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Leonardo da Vinci


L E O N A R D O

Florence, 1452-82

Despite the fact that only about a dozen paintings can be attributed to him with any certainty, Leonardo da Vmci is remembered as one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance. Much of what has been written about Leonardo stemmed initially from the writings of Giorgio Vasari [1511-74), whose Le Vite dei pit- tori sculteri et architetti italiani was written some fifty years after Leonardos death. Vasari began his biography by saying:

Occasionally heaven sends us someone who is not only human but divine . . .

Subsequent biographies, particularly those written in the nineteenth-century milieu of Romanticism, or following Freudian psychoanalytical ndenclesm the twentieth century, have all added to the 'legend' of Leonardo. In his own time Leonardo was appreciated by a mere handful of his contemporaries.

In 1452, in a small village called Anchiano near to the Tuscan town of Vinci, Leonardo was born to Ser Piero the 'Ser' before his name denoted the traditional family and a woman variously called Chatena or Caterina. Caterina's origins are unclear but she seems to have been regarded in rather a low light; in the same year that Leonardo was born, his father married another woman, Albiera di Giovanni Amadori. Ser Piero was in fact to marry four times, and had eleven other children by his third and fourth wives. By the time these children were born, Leonardo was already in his early twenties. In the municipal archive in Florence the documentary evidence [discovered only in 1930 by Emil Moeller) of Leonardo's birth reads:

'Born a grandson, son of Ser Piero, my son on the 15th of April.' This notice was written by grandfather Antonio and confirmed that Leonardo was accepted as a member of the family. The entry continues with a list of the people present at Leonardo's baptism, evidence that he was also accepted by the community as a Christian and a member of the Catholic Church. It has been said that Antonio hedged his bets: many of those present at the baptism were either tenants on his land or in some way in debt to him.

Nevertheless Leonardo was brought up by his mother Caterina for the first four years of his life, until she herself married a local man, Attacabrigi di Piero del Vacca, who was by trade a kiln builder. Leonardo then moved into the grander house in Vinci belonging to his father, where he grew up as an only child since his father's first two wives bore him no children. These facts have been deduced by historians from the fact thatgrandfather Antonio first registered Leonardo as a dependent living with the family in his income tax return for 1457.

Antonio died in 1469, when Leonardo was aged about 16 or 17, and the family moved to another house in Vinci. They also rented the ground floor of a house in the Piazza di San Firenze, close to the Bargello, or prison, in Florence. Leonardo's father was now notary to the Signoria, the ruling council of Florence. According to Vasari, it was because Ser Piero was a friend of Andrea di Cione, better known to us as Andrea del Verrocchio (c.1435-88), that Leonardo entered his studio. Verrocchio was Florence's leading painter, goldsmith and sculptor, famed for his exquisite craftsmanship.

It was the usual practice at this time for boys to be appointed to a bottegha or workshop after their preliminary schooling had been completed around the age of 13. Apprenticeships lasted around six years with the newcomer progressing from pupil, cleaning brushes, preparing pigments and generally fetching and carrying, to assistant, who had learnt all the techniques and tricks of the trade from his master and was able to take a hand in painting commissions where the contract between the master and client allowed.

Legend would have it that Leonardo was some 'boy-genius'. In fact, however, his schooling was modest and he was largely self-taught. He himself was acutely aware that he was 'unlettered' unable, that is, to write in Ciceronian prose, and because of this difficulty with Latin, Leonardo's reading, initially at least, was largely confined to works translated into Tuscan Italian. This deprived him of access to the new Humanistic works written in Latin at the educated courts of Italy. Instead, Leonardo compensated for his academic shortcomings by relying on his own sensory experiences.

Rather than the usual six years in Verrocchio's studio, Leonardo remained with his master for nine years. During the 1470s he would have been training and working alongside a number of other young assistants: Pietro Perugino (c.1450-1523), Lorenzo di Credi [1459- 1537), Domenico Ghirlandaio [1449- 94), Francesco Botticini [1446-97) and Cosimo Rosselli (1439-1507). Verrocchio's studio in Florence was rivaled in its output and talent only by the bottegha run by the brothers Pietro and Ambrosio Pollaiuolo. In all the studios at this time the atmosphere and methods of production were dominated by a communal spirit. A work of art was not yet regarded as the expression of a single personality, and during this period Verrocchio's workshops turned out a variety of work which Leonardo probably had a hand in producing.

By 1472 Leonardo's name was inscribed on the roll of the Guild ofSt Luke as a painter: 'Leonardo di Ser Piero da Vinci dipintore.' He was then just 20 years old and, having paid his guild fees, he was entitled to set up his own independent workshop. The guilds acted in a manner similar to trades unions:

they were responsible for guidelines for training within each profession, whether law, medicine or the arts. Only when a student had completed the set period for hisinstruction and had mastered the various skills could he join the guild. Leonardo, however, chose to spend at least four more years with his master, during which time he was responsible for a number of projects. As well as probably taking part in arranging pageants for Lorenzo de' Medici and Giuliano de' Medici in 1469 and 1475, Leonardo was also involved in the arrangements for the festivities to welcome Galeazzo Maria Sforza, Duke of Milan, to Florence in 1471. It is also believed that Leonardo was asked to paint a watercolor cartoon for a tapestry representing the Fall in Paradise, to be woven in Flanders as a gift for the King of Portugal. It seems, however, that the tapestry never reached the weaving stage.

In addition to two paintings of the Virgin attributed to Leonardo, the Benois Madonna and the Madonna and. Child with a Vase of Flowers, which are believed to date from this period in Verrocchio's workshop, Leonardo no doubt assisted his master with a number of other works then in hand: the gilded copper ball for the lantern over the dome of the Cathedral in 1471; the tomb ofPiero de' Medici for the sacristy of the Medici church of San Lorenzo in 1472, and the bronze David, for the town hall in 1476, for which many believe Leonardo was the model. According to Vasari, Leonardo was working with Verrocchio on The Baptism of Christ for the church of San Salvi when, as the story goes, Verrocchio saw his young assistant's work and promptly gave up painting because Leonardo was more capable than he was.

It is more likely that, in such a busy commercial workshop, the master was able safely to entrust painting commissions to his assistant, while he himself concentrated on the more public and profitable sculptural commissions.

The Baptism of Christ is traditionally accepted as Leonardo's earliest surviving painted work. From the same period [August 1473) is his earliest dated drawing, a landscape depicting the valley of the river Arno. These two works are in fact related: a study of the drawing, particularly the background features of the mountains and lakes with their atmospherically rendered aerial perspective, leaves no doubt that Leonardo was responsible for the background painting in The Baptism of Christ. This is especially evident when the background features are compared with other natural features in the painting, such as the palm tree on the left and the rocks in the right foreground, which are painted in a much more conventional manner. Vasari records that Leonardo worked on the painting but, even without documentary evidence, a comparison of the two angels suggests that they were painted by two different hands, and the left-hand one is accepted as by Leonardo. Nevertheless the monks of San Salvi appear not to have noticed any discernible differences and the painting passed into their hands.

With the Benois Madonna, Leonardo tound a formula that he was to apply again in the figure of the Virgin in the Louvre Virgin and Child with St Anne about 30 years later, and that was to be influential on a number of later artists. The Virgin's body is placed in a three-quarter view to the right, with the right leg extended forward and the left bent back to support the figure of the Christ Child. The figures are solidly modeled, as is the drapery which billowsout from the Virgin's hips. The overall effect is enhanced by the strong light which falls from the top left to the bot- tom right across the figures, with a subsidiary soft light brought in from the window in the background. Preliminary drawings - the Madonna and Child with a Cat drawings could well be early studies — as well as other drawings of the period show that achieving this sense of volume was one of Leonardo's chief aims.

A second painting, the Madonna and Child with a Vase of Flowers, is sometimes associated with the 'finished' Madonna which Leonardo listed as one of his works in an inventory of his possessions in 1482, when he left Florence for Milan. There is, however, no consensus that this painting is in fact by Leonardo. It could be that Leonardo began it but that it was completed by a fellow pupil such as Lorenzo di Credi. As we shall see, it was not unusual for Leonardo to leave works unfinished.

While Leonardo's part in painting the Baptism of Christ has been accepted since around 1510, it was only in 1869 that the painting of the Annunciation was finally attributed to him. The painting came from the monastery of San Bartolomeo at Monteolivieto near Florence and was originally ascribed to Ghirlandaio, a contemporary of Leonardo's and a fellow apprentice in Verrocchio's studio. Another theory has it that the Annunciation was begun by Ghirlandaio and completed by Leonardo, although this thesis is somewhat contradicted by the existence of a drawing by Leonardo of the right sleeve of the angel, complete with the fluttering ribbon. In addition there are two other drawings which are related, but differ in too many small details for them to be considered as direct studies for the painting. One of these is the finished drawing of A Lily such as the one held by the archangel. The other is a study of drapery similar to that worn by the Virgin. The drapery drawing is an example of the studies which Leonardo continued to make throughout his career, and which Vasari describes as having been taken from clay models draped in plaster - soaked cloths.

The subject of the painting is the annunciation to the Virgin by the Angel Gabriel of her unique destiny , as detailed in Luke 1, 26 - 38. The figures are set in the enclosed courtyard garden of a Florentine villa.Again certain features seem to have been drawn from the works of Verrocchio , in particular the base of the lectern which recalls Verrocchio's decoration of the Medici tomb in San Lorenzo , and the rigid perspective of the building and the pavement , which is also to be found in Verrochio's Madonna and Child of 1468, now in the National Gallery of Scotland. The landscape background, however , is Leonardoesque, with its misty mountains and lakes stretching into infinity. This background looks forward to both the Madonna of The Rocks and the Mona Lisa while the flower-strewn garden is a foretaste of the vegetation in the Leda. The treatment of the plantlife in the Annunciation also reflects Leonardo's interest in botany; the inventory of items in his possession which he made around 1482 states that he had drawings of many flowers from nature'. It also serves to remind us of the volume of Leonardo's works that have been lost , since the bulk of his surviving botanical studies are related to the years 1508 and after , when he was working on the Leda theme.

