had in mind the figure of the traitor in the
"Last Supper" when he declared that "Since the days of Judas Iscariot
there has never been so black a traitor as Bernardino di Corte." On
October 6th Louis XII. entered the city. Before the end of the year
Leonardo, realising the necessity for his speedy departure, sent six
hundred gold florins by letter of exchange to Florence to be placed
to his credit with the hospital of S. Maria Nuova.

In the following year, Ludovico having been defeated at Novara,
Leonardo was a homeless wanderer. He left Milan for Mantua, where he
drew a portrait in chalk of Isabella d'Este, which is now in the
Louvre. Leonardo eventually arrived in Florence about Easter 1500.
After apparently working there in 1501 on a second Cartoon, similar in
most respects to the one he had executed in Milan two years earlier,
he travelled in Umbria, visiting Orvieto, Pesaro, Rimini, and other
towns, acting as engineer and architect to Cesare Borgia, for whom he
planned a navigable canal between Cesena and Porto Cese-natico.


In the Louvre. No. 1600 [483]. 2 ft by I ft 5 ins. (0.62 x 0.44)

This picture, although officially attributed to Leonardo, is probably
not by him, and almost certainly does not represent Lucrezia Crivelli.
It was once known as a "Portrait of a Lady" and is still occasionally
miscalled "La Belle Féronnière."]


Early in 1503 he was back again in Florence, and set to work in
earnest on the "Portrait of Mona Lisa" (Plate I.), now in the Louvre
(No. 1601). Lisa di Anton Maria di Noldo Gherardini was the daughter
of Antonio Gherardini. In 1495 she married Francesco di Bartolommeo de
Zenobi del Giocondo. It is from the surname of her husband that she
derives the name of "La Joconde," by which her portrait is officially
known in the Louvre. Vasari is probably inaccurate in saying that
Leonardo "loitered over it for four years, and finally left it
unfinished." He may have begun it in the spring of 1501 and, probably
owing to having taken service under Cesare Borgia in the following
year, put it on one side, ultimately completing it after working on
the "Battle of Anghiari" in 1504. Vasari's eulogy of this portrait may
with advantage be quoted: "Whoever shall desire to see how far art can
imitate nature may do so to perfection in this head, wherein every
peculiarity that could be depicted by the utmost subtlety of the
pencil has been faithfully reproduced. The eyes have the lustrous
brightness and moisture which is seen in life, and around them are
those pale, red, and slightly livid circles, also proper to nature.
The nose, with its beautiful and delicately roseate nostrils, might be
easily believed to be alive; the mouth, admirable in its outline, has
the lips uniting the rose-tints of their colour with those of the
face, in the utmost perfection, and the carnation of the cheek does
not appear to be painted, but truly flesh and blood. He who looks
earnestly at the pit of the throat cannot but believe that he sees the
beating of the pulses. Mona Lisa was exceedingly beautiful, and while
Leonardo was painting her portrait, he took the precaution of keeping
some one constantly near her to sing or play on instruments, or to
jest and otherwise amuse her."

Leonardo painted this picture in the full maturity of his talent, and,
although it is now little more than a monochrome owing to the free and
merciless restoration to which it has been at times subjected, it must
have created a wonderful impression on those who saw it in the early
years of the sixteenth century. It is difficult for the unpractised
eye to-day to form any idea of its original beauty. Leonardo has here
painted this worldly-minded woman--her portrait is much more famous
than she herself ever was--with a marvellous charm and suavity, a
finesse of expression never reached before and hardly ever equalled
since. Contrast the head of the Christ at Milan, Leonardo's conception
of divinity expressed in perfect humanity, with the subtle and
sphinx-like smile of this languorous creature.

The landscape background, against which Mona Lisa is posed, recalls
the severe, rather than exuberant, landscape and the dim vistas of
mountain ranges seen in the neighbourhood of his own birthplace. The
portrait was bought during the reign of Francis I. for a sum which is
to-day equal to about £1800. Leonardo, by the way, does not seem to
have been really affected by any individual affection for any woman,
and, like Michelangelo and Raphael, never married.

In January 4, 1504, Leonardo was one of the members of the Committee
of Artists summoned to advise the Signoria as to the most suitable
site for the erection of Michelangelo's statue of "David," which had
recently been completed.


In the following May he was commissioned by the Signoria to decorate
one of the walls of the Council Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio. The
subject he selected was the "Battle of Anghiari." Although he
completed the cartoon, the only part of the composition which he
eventually executed in colour was an incident in the foreground
which dealt with the "Battle of the Standard." One of the many
supposed copies of a study of this mural painting now hangs on the
south-east staircase in the Victoria and Albert Museum. It depicts the
Florentines under Cardinal Ludovico Mezzarota Scarampo fighting
against the Milanese under Niccolò Piccinino, the General of Filippo
Maria Visconti, on June 29, 1440.


Leonardo was back in Milan in May 1506 in the service of the French
King, for whom he executed, apparently with the help of assistants,
"the Madonna, the Infant Christ, and Saint Anne" (Plate VIII.). The
composition of this oil-painting seems to have been built up on the
second cartoon, which he had made some eight years earlier, and which
was apparently taken to France in 1516 and ultimately lost.


From 1513-1515 he was in Rome, where Giovanni de' Medici had been
elected Pope under the title of Leo X. He did not, however, work for
the Pope, although he resided in the Vatican, his time being occupied
in studying acoustics, anatomy, optics, geology, minerals,
engineering, and geometry!


At last in 1516, three years before his death, Leonardo left his
native land for France, where he received from Francis I. a princely
income. His powers, however, had already begun to fail, and he
produced very little in the country of his adoption. It is,
nevertheless, only in the Louvre that his achievements as a painter
can to-day be adequately studied.