The Annunciation can be dated by Vincian scholars , from the evidence of style and from the style of its associated drawings, to around 1473, and it must be assumed that Leonardo began work on the Portrait ofGinevra de' Bend soon after this date. Such portraits of Florentine women were frequently commissioned on the occasion of their marriage, and we know from documentary evidence that Ginevra was married to Luigi di Bernardo Niccolini in January 1474. However doubt has always surrounded this painting, which only came to light in 1733 in the collection of the Prince of Liechtenstein. Vasari describes Leonardo painting a portrait of Ginevra after his return to Florence, between 1500 and 1506, but by this time Ginevra would have been in her forties and the portrait is of a much younger woman. Nevertheless the painting is very accomplished, especially when compared to the Annunciation. Recent research has identified the device on the reverse of the panel as the personal seal of Bernardo Bembo, the Venetian ambassador to Florence in 1475-76 and 1478-80.

The close but platonic relationship between Ginevra and Bembo has long been recognized, and was even celebrated in its day by the poets Alessandro Braccesi and Christoforo Landino. While there is no definite proof linking Leonardo and Bembo [supposing Bembo to be the commissioner of the portrait), Bembo was infact a friend of Lorenzo de' Medici, one of Verrocchio's major patrons. It is not therefore impossible that the Venetian ambassador commissioned the portrait via the studio.

Further assessment of the portrait is complicated by the fact that it has lost about a quarter of its original height due to cropping of the lower edge: part of Bembo's device is missing. There is, how- ever, a magnificent study of a pair of woman's hands done in silverpoint which would fit very well onto the portrait. Although the 1482 inventory mentions various portraits, no item on the list has been firmly linked with the Ginevra portrait. It seems to be the sole surviving secular painting from Leonardo's first Florentine period.

In the spring of 1476 Leonardo was living in Verrocchio's house. On 8 April a note was dropped in the tamburo, a box outside the Palazzo Vecchio into which Florentines could place accusations, whether signed or anonymous. This unsigned note accused Leonardo and three other young men of engaging in homosexual acts with a seventeen-year-old artist's model, Jacopo Saltarelli. Although no witnesses ever came for- ward, the matter was serious enough to
go to court twice in two months. In dis- tress, Leonardo petitioned Bernardo di Simone Cortigiano, influential head of the Florentine guilds, with the words: 'You know, as I have told you before, that I am without any of my friends.' After the intervention of the families of the other defendants, and of Verrocchio himself, Leonardo was acquitted, with the proviso that he was never again the subject of an accusation. He was lucky: a couple of decades later the same charge in Florence would have condemned him as a heretic, resulting in the death penalty. The fanatical monk Savonarola, leader of the Florentine republic 1494-98, believed that all homosexuals should be burnt at the stake.

There has been much speculation about Leonardo's sexual proclivities. Two barely legible lines, from a sheet dating from 1478 in the Uffizi Gallery, Florence, of studies of heads and machines, contribute to the thesis that Leonardo was homosexual: 'Fioravante di Domenico ... in Florence is my most cherished companion, as though he were my ..." Writing some years after the initial accusation, Leonardo recalled an incident in connection with a representation of the infant Christ: 'When I made a Christ Child, you put me in prison. Now if I represent Him grown up you will treat me worse.' The following statement appeared in Vasari's first edition of his Lives but was suppressed in the second:

'Leonardo was of so heretical a cast, that he conformed to no religion whatsoever . . .' More recently the nature of Leonardo's sexuality was further discussed and explored by Sigmund Freud in his book Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of Childhood. In a discussion on the flight of birds, Leonardo made the note: Among the first recollections of my childhood it seemed to me that, as I lay in my cradle, a kite came to me and opened my mouth with its tail and struck me several times with its tail between my lips.

In Freud's analysis he unfortunately translated nibbio (kite) as 'vulture', and based his theory on the fact that in Egyptian hieroglyphics 'vulture' and 'mother' were both represented by the same sign, since they were phonetically linked: both were pronounced 'mut'. Later psychosexual analysts, anxious to shed light on the meaning of the smile of the Mona Lisa, or even on some of the drawings that Leonardo made of his own right hand, have somehow been able to see the outline of Freud's vulture in the drapery of the Virgin's cloak in the Louvre Virgin and Child with StAnne and a Lamb .

While many now accept Leonardo's homosexuality, few are probably aware of his vegetarianism. He did in fact believe that plant life affords sufficient nutrients for man, and encouraged his contemporaries to forgo meat. He wrote: Now does not nature produce enough simple food for thee to satisfy thyself. And if thou art not content with such canst thou not by the
mixture of them make infinite compounds...

Further evidence of Leonardo's diet is provided by a letter dated 1515 from Andrea Corsali to Giuliano de' Medici about some people called Guzzati, who refused to eat food that contained blood and who had agreed among themselves not to do harm to any living thing, as Corsali wrote: 'Just like our Leonardo da Vinci.'

In 1477 Leonardo left Verrocchio's studio and began working independently. Florence at that time represented all that was modern in fifteenth-century Italy and was governed by the top political family, the Medici, whose banking network throughout Europe lent money to other top political families. On the basis of loans of money by the Medici, Edward IV of England (1442-83) won his battles against Henry VI and the Lancastrians and successfully laid the foundations for the Tudor state. Maximilian I (1459- 1519), the Holy Roman Emperor, and his wife Margaret of Burgundy also borrowed heavily - so heavily that they broke the Bruges branch of the Medici bank.

Although the Medici were technically private citizens in Florence, during Leonardo's lifetime their influence was at its height; there was hardly anyone in power in Christendom who had not received or was looking forward to financial support from the Medici family. The Medici also contributed considerably to the artistic, literary and philosophical life of the city. Under Cosimo de' Medici, Lorenzo's grandfather, an ecumenical council had been held in Florence in 1438 for the union of the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches. Although the union did not take place, many Greeks found their way to Florence, bringing with them manuscripts and ideas that were new to western Europe. Cosimo himself financed several trips for scholars to search out treasures from Greece and the Levant.

The courts of Italy in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries were not always peaceful places of artistic and scholarly activity, however, but were more akin to warring feudal cities. The
prince of the court, whether pope, cardinal or duke, as well as being able to attract to his court those in search of his favors and patronage, could also call on his infinite resources to repel his enemies. The most powerful court in fifteenth-century Italy was that at Milan under the Sforza family. This was followed in power and prestige by the Papal court in Rome, the court at Ferrara under the d'Este family, and the court at Mantua under the rule of the Gonzaga. In Milan the Sforza residence was not a large villa but a castle in the middle of the city: a walled fortress capable of withstanding wars, revolution and riots. In addition to its defensive moat, the Castello Sforzesco boasted 62 drawbridges and, by 1500, could call upon an army of between 800 and 1200 mercenary troops armed with some 1800 machines of war. It is not surprising that alliances with the Sforza family, through treaties and marriages of convenience, were assiduously sought by other ruling families.

The smaller Florentine court of the Medici under Lorenzo 'II Magnifico' was dominated by Neoplatonic thought. Lorenzo himself was a poet and philosopher, as well as the founder of the world's first academy of art. According to Anonimo Gaddiano in his Codex Maggliabechiano, Leonardo was set to work in the gardens of the Piazza San Marco where the academy was to be established. In a note on a sheet of calculations and a drawing of a pair of scales, Leonardo mentions the gardens and the work on which he may have been employed:
The Labors of Hercules for Piero F.Ginori.
The Gardens of the Medici.

Despite Medici rule, Florence was still nominally a republic and Florentine artists continued to operate the time honored system of payment for goods produced or services rendered. Leonardo appears to have been ill-suited to this business-like atmosphere. In the nine years after his registration with the guild of St Luke, he produced very little saleable material.

From the minutes of the Florentine executive council, the Signoria, we learn that a commission for an altarpiece for the chapel of San Bernardo in the Palazzo Vecchio was awarded to Piero Pollaiuolo on 24 December 1477. Seventeen days later, the commission was re-awarded to Leonardo. On 16 March 1478, Leonardo received the first payment of 25 florins and began work, but the altarpiece was not far advanced when Leonardo abandoned work on it altogether. In May 1483, a resolution passed by the Signoria transferred the project once again, this time to Domenico Ghirlandaio. The final altarpiece, dating from 1485, is in fact the work of a fourth artist, Filippino Lippi. It has been suggested that a drawing of The Adoration of the Shepherds may have been a study for Leonardo's initial effort. His inability to work to deadlines, or even to complete commissions, was to dog him throughout his career.

In the same year that Leonardo was awarded the San Bernardo commission, Florence was rocked by a conspiracy that eventually dragged the Republic into war and nearly bankrupted the city. The 1478 Pazzi conspiracy involved the Archbishop of Pisa, a mercenary soldier called Montesecco, two priests and the Pope himself, among others. Lorenzo de' Medici had incurred the wrath of the Pontiff by refusing him a loan to buy the town of Imola. Lorenzo had in fact had his eye on the territory for himself, and gave instructions to Francesco de' Pazzi, who was the head of the Pazzi bank in Rome, not to advance the money to Pope Sixtus IV. Pazzi saw his chance to damage the Medicis' standing with the Pope and to advance his own position, however, and instead of following Lorenzo's orders, himself offered the Pope most of the money. The Pope promptly transferred his account from the Medici to the Pazzi bank. Meanwhile Jacopo Pazzi, Francesco's uncle [who lived up to the family name: Pazzi is a corrupt form of 'mad' or 'crazy' and Jacopo was known to hit his opponents over the head if he lost at dice!), gave the final touches to the conspiracy: a double assassination was planned to take place in Florence Cathedral during high mass, the intended victims Lorenzo and his brother Giuliano de' Medici. Although the plot failed, Giuliano was fatally wounded. Lorenzo and some of his followers barricaded themselves in the sacristy for safety and the city was in uproar. To cap it all, mad Jacopo Pazzi galloped into the main square shouting 'People and Liberty!', to which the assembled Florentine crowds supposedly replied, 'Balls!' -meaning, of course, the six golden balls of the Medici coat of arms.

Jacopo was forced to flee for his life, and Francesco and some of his co-conspirators were caught and hanged.Lorenzo appeared on the balcony of the Signoria, his neck bandaged against a knife wound sustained in the assault in the Cathedral and called for the jubilant crowds to disperse. It was not the end, however, for the Pope never forgave the Medici for murdering the Archbishop of Pisa. There were also conspirators on the loose. One of them, Bernardo Baroncelli, had escaped to Turkey, but the Sultan obliged Florence the following year by extraditing him and his wife and on 29 December, 1479, the couple were publicly hanged. Leonardo drew Baroncelli hanging from his noose and carefully noted his clothing:
A tan colored skull-cap, a doublet of black serge, a black jerkin, lined and the collar covered with a black and red stippled velvet.
A blue coat lined with fur of fox's breasts.
Black hose.
Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli.

On the day of the conspiracy Leonardo had gone about the city and drawn people's excited faces. It was said that, throughout his career, he would follow a man with an interesting face through the streets, to get his portrait down on paper.

Leonardo's inability to fulfil his contractual obligations was already well known and in March 1481, when a commission for the Adoration of the Magi was awarded to him, the friars at the monastery of San Donate a Scopeto drew up a complicated contract pinning Leonardo down to a strict timetable. Even this contract failed to impel Leonardo to work and the commission was eventually awarded to Filippino Lippi. Leonardo's first large group painting, the unfinished Adoration of the Magi gives us a foretaste of the large and complex later works, such as The Last Supper and the Battle ofAnghiari . It is also the earliest of his paintings which can be identified with a specific commission. In 1475 a saddler had made an endowment to the monastery, to provide a painting for the high altar and a dowry for his grand-daughter. Leonardo's father who conveniently was the notary to the monastery and so it may have been through him that Leonardo was awarded the commission in the first place) drew up the contract, which required that the painting be delivered within 24 months with the possibility of an extension of a further six months. Shortly after the contract was agreed and signed,' early in 1481, the monks advanced Leonardo money to buy paints. In July he requested another 28 florins, and between July and September the monks also provided him with firewood, wheat and wine; on 28 September 1481, three monks delivered a barrel of wine to Leonardo's house. Unfortunately for the monks - and for the saddler's grand-daughter, who never got the painting. Soon after the wine was delivered, he left Florence for Milan. What remains of Leonardo's painting is the unfinished panel in the Uffizi and two general compositional sketches.

The earlier sketch contains important
elements which appear in the painting,
including the ruined background archi-
tecture of vaults and a staircase, with the
stables rising within it, and the figure
grouping of the Virgin and Child with the
adoring figures to the right. But on the
whole the drawing lacks coherence in the
relations of the figures to each other and
to their architectural setting, with its
rather clumsy perspective scheme. The
second drawing shows how Leonardo
overcame these problems to create a
scheme that is more convincing spatially.
This he achieved by placing the vanishing
point off-center on the horizon line, and
by dividing up the ground space accord-
ing to a scheme devised by the architect
Leon Alberti (1404-72), and here shown
in the checkerboard floor effect. Despite
these reworkings, Leonardo was to
diverge from them in the painting itself.
In this the stable, which figured so largely
in the first drawing, is banished to the
right background. This seems to have
allowed Leonardo to organize the central
space, which accommodates the tri-
angular foreground group of the Virgin,
Child and Magi, within a semicircle
formed by the accompanying figures.
This semicircle thus separates the fore-
ground scene from the background of
ruined architecture and battling figures.
Some of the elements in the painting
were designed to serve as symbolic
devices; the classical ruins, for example,
may refer to the Basilica of Maxentius in
Rome, popularly known as the Temple of
Peace. The Romans claimed that the
building would stand until a Virgin gave
birth, and it fell, according to legend, on
the very night of Christ's birth. The tree
easily identifiable as a palm is symbolic of
peace and victory and also has associa-
tions with the Virgin. The phrase 'You
are stately as a palm tree' [Song of Solo-
mon VII, 7) is taken to prefigure the Vir-
gin. The other tree has been variously
identified as an ilex (the tree which pro-
vided the wood for Christ's cross) and a
carob (the tree from which Judas hanged
himself and which had also provided the
'locusts' or carob pods on which John the
Baptist fed himself in the wilderness).
This in turn provides further allusions:
John the Baptist was also the patron saint
of Florence.
More difficult to understand are the
battling figures in the background of the

painting. These appear to have begun life
as a pen, ink and wash drawing, the Battle
Between Horsemen and Dragon c.1481.
They demonstrate Leonardo's penchant
for mythical beasts, confirmed by Vasari
in his story of Leonardo's painting of a
Gorgon's head on a shield, sold to a mer-
chant for 100 ducats. They are also a fore-
taste of Leonardo's interest in equine
compositions, such as the Battle of
Anghiari 20 years later.
The only other painting which may be
dated with any certainty to this first
period in Florence is the St Jerome now in
the Vatican Museum in Rome. This
painting came to light only recently; it
was discovered in two pieces in the nine-
teenth century by Cardinal Fesch, who
had been using one of the pieces as a
tabletop, which accounts for the damage
and subsequent re-touching. Leonardo in
fact mentions 'various Jeromes' in his
1482 inventory, but once again work on
this painting appears to have been halted
before its completion. Some of the
underdrawing was completed, including
the torso and face of the Saint, while
other elements like the church to the
right have merely been sketched in. The
misty background to the left remains a re-
cognizable Leonardoesque feature,
despite its unfinished state.
Toward the end of 1481 Leonardo left
Florence. Some say it was his restless
spirit that drove him on to Milan, others
cite his apparent lack of recognition by
Lorenzo de' Medici. Since the attempt
on Lorenzo's life, the Medici had been in
political difficulties and had little time to
devote to artistic matters; Lorenzo had
been excommunicated by the Pope [for
the killing of the Archbishop of Pisa) and
the expected war had materialized, with
Pisa and Naples allied against him.
Florence, which depended on trade for its
survival, was facing a severe financial
crisis with its road and sea routes cut off.
The Pope demanded that Lorenzo give
himself up and leave Florence. In a des-
perate attempt to save himself, Lorenzo
traveled in secret to see King Ferrante of
Naples and threatened him with an
onslaught by the Turks. Ferrante agreed
to peace in February 1480. When the
Pope threatened war later in that year,
the Turks besieged Otranto, possibly at
Lorenzo's request, and the Pope was
forced to back down.
Later in 1481, Pope Sixtus IV sum-
moned to Rome the finest artists in Tus-
cany to decorate the Vatican. Following

LEFT: Human Figure in a Circle, Illustrating
Proportion, 1485-90, pen and ink, 13V2 X 95/s
inches (34.3 x 24.5 cm), Accademia, Venice.
The Roman architect Vitruvius formalized, in
his treatise On Architecture, the Greek canon for
the p oportions of the human figure, which were
revived during the Renaissance. This drawing by
Leonardo was reproduced in an edition of
Vitruvius' book published in 1511, in order to
illustrate the concept that a well-proportioned
body with feet together and arms outstretched
can be inscribed in a square, while the same
body spreadeagled occupies a circle described
around the navel.
new discussions with the Medici, Botti-
celli, Ghirlandaio, Signorelli, Perugino
and Pintoricchio were summoned to
Rome, but not Leonardo. Lorenzo had
not entirely overlooked Leonardo, how-
ever; in 1478, during Ludovico Sforza's
visit to Florence, Lorenzo is said to have
recommended Leonardo to the duke as
the artist most capable of undertaking
the monument that Sforza was planning
to erect as a tribute to his father Fran-
cesco Sforza. It is possible that Leonardo
was in fact sent to Milan by the Medici as
an emissary with the gift of a lute, for it
seems that, when he left Florence,
Leonardo was accompanied by a re-
nowned sixteen-year-old lutenist, Ata-
lante Migliarotti.
It was essential that the Medici re-
mained on good terms with the court of
Ludovico, 'IlMoro' [the Moor - so called
because of his dark complexion and
equally dark character). The rightful
duke was in fact Gian Galeazzo Sforza,
who was only thirteen years old. II Moro,
Duke of Bari, was virtual ruler of Milan,
with serious designs on ruling all of Italy.
In Milan, II Moro was attempting to
create the strongest and finest court in
Europe. One of the great trade centers,
Milan was ideally situated on the plain of
Lombardy and the Artiglio canal.
Furthermore Ludovico was able to ex-
ploit Milan's proximity to its political
ally, France. At any time II Moro could
call upon the King of France to use his
forces against any Italian city that
threatened either Milan or Ludovico's
plans.
Unlike his master Verrocchio,
Leonardo enjoyed little direct Medici
patronage. Furthermore the Florentine
court could never offer the kind of
patronage enjoyed by artists, writers and
musicians at the courts of Milan, Mantua
or Ferrara. It seems that Leonardo had an
eye for opportunity; he wrote a letter of
introduction to Ludovico Sforza listing
his abilities and attainments and stating
that he had plans for portable bridges,

ramming devices, for cannon, catapults
and armored cars. Only at the end of his
letter did Leonardo assure II Moro that he
could also:
Execute sculpture in marble, bronze or clay
and also painting, in which my works will
stand comparison with that of anyone else,
whoever he may be.
Leonardo also added that he could
undertake the bronze equestrian statue
ofLudovico's father. We can assume that
Leonardo was well aware of the oppor-
tunities afforded by the court at Milan
but where exactly he gained all this tech-
nical knowledge and skill is uncertain, as
is the date of his letter. There are indeed
gaps in the chronology of his life between
1482 and 1487 and it has even been sug-
gested that he visited the Near East
where Kait Bey, the Sultan of Egypt, was
engaged in warfare. In his notebooks
there are letters to the Sultan and to the
Devatdor of Syria which suggest official
duties while in the employ of the Sultan
in Armenia. There are also some draw-
ings of rock formations near Mount Tau-
rus and a sketch map of Armenia, but it is
possible that these were taken from con-
temporary books.
The first definite proof we have of his
being in Milan comes from 1483. A
contract of 25 April, 1483, came not
from Ludovico Sforza but from a reli-
gious brotherhood. The contract, be-
tween Leonardo and the brothers Evan-
gelista and Giovanni Ambrogio da Predis,
was drawn up and signed by Prior Barto-
lomeo Scorlione, Giovanni Sant'Angelo
and the members of the Confraternity of
the Immaculate Conception. The com-
mission was for an altarpiece with an
elaborately carved frame for the brother-
hood's chapel in the church of San Fran-
cesco Grande in Milan. Leonardo and the
da Predis brothers were to supply not
only a central panel on the theme of 'Our
Lady with Her Son', but also the wing
panels, along with the painted and gilded
decorative framework.