In the Louvre. No. 1508. 5 ft. 7 in. h. by 4 ft. 3 in. w. (1.70 x

Painted between 1509 and 1516 with the help of assistants.]

On October 10, 1516, when he was resident at the Manor House of Cloux
near Amboise in Touraine with Francesco Melzi, his friend and
assistant, he showed three of his pictures to the Cardinal of Aragon,
but his right hand was now paralysed, and he could "no longer colour
with that sweetness with which he was wont, although still able to
make drawings and to teach others."

It was no doubt in these closing years of his life that he drew the
"Portrait of Himself" in red chalk, now at Turin, which is probably
the only authentic portrait of him in existence.


On April 23, 1519--Easter Eve--exactly forty-five years before the
birth of Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci made his will, and on May 2 of
the same year he passed away.

Vasari informs us that Leonardo, "having become old, lay sick for many
months, and finding himself near death and being sustained in the arms
of his servants and friends, devoutly received the Holy Sacrament. He
was then seized with a paroxysm, the forerunner of death, when King
Francis I., who was accustomed frequently and affectionately to visit
him, rose and supported his head to give him such assistance and to do
him such favour as he could in the hope of alleviating his sufferings.
The spirit of Leonardo, which was most divine, conscious that he could
attain to no greater honour, departed in the arms of the monarch,
being at that time in the seventy-fifth year of his age." The not
over-veracious chronicler, however, is here drawing largely upon his
imagination. Leonardo was only sixty-seven years of age, and the King
was in all probability on that date at St. Germain-en Laye!

Thus died "Mr. Lionard de Vincy, the noble Milanese, painter,
engineer, and architect to the King, State Mechanician" and "former
Professor of Painting to the Duke of Milan."

"May God Almighty grant him His eternal peace," wrote his friend and
assistant Francesco Melzi. "Every one laments the loss of a man whose
like Nature cannot produce a second time."


Leonardo, whose birth antedates that of Michelangelo and Raphael by
twenty three and thirty-one years respectively, was thus in the
forefront of the Florentine Renaissance, his life coinciding almost
exactly with the best period of Tuscan painting.

Leonardo was the first to investigate scientifically and to apply to
art the laws of light and shade, though the preliminary investigations
of Piero della Francesca deserve to be recorded.

He observed with strict accuracy the subtleties of chiaroscuro--light
and shade apart from colour; but, as one critic has pointed out, his
gift of chiaroscuro cost the colour-life of many a noble picture.
Leonardo was "a tonist, not a colourist," before whom the whole book
of nature lay open.

It was not instability of character but versatility of mind which
caused him to undertake many things that having commenced he
afterwards abandoned, and the probability is that as soon as he saw
exactly how he could solve any difficulty which presented itself, he
put on one side the merely perfunctory execution of such a task.

In the Forster collection in the Victoria and Albert museum three of
Leonardo's note-books with sketches are preserved, and it is stated
that it was his practice to carry about with him, attached to his
girdle, a little book for making sketches. They prove that he was
left-handed and wrote from right to left.


We can readily believe the statements of Benvenuto Cellini, the
sixteenth-century Goldsmith, that Francis I. "did not believe
that any other man had come into the world who had attained so great a
knowledge as Leonardo, and that not only as sculptor, painter, and
architect, for beyond that he was a profound philosopher." It was
Cellini also who contended that "Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and
Raphael are the Book of the World."

Leonardo anticipated many eminent scientists and inventors in the
methods of investigation which they adopted to solve the many problems
with which their names are coupled. Among these may be cited
Copernicus' theory of the earth's movement, Lamarck's classification
of vertebrate and invertebrate animals, the laws of friction,
the laws of combustion and respiration, the elevation of the
continents, the laws of gravitation, the undulatory theory of light
and heat, steam as a motive power in navigation, flying machines, the
invention of the camera obscura, magnetic attraction, the use of the
stone saw, the system of canalisation, breech loading cannon, the
construction of fortifications, the circulation of the blood, the
swimming belt, the wheelbarrow, the composition of explosives, the
invention of paddle wheels, the smoke stack, the mincing machine! It
is, therefore, easy to see why he called "Mechanics the Paradise
of the Sciences."

Leonardo was a SUPERMAN.


    The eye is the window of the soul.

    Tears come from the heart and not from the brain.

    The natural desire of good men is knowledge.

    A beautiful body perishes, but a work of art dies not.

    Every difficulty can be overcome by effort.

    Time abides long enough for those who make use of it.

    Miserable men, how often do you enslave yourselves
    to gain money!


The influence of Leonardo was strongly felt in Milan, where he spent
so many of the best years of his life and founded a School of
painting. He was a close observer of the gradation and reflex of
light, and was capable of giving to his discoveries a practical and
aesthetic form. His strong personal character and the fascination of
his genius enthralled his followers, who were satisfied to repeat his
types, to perpetuate the "grey-hound eye," and to make use of his
little devices. Among this group of painters may be mentioned
Boltraffio, who perhaps painted the "Presumed Portrait of Lucrezia
Crivelli" (Plate VII.), which is officially attributed in the Louvre
to the great master himself.


Signor Uzielli has shown that one Tommaso da Vinci, a descendant of
Domenico (one of Leonardo's brothers), was a few years ago a peasant
at Bottinacio near Montespertoli, and had then in his possession the
family papers, which now form part of the archives of the Accademia
dei Lincei at Rome. It was proved also that Tommaso had given his
eldest son "the glorious name of Leonardo."

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