39
LEFT: Madonna of the Rocks, c.1483, oil on wood,
transferred to canvas, 78% X 48 inches (199 x
122 cm), Musee de Louvre, Paris. This painting
formed the central panel in the altarpiece
commissioned in 1483 from Leonardo and the da
Predis brothers by the Confraternity of the
Immaculate Conception in Milan. It is possible
that the panel was sold privately when the
brotherhood refused to pay the painters a
further fee. In order to fulfil the terms of the
contract, it appears that Leonardo painted a
second version, now in the National Gallery in
London.
ABOVE: Detail of the angel's head from the
Madonna of the Rocks.
All did not go well with this commis-
sion and two versions exist of the
Madonna of the Rocks, one in the Louvre
in Paris, the other in the National Gallery
in London. The contract for the commis-
sioned named Leonardo as maestro over
the da Predis brothers and stated that the
fee was set at 800 Imperial Lire [200
ducats), the initial sum of 100 lire to be
paid on 1 May 1483, with the balance in
monthly instalments of 40 lire beginning
in July. The final payment was to be
made in January or February of 1485
when, on completion, the three brothers
would be entitled to a bonus to be deter-
mined by the Brotherhood. The contract
further stipulated that the altarpiece was
to be completed no later than the Feast of

the Immaculate Conception (8 Decem-
ber) 1485.
The subject of the central panel to be
painted by 'the Florentine' was to be of
the Virgin and Child with a group of
angels and two prophets. On each of the
wing panels there were to be four angels
singing or playing musical instruments.
These wing panels were entrusted to
Ambrogio, while Evangelista undertook
the gilding, coloring and retouching. The
wooden retable into which the entire
painting was to fit was contracted out and
was carved by Giacomo de Mairo. In the
end the decoration of the frame alone
was to use up the entire 800 lire fee and,
although they had completed the pro-
ject, Leonardo and Ambrogio had to

41
petition the Duke of Milan in 1493 or
1494 for an additional payment, since
technically they had only received the
initial payment of 100 lire between them.
This claim was dismissed, however, as
was their request that Leonardo's central
panel be sold, although it is possible that
the central panel was in fact sold and that
the second version of the central panel
was begun as a replacement in the 1490s.

In 1503 Ambrogio appealed again, this
time to the King of France, but by this
time Leonardo was no longer in Milan
and the case was once again deferred.
Then on 27 April 1506 the altarpiece was
judged to be unfinished — this must have
been the second version of the central
panel - and, despite his absence from
Milan, Leonardo was ordered to com-
plete the painting within two years. For

43
LEFT: Detail of the head of the Virgin from the
Louvre Madonna of the Rocks.
ABOVE: Head of a Young Woman, attributed to
Leonardo, 1480's?, drawing on board, lOVs x 8V4
[27 X 21 cm), National Gallery, Parma.
LEFT: Madonna of the Rocks, c.1506, oil on wood
panel, 74% X 47'/4 inches [189.5 X 120 cm-)
Courtesy of the Trustees of the National GaUery
London. This is believed to be the second, later
version of the central panel of the altarpiece '
made for the Confraternity of the Immaculate
Conception in Milan.
ABOVE: Detail of flowers from the London
Madonna of the Rocks. Begun in the 1490s this
painting was completed by Leonardo and '
possibly Ambrogio da Predis or some other
hand who may have been responsible for minor
details such as these flowers.
this work Leonardo was to receive 200
lire. Finally, on 18 August 1508, nearly 13
years late, the altarpiece was in place in
San Francesco Grande.
Whatever the reasons for the two ver-
sions of the Madonna of the Rocks, the
paintings are interesting in that neither
version illustrates a specific incident in
the Gospels and both are therefore open
to a variety of interpretations. It is pos-
sible that the paintings show an incident
popularized in the fifteenth century by
the theologian Pietro Cavaica, relating to
a meeting' between the infants St John
and Christ when the Holy Family were
fleeing to Egypt. Certain elements do
support this thesis: the angel could be the

Angel Uriel, who was reputed to be the
protector of the child-hermit St John.
There are also symbols that prefigure the
Baptism, such as the pool of water in the
foreground, and the Crucifixion, such as
the sharp leaves of the iris which may
allude to the 'swords of sorrow' which
pierced the Virgin's heart.
The Madonna is, however, more than
just an illustration of a story. In the
fifteenth century, the cult of the Virgin
was at its strongest and the doctrine of
her own Immaculate Conception - for
Christ to have been entirely immaculate,
the Virgin must herself have been born of
a virgin mother - was particularly popu-
lar. Not only are the symbols of the Vir-

45
BELOW: Bust of an Infant in Profile to the Left,
c.1506, red chalk, 4x4 inches [10 x 10 cm),
Windsor Castle, Royal Library 12519. (c) 1994
Her Majesty The Queen.


'ER.

gin apparent in the paintings, for
example the palm tree, but the Song of
Songs was also a popular source of Marian
iconography:
0 my dove, in the cleft of the rocks,
in the covert of the cliff,
let me see your face.
It has been suggested that in these lines of
verse lie the origins of the rocky land-
scape setting of the figures.
Furthermore, the Madonna of the
Rocks was the earliest expression of a
theory of painting that Leonardo was to
explain in some detail in his notebooks.
Briefly, Leonardo's thesis was that, in
shadow, the individual quality of colors is
lost; where an object is in shadow, it
should not be differentiated from other
objects of different colors. Only in bright
light is the true color of an object seen.
The result of this approach can be clearly
seen in the Madonna of the Rocks, where
it is tone rather than color that deter-

mines the three-dimensionality and relief
of the painting.
While Leonardo worked sporadically
on one or other version of the Madonna of
the Rocks throughout the 1480s and
1490s, he was also busy with other pro-
jects. From the early period in Milan,
around 1482 or 1483, date two paintings.
One is the unfinished Portrait of a
Musician, believed to represent Fran-
chino Gaffurio, court musician, com-
poser and music theorist at the Sforza
court, and the only extant portrait of a
male subject by Leonardo. The second
painting, Lady with an Ermine, is a por-
trait of Cecilia Gallerani, one of Ludov-
ico Sforza's mistresses. As well as being a
writer and poet herself, Cecilia was a
patron of the arts in her own right. She
was II Moro's mistress for some ten years
until her marriage in 1491. II Moro's
court poet Bernardo Bellincioni
described how, in Leonardo's portrait,
Cecilia appears not to speak but to be


listening. This accurately describes tl
attitude of the sitter as she turns to h
left to listen to an unseen speaker. Tr
gesture of turning, and more specifical
of turning to look over the shoulder,
one that Leonardo used increasingly •
enhance the dynamics and movement'
his paintings, and complements the swi
ling movements he used to depict form
beginning with the drawings for tl
Madonna and Child with Cat (page 1;
and culminating in the Deluge drawing
from c.1513 [page 100).
A third painting, known as La Bel
Feronniere, dating from c.1485, has ofte
been suggested as the work not <
Leonardo but of his pupil Giovani
Antonio Boltraffio [1467-1516). Furth<
complicating matters is the name La Bel
Feronniere; this was the nickname give
to a mistress ofHenri II of France, and tr
name seems to have been erroneous!
given to this painting. As well as the po:
trait of Cecilia Gallerani, howeve
Leonardo is known to have painted a poi
trait of another ofLudovico Sforza's mi;
tresses; Lucrezia Crivelli succeede
Cecilia in the 1490s and it is possible th
painting is of her likeness.

RIGHT: Detail of the Christ Child from the
London Madonna of the Rocks.
listening. This accurately describes the
attitude of the sitter as she turns to her
left to listen to an unseen speaker. This
gesture of turning, and more specifically
of turning to look over the shoulder, is
one that Leonardo used increasingly to
enhance the dynamics and movement of
his paintings, and complements the swir-
ling movements he used to depict forms,
beginning with the drawings for the
Madonna and Child with Cat (page 13)
and culminating in the Deluge drawings
fromc.1513 (page 100).
A third painting, known as La Belle
Feronniere, dating from c.1485, has often
been suggested as the work not of
Leonardo but of his pupil Giovanni
Antonio Boltraffio [1467-1516). Further
complicating matters is the name La Belle
Feronniere; this was the nickname given
to a mistress of Henri II of France, and the
name seems to have been erroneously
given to this painting. As well as the por-
trait of Cecilia Gallerani, however,
Leonardo is known to have painted a por-
trait of another ofLudovico Sforza's mis-
tresses; Lucrezia Crivelli succeeded
Cecilia in the 1490s and it is possible the
painting is of her likeness.

RIGHT: Detail of the Christ Child from the
London Madonna of the Rocks.
LEFT: Portrait of a Musician, c.1485, oil on wood
panel, 17 x IZ'A inches [43 x 31 cm),
Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Milan. Possibly a
portrait ofFranchino Gaffurio [1451-1522),
composer and musician to the Sforza court at
Milan, this painting is Leonardo's only surviving
secular representation of a male subject.
ABOVE: Lady with an Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani),
c.1485, oil on wood panel, 2W4 X '[5% inches
(54 x 39 cm), Czartoryski Museum, Krakow.
Cecilia was Ludovico Sforza's mistress for some
ten years until her marriage in 1491. The ermine
she holds functions both as a symbol of purity
and as a pun on her name; in Greek the ermine
is 'galay'.
49
These were not the only projects to
occupy Leonardo in the early part of his
stay in Milan. Around 1483 he began
work on a bronze equestrian statue of
Francesco Sforza, a project that would
occupy him for 16 years. During his
apprenticeship to Verrocchio, Leonardo
had assisted his master on the Colleone
monument in Venice and so the job of
designing, casting and erecting the
bronze horseman in Milan fell to the Flo-
rentine 'engineer'. As part of his cam-
paign to establish his claims as Duke of

Milan and to aggrandize the Sforza clan
in general, Ludovico planned the monu-
ment to celebrate his father Francesco,
who had been the first Sforza to rule the
city. In his introductory letter to Ludov-
ico, Leonardo had said that he could
undertake the work on the bronze, but
the first real indication we have of his
actually working on the project comes in
a letter of 1489 from the Florentine
ambassador to Lorenzo de' Medici, in
which he expressed his doubts about
Leonardo's capabilities and asked


lar interest in designs that multiplied a
single force; almost 10 years after he had
arrived in Milan he made a sketch depict-
ing a mounted warrior carrying not one
but three lances, two of which were
attached to the rider's saddle.
The most famous of Leonardo's 'war
machine' drawings is the Scythed Chariot,
Armored Vehicle and a Partisan from
c.1487. The scythed chariot was prob-
ably inspired by descriptions of antique
war machines, such as the one reputedly
driven by the Celtic leader Queen Boud-
icca. The drawing shows two views of the
armored tank. One, like a turtle rolled on
to its back, shows the arrangement inside
designed to carry eight men. The other
view, with its roof in place and guns pok-
ing out, is completed with a cloud of dust
which Leonardo claimed was useful for
breaking up enemy ranks.
~ •-•-""^ ^^/ ^A±^IHJ iciiiis.a.
Leonardo's designs for weapons can be
divided into three broad categories: cata-
pults (ballista) like the Giant Crossbow
on Wheels ofc.1485-88; cannon, like the
drawing of A Large Cannon being Raised
on to a Gun Carriage (Artillery Park)
[c.1485-88), the various water-borne
mortars and those with explosive, shrap-
nel-spreading projectiles; and muskets
(arquebus), the matchlock-firing
mechanisms for which are described in
drawings from 1495. The demand for in-
creased fire power led Leonardo to even
grander schemes, such as the design for a
treadmill-powered crossbow, a sort of
huge machine gun where the archer is
perched inside a big treadmill, which is
turned by the foot power of soldiers
placed on the outer rim of the wheel for
added leverage. These soldiers are hope-
fully protected from enemy fire by a
pivoted shield of wooden planks. For a
man who professed a hatred of war, guns
and artillery were to be a constant area of
study for Leonardo.
Little escaped Leonardo's observation,
no matter how mundane. In addition to
weapons of war he turned his hand to
devising labor-saving devices like the De-
57
BELOW: A Giant Crossbow on Wheels, c.1485-88,
pen, ink and wash, Ws x lOVs inches (20.2 x
27.25 cm), Bibilioteca Ambrosiana, Milan. This
huge ballista has some advanced design features,
including a laminated bow for extra flexibility
and a worm and gear mechanism for drawing
back the bow, which is shown in detail in the
right-hand corner. The two left-hand drawings
are designs for the release mechanism; the upper
drawing shows a spring device operated by a
hammer blow, while the lower one shows a lever
action device.
sign for a Napping Machine for producing
a constant level of nap on cloth, thereby
replacing tedious handwork with a
mechanized process. One of his earliest
designs was for a file or rasp marker, a
machine designed to strike the teeth of
the file evenly on the face of metal blanks.
Once started, the machine required no
human intervention apart from re-crank-
ing the weight to its start position. There
are also drawings in which Leonardo
studied the problem of translating rotary

motion into reciprocating or piston-like
action and vice versa; he designed a wind-
lass for lifting heavy loads. In this drawing
Leonardo shows us two views of the
device, one assembled, the other an ex-
ploded view of the mechanism. Another
drawing shows a machine for boring
holes; until the late seventeenth century,
when cast iron piping began to be used
for water mains, logs with holes bored
through their centers served this func-
tion. What is inventive about Leonardo's

58
machine is the set of adjustable chucks
which would ensure that the axis of the-
logs remained in the center of the machine,
whatever the diameter of the logs.
Although the most grandiose schemes
and designs never left Leonardo's note-
books, he did understand fully the impact
that such machines and technology
would have on society. He expressed
some of the resulting fears in his Prophe-
cies, riddles devised to be solved at court
parties. In the guise of clever word games,
RIGHT: A Large Cannon Being Raised on to a Gun
Carriage (Artillery Park), c.1485-88, pen and ink,
97/s x 7'/4 inches (25 x 18.3 cm), Windsor
Castle Royal Library 12647. © 1994 Her
Majesty The Queen. A fusion of fact and
imagination: teams of naked men struggle to
haul an enormous cannon barrel by means of
ropes, pulleys and winches. When this drawing
was made, Leonardo was also studying the
problems involved in casting his huge bronze
equestrian monument. Ironically, the bronze
earmarked for that project was eventually used
in gun barrels.
LEFT: Studies of Mortars, One Firing/Torn a Boat
and of Cannon, c.1485-88, pen and ink, 1P/8 x
SYs inches [28.2 x 20.5 cm), Windsor Castle
Royal Library 12652r. © 1994 Her Majesty The
Queen. These drawings support the claims that
Leonardo made in his letter of introduction to
Ludovico Sforza that he could make both
offensive and defensive weapons, for land or sea.
The cannon at the top was designed to hurl
small stones or to shoot salvos of 'Greek fire" —
incendiary shells. At the foot of the drawing, the
cannon is shown mounted on to a boat. At the
very top of the page are the words in Leonardo's
mirror handwriting: 'If ever the men of Milan
did anything which was beyond the
requirements or never' — words generally
interpreted as frustration with his Milanese
employers' unwillingness to put any of his ideas
into action.
Leonardo not only pointed out the prob-
lems of his own era but commented on
humanity in general, comments that re-
grettably hold true five hundred years
later:
Creatures will be seen upon the earth who
will always be fighting one another . . . there
will be no bounds to their malice, by their
fierce limbs a great number of trees of the im-
mense forest of the world shall be laid to the
ground.
The outbreak of plague in Milan in

1483 and again in 1486 may have inspired
Leonardo to draw up his plans for the re-
modeling of the city. His plans called for
a city built on two levels: the lower
streets were set aside for use by carts,
animals and the lower classes of citizens,
while the upper level was to be a prome-
nade with hanging gardens for the plea-
sure of the wealthy and noble. Archways
and unobstructed views of the sky pro-
vided light and ventilation to the lower
level, and every hundred meters or so a
staircase connected the two levels.
BELOW: Treadmill-powered Crossbow, c.1485-88,
Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan. The archer is
suspended out of range of enemy fire in the
middle of the huge treadmill, which is turned by
the footpower of soldiers on the outer rim, who
in turn are protected by the pivoted shield of
wooden planks.


Leonardo had also observed that the
Milanese were in the habit of leaving
their garbage in corners; to overcome
this, he planned his staircases as spiralsl
All of these schemes, including weapons,
machines, underground sewage systems,
running water supplies, a clean air pro-
ject for Milan for circulating fresh air by
windmills and many others, were dis-
missed by Ludovico Sforza. Furthermore
the Duke failed at times to pay Leonardo
the money due to him for other commis-
sions, but was content for Leonardo to
61
BELOW: The Firing Mechanism of a Gun,
c.1485-88, Codex Madrid I. f.l8v, Biblioteca
Nacional, Madrid. These drawings show
Leonardo's ideas for improving the matchlock-
firing mechanism of a gun. The mechanism
shown simultaneously opens the powder
chamber and sets fire to the touch hole.

AftPW

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design his pageants and courtly diver-
sions.
Ludovico did, however,have more im-
mediate concerns. When he sent his
niece Bianca off with a dowry of 400,000
ducats to marry the Emperor Maximilian
- money the Emperor badly needed -
Ludovico was buying Imperial protec-
tion. He had heard that his sister-in-law
Isabella d'Este in Mantua was urging her
grandfather the King of Naples to chal-
lenge Ludo vice's right to the dukedom of
Milan. In a counter-move, Ludovico con-
tacted the French king Charles VIII and
promised him support for his own claim
to Naples. Ludovico began to arm, and
the bronze that had been set aside for the
casting of the equestrian statue of his
father was now diverted to Ludo vice's
father-in-law Ercole d'Este in Ferrara,
62

where it was made into cannons. Things
were looking pretty bleak for II Moro:
few trusted him and he was already sus-
pected of plotting to kill his nephew Gian
Galeazzo, the rightful duke. While the
French king was grateful for the support
in claiming Naples, Ludovico did not
realize that his French ally also had his
eye on the throne of Milan. By October
1494, Gian Galeazzo was dead. Un-
daunted by the ensuing rumors of
murder, Ludovico proclaimed himself
Duke of Milan and continued with his
magnificent patronage of the arts. In
charge of court culture was Leonardo.
In 1491 Ludovico had sent Leonardo to
divert the River Ticino from its natural
course in order to irrigate the surround-
ing fields. There Leonardo met the noble-
man Giovanni Melzi. who had a villa at
Vaprio on the River Adda. Leonardo
soon became one of Melzi's household
and is believed to have completed The
Madonna of the Rocks (page 40) while
staying at Melzi's villa.
Ludovico, who took great care in pro-
moting cultural life, did not neglect his
own spiritual well-being. For some time
he had been asking Leonardo to paint a
Last Supper for the Dominican monas-
tery in Milan, Santa Maria delle Grazie,
which Ludovico had adopted as his
'court church'. The first notes on the de-
sign of the painting in Leonardo's manu-
scripts are dated between 1494 and 1495.
At Ludovico's instruction, the east end of
the church was reconstructed during the
1490s by Donate Bramante [1444-1514),
later to be the architect of St Peter's in
Rome. Using a plan similar to those
RIGHT: Resembling a modern lathe, this machine
was devised for drilling wooden water pipes,
which were widely used until the introduction of
lead and, later, cast iron piping. A set of
adjustable chucks ensures the drill bores
precisely through the center of the log, no
matter what its diameter. Biblioteca
Ambrosiana, Milan.
BELOW: Design for a Napping Machine, c.1497,
pen and ink, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan. The
tedious job of cutting the excess hair from the
surface of newly woven cloth with hand-held
shears could have been replaced altogether by
this machine. As well as saving both time and
labor costs, the machine would have produced a
constant level of nap.
BELOW Design for a Multi-leveled Town, c.1488,
pen and ink, Bibliotheque de 1'Institut de France,
Paris. The outbreak of plague in Milan in 1483
may have inspired Leonardo to draw up plans
for a remodeled city. His plan called for streets
on two levels, the lower ones for carts and lower
class citizens, the upper levels for hanging
gardens and promenades for the noble Milanese.
Every hundred meters or so a spiral staircase
would link the two levels, and archways would
provide light and ventilation to the lower streets.
RIGHT: Two Designs for a Domed Church with
Surrounding Cupolas, c. 1488-89, pen and ink, 9
X 6i/4 inches (23 X 16 cm), Bibliotheque de '
1'Institut de France, Paris. Centralized church
designs were particularly favored by Renaissanc
architects and theorists because of their classica
origins. This drawing dates from the period
when Leonardo was involved in the project for
the domed crossing for Milan Cathedral.

which Leonardo had worked out ii
1488-89 in his notebooks for centralri
planned churches, Bramante constructed
a massive centralized space based or
simple geometric forms. Ludovico in
tended the church as a family mausoleurr
and a dynastical memorial to the Sforzas
Piously, every Tuesday and Thursday
Ludovico dined in the refectory with the
abbot and it was for the end wall of this
room, facing the abbot's table, that he
commissioned the Last Supper. Leonardo
began working on the painting in 1496.
As the painting developed it created
astonishment; the poet Boccaccio's
brother, Matteo Bandello, who was re-
ceiving instruction at the monastery
where his uncle was a prior, wrote a
unique contemporary description of
Leonardo at work on the Last Supper in
1497:
Many a time I have seen Leonardo go early ir
the morning to work on the platform before
the Last Supper; and there he would stay frorr
sunrise to darkness, never laying down the
brush . . . Then three or four days would pas;
without his touching the work, yet each da)
he would spend several hours examining ii
and criticizing the figures to himself. I have
also seen him, as the caprice or fancy tool
him, set out at midday from the Corte Vec-
chia, where he was at work on the clay mode
of the colossal horse, and go straight to the
Grazie; on having mounted the scaffolding
take up his brush and add one or two more
touches to one of the figures and ther
abruptly part and go elsewhere.
This description offers us an insighi
into Leonardo's working method anc
how he could be distracted during
periods of contemplation, the Last Sup-
per was Leonardo's first wall painting
and, because of the large scale and the
nature of the wall surface, it was not prac-
ticable for him to work in oil paints
which would have allowed him to make
alterations as he went along. The buor
fresco method with which he would have

been familiar from his early years in
Florence, although the most obvious
choice for largescale wall paintings,
allowed no changes to be made and was
unsuitable from an artistic point of view.
Leonardo therefore developed his own
medium of tempera on stone. This re-
quired a strong base of gesso, pitch and
mastic to seal the wall against damp and
to provide an even ground for the paint.
Unfortunately this medium proved un-
stable and, as a result, the paint began to
detach from the ground within a few
years of completion.
years or completion.
By 1556, when Vasari visited the
monastery, the Last Supper had decayed
so extensively that he described the
painting as no more than a 'mass of
blobs'. Apart from the 'natural' decay,
further damage was to occur. The first
damage was caused when a doorway was
cut through the lower part of the table
cloth in 1652 and, although this was sub-
sequently filled in, the damage is still
clearly visible. Throughout the
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
restoration attempts were made. The first
of these was undertaken in 1726 by
Michelangelo Bellotti, who mistakenly
believed that Leonardo had worked in
oils and therefore retouched the areas
laid bare by paint loss and gave the
finished restoration a heavy coat of oil
varnish. Unfortunately, Bellotti did not
take account of the humidity, one of the
main problems that had caused much of
the original decay.
In 1770 a second painter, Giuseppi
Mazza, was called in by the monks. In
addition to scraping off Bellotti's re-
touching, Mazza seems to have repainted
more extensively than required. A third
scheme in 1821 by Stefano Barezzi
attempted to move the entire painting to
a more stable environment. Barezzi had
been very successful in detaching fres-
coes in one piece. These consist of two
substantial layers of plaster, the intonaco,
a rough base later applied to a wall on to
which a sketch of the painting would be
69
LEFT: Detail from the Last Supper showing, from
the left, Christ, St Thomas [with raised finger;
his peculiar chin is in fact the result of a failed
restoration work), St James the Greater and St
Philip.

made, and the arriccio, a much finer layer
applied over the intonaco in giomate, sec-
tions which corresponded to a day's
work. In buon fresco the arriccio plaster
would be painted on while still wet.
Because the two layers were different
textures, it was quite easy to separate one
layer from the other. Leonardo's tech-
nique on the Last Supper was quite dif-
ferent, however, and the unfortunate
Barezzi only discovered this after he had
managed to damage a sizeable portion of
the tablecloth and one of Christ's hands.
Over-zealous painter-restorers have
not been the only culprits; Milan's
strategic importance in European affairs
saw the city frequently involved in wars.
In 1796 Napoleon's troops entered the
city and, despite his personal orders to
the contrary, the refectory was used as a
barn, arsenal and billet for troops and
prisoners. The worst damage, however,
occurred quite recently, in August 1943,
when the roof and one of the supporting
walls of the refectory were completely
destroyed by a bomb. Fortunately a steel
framework filled with sandbags had been
erected beforehand to protect the paint-
ing. Modern science has yet to halt the
decay still being caused by humidity, but
until it decays completely, the Last Sup-
per can still be seen in the setting for
which it was intended.
The naintinp does spprn tn havp kppn
made, and the arriccio, a much finer layer
applied over the intonaco in giomate, sec-
tions which corresponded to a day's
work. In buon fresco the arriccio plaster
would be painted on while still wet.
Because the two layers were different
textures, it was quite easy to separate one
layer from the other. Leonardo's tech-
nique on the Last Supper was quite dif-
ferent, however, and the unfortunate
Barezzi only discovered this after he had
managed to damage a sizeable portion of
the tablecloth and one of Christ's hands.
Over-zealous painter-restorers have
not been the only culprits; Milan's
strategic importance in European affairs
saw the city frequently involved in wars.
In 1796 Napoleon's troops entered the
city and, despite his personal orders to
the contrary, the refectory was used as a
barn, arsenal and billet for troops and
prisoners. The worst damage, however,
occurred quite recently, in August 1943,
when the roof and one of the supporting
walls of the refectory were completely
destroyed by a bomb. Fortunately a steel
framework filled with sandbags had been
erected beforehand to protect the paint-
ing. Modern science has yet to halt the
decay still being caused by humidity, but
until it decays completely, the Last Sup-
per can still be seen in the setting for
which it was intended.
The painting does seem to have been
jinxed right from the start. In the New
Year of 1497, Beatrice d'Este, the preg-
nant wife of Ludovico Sforza, was cele-
brating by dancing and drinking. The
next day she miscarried and was dead.
For many superstitious Milanese, her
death and Leonardo's Last Supper were
linked. In the early stages of the develop-
ment of the painting scheme, the Last
Supper had accompanied a Crucifixion by
Montorfano, which included donor por-
traits of Ludovico, Beatrice and their two
children. This painting was subsequently
painted over and Beatrice's death was
seen as a portent of evil things to come for
the Sforzas and for Milan.
71
By the time Leonardo painted the
Cenacolo or Last Supper, it was already a
commonplace subject for wall paintings
in the refectories of monasteries. Tradi-
tionally it formed one of the many scenes
in fresco cycles of Christ's life, but by the
middle of the fifteenth century, the Last
Supper had become popular as an in-
dividual scene. Leonardo would have
seen many of these Cenacoli in his youth,
in particular Taddeo Gaddi's version of
1350 in the monastery of Santa Croce in
Florence and Andrea del Castagno's ver-
sion of 1450 in San Apollonia. Both of
these show the room in which the last
supper is taking place. In another
example, this time by Leonardo's fellow
student in Verrocchio's workshop,
Domenico Ghirlandaio, in the monastery
of Ognissanti in Florence, the room is re-
presented as though it were an extension
of the actual room on the wall of which
the painting had been made. It is this
approach that Leonardo also adopted in
his Last Supper.

The composition of the Last Supper is
less simple than it seems. The symmetri-
cal disposition of the disciples on either
side of Christ could have been boring.
The setting too is unreservedly symmet-
rical, with its three windows, the center
one framing Christ's head. Yet there is
little that is bland about the arrangement
of the disciples themselves. They are
arranged in two groups of three on either
side of Christ. In the first group to the left
are Bartholomew, James the Less and
Andrew. The next group comprises
Judas, Peter and John. To the right of
Christ are Thomas, with his finger raised,
James the Elder, with outstretched arms,
and Philip. The outside group comprises
Simon, Jude and Matthew, who sweeps
around them in disbelief. Because of the
compositional restraint, the viewer's
attention is concentrated on the reactions
of the disciples to the news that one of
them will betray Christ. In quiet calm
contrast, Christ gestures to the bread and

wine.

72
ABOVE AND RIGHT: The decorative scheme of
the ceiling and part of the lower walls of the Sala
delle Asse in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan.
This work was only re-discovered at the end of
the nineteenth century and has also been heavily
restored. Nevertheless, the interest in natural
forms and the intertwining of the foliage are
typically Leonardoesque features.
so many of his projects, Isabella's portrait
never materialized. All that remains is a
badly damaged drawing which may or
may not be by Leonardo. It is pricked for
transfer and shows Isabella's head in pro-
file, with her body turned toward the
viewer and her hands folded in front of
her, a formula familiar to us from
Leonardo's earlier female portraits.
By March 1500 Leonardo was on the
move again, this time to Venice. La Sere-
nissima then (as now) was in her glory.
The Venetian Republic was probably the
richest in all Italy, with an empire
stretching down the Dalmation coast and
including the island of Crete. The city's
own small population of around 200,000
was augmented by nearly two million
'colonial' subjects. During the fifteenth
century Venice had also produced some
of the most magnificent art and architec-
ture in Europe and had nursed ambitions
for greater land-based power. Had the
Church been less powerful and influen-
tial, Venice might have dominated much

of northern Italy. But above all else,
Venice was 'foreign'. Surrounded by the
impenetrable moat of the lagoon, which
was navigable only by those who knew
the safe routes through it, the Venetians
were by nature suspicious of outsiders. A
small army of private agents spied on
newcomers and laws forbade Venetians
to entertain foreigners in their homes.
Leonardo, as a Florentine and thus a
foreigner, would have found it very diffi-
cult indeed to find a patron in Venice to
match Ludovico Sforza. He would in-
stead have to earn his living, something
he was not very good at doing.
The Turkish threat to Venice was one
area that Leonardo appeared to try and
exploit. The Battle of Lepanto in August
1499 had broken Turkish sea power, but
Venice still feared an attack on the city by
land. A fragment of a draft letter to the
governing council of Venice details
Leonardo's travels through the area
under threat, the Isonza valley in Friuli,
to the north of Venice, and outlines his
scheme to flood the area as a defensive
measure. Other plans that he outlined in-
volved designs for mine ships, ramming
vessels and a submarine, all part of a
system for destroying the Turkish fleet.
Leonardo overlooked two things, how-
ever: firstly his schemes were costly, and
secondly Venice already had a fleet and
an arsenal which was a closed shop to
outsiders, jobs being passed from father
to son, and to the ideas of outsiders. The
Venetian council did not even officially
record Leonardo's visit to the city.
Nevertheless while he was there he
seems to have become friendly with a
number of people, including the printer
Aldous and Cardinal Grimani, whose
collection of Flemish paintings and
Greek marble of Leda Leonardo saw and
possibly sketched. He also met the
Comte de Ligny, who offered him a posi-
tion in France. This offer Leonardo
turned down — at least for the time being
— and one month after his arrival, he was
on his way back to Florence.

RIGHT: Isabella d'Este, 1500, black chalk
heightened with red chalk, 243/! X IS'/z inches
[63 x 46 cm), Cabinet des Dessins, Musee du
Louvre, Paris. Believed to have been made
during Leonardo's brief stay at Isabella's court at
Mantua in 1500, this drawing is pricked for
transfer but the final finished painted version was
never undertaken.
CHAPTER 3
Florence 1499

During Leonardo's 18-year absence, the
political and artistic climate of Florence
had changed considerably. The Medici
were no longer in power; following a few
unsuccessful attempts to govern the city-
state, Lorenzo de' Medici's son had
drowned in the river Garigliano during
military action. Medici rule had been re-
placed by a republic under the leadership
of their most hated enemy, the stern,
fanatical Dominican friar Girolamo
Savonarola, who supervised a puritan
regime in the bankrupt city. Even Botti-
celli became a supporter and destroyed
all his early works, while Pico delta
Mirandola abandoned Neoplatonism and
Boccaccio's books were burnt. Some of
Leonardo's old friends were still alive but
many of those who had made Florence
the artistic and philosophical center of
Europe were dead: Ficino, Poliziano,
Mirandola, the Pollaiuolo brothers,
Domenico Ghirlandaio and above all, his
old master Verrocchio.
It is possible that Leonardo was plan-
ning only an extended visit to Florence.
In December 1499 he had lodged a letter
of exchange for six hundred gold florins
with the monastery of Santa Maria
Novella in Florence. On his arrival in the
city he cashed fifty of the florins; the
transaction was dated 25 April 1500.
With the Medici court dispersed,
Leonardo had little chance of finding a
new patron or attracting many commis-
sions. Fortunately, Leonardo's father was
now the procurator of the Servite monas-
tery of the Annunciation, where the
monks had already commissioned Filip-
pino Lippi to complete two paintings for

the high altar of their church. While
Vasari tells us that Lippi happily gave up
the commission to Leonardo, it is more
likely that Ser Piero used his influence to
get the commission transferred to his son.

FACING PAGE: Detail of the head of the Virgin
from the Virgin and Child with St Anne and St
John the Baptist (page 84).
BELOW: A view of Florence by Leonardo's
biographer, Giorgio Vasari, depicting the seige
which led to the collapse of republican rule in
the city in 1530. The city center is dominated by
Brunelleschi's dome of the cathedral.

ABOVE: Study of Drapery for the Virgin in the
Virgin and Child with St Anne and a Lamb,
c.l 508, black chalk and black wash heightened
with white, 9 X 9% inches (23 x 24,5 cm),
Cabinet des Dessins, Musee du Louvre, Paris.

In September 1500 Le<
at work, but not on the
bella d'Este had written
Novellara, the Vicar-Gei
rentine Carmelites, in At
ABOVE: Study of Drapery for the Virgin in the
Virgin and Child with St Anne and a Lamb,
c.1508, black chalk and black wash heightened
with white, 9 x 9Ys inches (23 x 24.5 cm),
Cabinet des Dessins, Musee du Louvre, Paris.

LEFT: Virgin and Child with St Anne and a Lamb,
c.1508, oil on wood panel, 66Vs X 44 inches
[168 x 112 cm), Musee du Louvre, Paris.
In September 1500 Leonardo was hard
at work, but not on the altarpiece. Isa-
bella d'Este had written to Fra Pietro da
Novellara, the Vicar-General of the Flo-
rentine Carmelites, in April 1501 enquir-
ing about Leonardo's activities - no
doubt she wanted to know when she was
going to receive the finished portrait
based on the cartoon - and asking Fra Pie-
tro to persuade Leonardo to 'do a little
Madonna, devout and sweet as is his
wont.' Fra Pietro replied that as far as he
knew, all Leonardo had done since his re-
turn to Florence was a study for the Virgin
and Child with St Anne for the Servite
monastery. Evidently Leonardo was
spending much of his time studying
geometry.
There are several cartoons and studies
of the Virgin and Child with St Anne, at
Windsor Castle, in the Louvre, in the
Accademia in Venice and in the British

Museum. The unfinished oil painting in
the Louvre, Virgin and Child with StAnne
and a Lamb, is usually dated around
1508-1510 but there is disagreement
about Fra Pietro's description of the car-
toon that he saw. He described the
figures as turned to the left but it is
unclear whether he meant his left or the
sitter's left. He also described St Anne as
preventing her daughter from discourag-
ing the Christ Child as he grasps the
lamb. The lamb is the sacrificial animal
and the symbol of Christ's Passion, and St
Anne's action of restraint thus signifies
that the Church did not want to prevent
the Passion. Matters are further compli-
cated by the existence of a largescale car-
toon, the Virgin and Child with St Anne
and St John the Baptist in the National
Gallery, London, which Vasari described
and on which he said Leonardo was
working as the basis for the altarpiece in

81
BELOW: Study for the Virgin's Sleeve and Hand for
the Virgin and Child with St Anne and a Lamb,
c.l 508, black and red chalk, pen and ink, with
washes of black, 33/8 x 6"/i6 inches [8.6 x 17
cm), Windsor Castle, Royal Library 12532. ©
1994 Her Majesty The Queen.
Santa Annunziata. It is possible that the
cartoons are re-workings of a theme that
Leonardo was investigating, or that they
related to two 'Madonnas of different
sizes' which Leonardo referred to in his
manuscript of early 1508 and which he
claimed were intended for Louis XII,
who had expressed an interest in a paint-
ing-
Leonardo's unsettled life in the first
years of the sixteenth century makes it
very difficult to work out exactly what he
painted and in what order. One painting
that can be attributed to the first years or
so of his return to Florence, however, is
the Madonna of the Yamwinder. This
painting is known to us in the form of a
BELOW: Studies/or the Christ Child in the Virgin
and Child with St Anne and a Lamb, c.1505, red
chalk, 11 X 8% inches [28 X 22 cm), Galleria
dell' Accademia, Venice.
LEFT: Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John
the Baptist, c.1505, 54% x 39% inches (139 x
101 cm), charcoal on brown paper heightened
with white, National Gallery, London.
RIGHT: Study for the Virgin and Child with St
Anne, c.1500-1505, pen, ink and wash over black
chalk, WA x 7% inches (26 x 19.7 cm),
courtesy of the Trustees of the British Museum,
London.
BELOW: Details of the heads of Christ (left) and
St Anne (right) from the Virgin and Child with
St Anne and St John the Baptist.

number of copies, the best of which
Leonardo may well have had a hand in
painting. It also conforms to the descrip-
tion of a small painting mentioned in Fra
Pietro's letter to Isabella d'Este as having
been executed for Florimund Robertet,
Secretary of State to Louis XII of France.
Fra Pietro describes how the Virgin is in-
tent on spinning yarn but the child,
whose feet rest on a basket of flax, takes
hold of the yarnwinder and gazes intently
at the four spokes which form the shape
of a cross.
The records show that in July 1501
Leonardo signed a receipt for the rent of
his vineyard outside Milan, and that
Manfredo di Manfredi came to see him
LEFT: The Madonna of the Yamwinder, c.1501, oil
on wood panel, WA x 14V4 inches [46.4 x 36.2
cm), in the Collection of the Duke of Buccleuch
and Queensberry KT, Drumlanrig Castle,
Dumfriesshire. This painting is believed to have
been produced for Florimund Robertet,
Secretary of State to Louis XII of France. It
conforms to a description by Fra Pietro da
Novellarra in a letter to Isabella d'Este.

BELOW: Bird's Eye View of Part ofTuscany,
c.1502-03, pen, ink and watercolor, W/s X \y/s
inches [27.5 x 40.1 cm), Windsor Castle Royal
Library 12683. © 1944 Her Majesty The Queen.
This map is believed to have been made for
Leonardo's patron Cesare Borgia.
on Isabella d'Este's behalf. Despite her
request, Leonardo neither returned to
the court at Mantua, nor painted any-
thing for the Duchess. In the following
year, 1502, Leonardo was asked by Fran-
cesco Malatesta to appraise four jeweled
vases that had once belonged to the
Medici family and which were now being
offered for sale. At this time Leonardo
had found himself a new patron, Cesare
Borgia, who employed him as his archi-
tect and chief engineer.
Cesare Borgia, like Ludovico Sforza,
dreamed of ruling all Italy; his motto read
'Either Caesar or Nothing'. His father,
Pope Alexander VI, had made his son the
Marshal of the Papal Troops and
appointed him Duke of Romagna,
thereby ousting the legitimate rulers of
the area in the name of the Catholic
Church. Florence was subdued by its
powerful neighbor and a treaty named
Cesare as 'Condottiere' of the Florentine
Republic, a title that carried with it a
handsome annual income of 30,000 gold
ducats.
Borgia, with a mix of Arab and Castil-
lian blood in his veins [and suffering from
syphillis), had a reputation for intelli-
gence, a foul temper and odd behavior;

he went to bed in the morning, break-
fasted at four in the afternoon and walked
about all day wearing a mask. His driving
political ambitions also made him
capable of murder; in his personal retinue
Cesare maintained the services of a hired
assassin called Grifonetto. He dispatched
Paolo Orini and the Pope's favorite, Per-
rotta, and executed his own governor of
Romagna, Don Ramiro del Lorqua, offi-
cially for being an extortionist but
actually because he fell in love with
Cesare's sister Lucrezia [herself no angel)
who had just married. Later Cesare was
to murder his brother-in-law as well.

87
BELOW: Plan oflmola, c.1502, pen, ink and
watercolor, 17V3 x 23% inches [44 x 60.2 cm),
Windsor Castle Royal Library 12284. © 1994
Her Majesty The Queen. Using a horizontally
mounted and graduated surveying disc — possibly
an astrolabe - Leonardo was able to record the
radial angles of important features of the city
when viewed from a high central vantage point.
Faintly visible in places are the 64 equally spaced
radiating lines, eight of which are drawn in bold
and labeled according to the 'wind rose' - north,
north-east, east and so on. In the map, every
detail is color co-ordinated; the houses are pink,
public squares are yellow and the streets are
white.
Busy creating his kingdom — the
duchies of Faenza, Imola, Rimini, Pesaro
and Urbino had already surrendered to
him — Cesare was set to invade Umbria.
Leonardo accompanied him on his mili-
tary campaigns, producing maps and sur-
veys. Cesare's charge d'affaires, whose
task as political observer was to report on
the general situation, was Niccolo Mac-
chiavelli, the first writer to develop a
theory and program of political realism.
His book The Prince, the main character
of which was based on his employer, was

a sort of handbook on how to be success-
ful in politics.
In the summer of 1502 Leonardo
accompanied Cesare on his conquering
mission through Emilia and the Marches,
operating as the chief inspector of mili-
tary buildings. Manuscript L in the
Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris is
Leonardo's diary of the journey and in it
he records the stops in the region be-
tween Imola, Cesena, Rimini, Urbino
and Pesaro. Apart from some sketches for
the docks at Porto Cesenatico, we do not

88
have any further insight into Leonardo's
official activities. He did, however, draw
up the area of Borgia's military opera-
tions; part of a map of Tuscany and
Romagna was made for Cesare, as was
the magnificent circular Plan of Imola
dated around 1502, an immensely accu-
rate and beautiful plan in which every
detail is pinpointed and color-coded. The
houses are in pink, public squares in
yellow, the streets in white. The castle is
at the lower left and is surrounded by the
blue moat. The notes at either side of the
RIGHT: View of Chiana andArezzo, c.1500, black
chalk, Windsor Castle Royal Library 12682. ©
1994 Her Majesty The Queen. This map,
possibly made for Cesare Borgia, appears to have
been drawn from the air. In fact it was created
using an imaginary perspective, combined with
earlier views and studies that Leonardo had
made of the region.
plan, written very neatly but nevertheless
in Leonardo's famous 'mirror handwrit-
ing' [from left to right with the letter
forms reversed) refer to the geography,
distance and bearings of Bologna and
other cities of strategic importance or in-
terest to Borgia.
From remarks he made in Manuscript
L, we also learn that Leonardo visited the
area of Piombino, part of Borgia's domi-
nion at the northern end of the Tyrrhe-
nian Sea. Iron ore from the island of Elba
was unloaded in Piombino's fortified
harbor, but the port was more important
politically since the city occupied the
central point between the bordering
territories of the Papal States in the
south, Lombardy and Genoa to the
north, and Florence to the east. Following
a long seige in 1501 Borgia succeeded in
wresting Piombino from its ruler Jacopo
IVAppiani. In 1502 Leonardo also made
the map showing Arezzo and the valley
of the Chiana, using an imaginary per-
spective that gives the illusion of an aerial
view. But by the spring of 1503 Leonardo
had given up his position with Borgia and
returned to Florence. Pope Alexander VI
had died and Cesare, back in Rome after
an officers' rebellion against him, also fell
ill - some say from poison - but he rallied
after being immersed in the steaming en-
trails of a mule. According to Macchia-
velli, it was only because of his father's
death and his own ill-health that Cesare
was prevented from extending his rule
throughout Italy. Ironically, had Cesare
decided to launch a campaign against
Tuscany, Florence might well have fallen,
precisely because of Leonardo's map-
making skills and the strategic engineering
plans he had made for the Duke.
In Florence, Savonarola had been ex-
communicated and subsequently tried
and burnt at the stake, but the system of
government he had introduced, consist-
ing of a chamber of 3000 enfranchized
citizens, was to continue until 1512. This
large council, the Signoria, needed a suit-
ably large and magnificent meeting hall.
In 1495 Antonio da Sangallo the Elder
had designed a vast hall 178 feet long, 77
feet wide and 60 feet high. Having ousted
the Medici, the new ruling Council
needed to demonstrate its legitimacy
and, hopefully, its expected longevity;
the council hall became the vehicle for a
decorative scheme demonstrating the
virtues and achievements of republican
power.
Filippino Lippi was commissioned to
produce an altarpiece, depicting St Anne

accompanied by numerous saints who all
had particular associations with Florence.
Some time in the fall of 1503, Leonardo
was commissioned to execute a larger
wall painting depicting a scene from the
Battle of Anghiari, while the young
Michelangelo was asked to produce an
accompanying scene of the Battle ofCas-
cina. Both battles were famous Floren-
tine victories; Michelangelo's subject
showed an episode in the war against Pisa
when bathing Florentine soldiers were
ambushed and rushed for the weapons
they had left on the river bank, while
Leonardo's was the 1440 triumph over
Milanese mercenaries.
Like so many of Leonardo's paintings,
The Battle of Anghiari was never com-
pleted and what he did complete had
been lost by around 1560. Although no
original contract for the commission sur-
vives, we know that on 24 October 1503,
Leonardo was given the keys to a large
room in Santa Maria Novella in which to
produce a full-size cartoon for the paint-
ing. By the time the contract was signed,
around May 1504, he had been supplied
with paper, other drawing materials, and
scaffolding. Records show that the
contract was witnessed by Macchiavelli,
who, clearly aware of Leonardo's reputa-

89
RIGHT: Copy of the fight for the standard from
the center of the Battle of Anghiari, c.1550, oil on
wood panel, 6 x 8% inches [15.1 x 21.3 cm),
Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. One of the copies'of
Leonardo's painting, which was lost by 1560
when Giorgio Vasari frescoed the Sala del
Consiglio.

BELOW: Studies/or the Central and Left Groups of
the Battle ofAnghiari, c.1503-04, pen and ink,
y/4 X 6 inches [14.5 X 15.2 cm), Galleria dell'
Accademia, Venice.


B?

-*S».a- »i.


tion for not working to deadlines, stip-
ulated that the cartoon must be complete
by February 1505 or, failing that,
Leonardo should have started painting
the part of the cartoon that had been
finished. If the latter was the case, the
deadline would be extended.
on

Throughout 1504 and on past the
deadline of February 1505, Leonardo
continued to receive supplies for making
whitewash, flour for sticking the cartoon
to the wall, wall plaster, Greek pitch, lin-
seed oil and Venetian sponges. These
materials suggest that he intended to
paint the pitch over the smoother plaster
base as a ground for oil-based paint.
Much to the chagrin of the mayor of
Florence, Piero Soderini, however, work
on the Battle ofAnghiari was abandoned
in May 1506. Boards were erected to pro-
tect the painting in 1513, and several

copies were made of it before it finally
disappeared under Vasari's frescoes in
1560. It is only from these copies and
some preparatory drawings that we know
something about this lost work.
Leonardo's work on the Battle of
Anghiari was no doubt interrupted by
other pressing needs. In 1503 the Repub-
lic of Florence had once again embarked
on a new campaign against its old enemy
Pisa and between 24 and 26 July 1503
Leonardo was in the Florentine camp,
where plans were being laid to divert the
river Arno and cut off Pisa's access to the

sea, thus starving the city into submis-
sion. One of the chief promoters of this
scheme was the Florentine war minister,
Macchiavelli. Leonardo must have had
some knowledge of this plan, but
whether he was actually involved in its
implementation remains in doubt. In

July 1503, at the order of the Council,
Leonardo set off to inspect the trench-
digging on the project. For well over a
year the Arno plan was in action but the
cost of manpower — which had been
underestimated at 2000 men completing
the work in 20 days - and the technical
problems of securing the canal walls
against collapse led to the scheme being
abandoned in October 1504.
Leonardo himself had for many years
had a strong interest in diverting the
Arno, not for military purposes, but to
make the river navigable between
Florence and Pisa and thereby increase
the volume of trade in Tuscany. He drew
up maps showing the course of the river
and schemes for its canalization on
several occasions. Aware of the man-
power required to effect such a scheme,
Leonardo also designed a huge treadmill-
powered digging machine.
When the plan to cut Pisa off from the
sea collapsed (along with much of the
canal itself), military activities were tem-
porarily halted. The Signoria recalled its
troops and instead planned to isolate Pisa

through political channels. In 1504 Mac-
chiavelli went to Piombino to treat with
Jacopo IV Appiani, who had returned to
power in the city after Borgia's fall. Mac-
chiavelli had to win back Jacopo's trust
and confidence in Florence - in 1499
Jacopo had been passed over in favor of
Borgia for the position of Condottiere -
in order to win his neutrality regarding
Florence's hostilities with Pisa and Siena.
Neutrality toward Pisa was easy; Jacopo
still bore a grudge against the city for
having ousted his family four generations
earlier. In order to woo him into neutral-
ity toward Siena, Leonardo was sent to
Piombino in the fall of 1504 to advise
Jacopo on fortifications for the city - a
scheme Leonardo had originally devised
for Cesare Borgial
This information is of relatively recent
origin, made available by the 're-dis-
covery' of the Madrid Codices. These
had been erroneously catalogued and
then recorded as missing, but were found
in 1965 on the shelves of the national
Library in Madrid. In the Madrid Codex
II, Leonardo drew up plans for the recon-
struction of the harbor with a breakwater
similar to ones devised by Francesco di
Giorgio in his Treatise of Architecture,
Engineering and Military Art, a copy of
which Leonardo owned. From Giorgio,
Leonardo also 'borrowed' schemes for
citadels with rounded towers and thick
inclined walls, well suited to deflecting

92
mortar bombardments. In his sketches of
fortresses, Leonardo also drew in cannons
on top of the walls; he was one of the first
military architects to do so. Many of his
sketches also show cannons in towers and
diagrams which plot the line of fire.
Although it is not known whether any
actual construction was carried out at
Piombino, the tower of the main gate of
the city is still known today as
'Leonardo's Tower'.
Despite his efforts, Leonardo found
himself out of favor with the Florentines:
he had failed to complete The Battle of
Anghiari; and the plan for diverting the
Arno had drained the treasury and some
of the collapsed canal had flooded, caus-
ing a swampland and resulting in an out-
break of malaria which claimed the lives
of many Florentines. In addition
Leonardo had led a somewhat 'aristo-
cratic' lifestyle in a very puritan city, and
to cap it all his father died in 1504 and he
became entangled in a lawsuit with his
step-brothers over shares in the family
property. Leonardo stood accused of
betraying Florence by his earlier associa-
tion with Borgia and of practicing magic,
an accusation no doubt fueled by further
allegations of homosexuality. At this
time, only Isabella d'Este continued to
offer her support but, for reasons known
only to Leonardo, he chose to avoid her.
When Isabella visited Florence,
Leonardo went into hiding in Fiesole1
BELOW: Head of a Man Shouting, c.1505, red
chalk, 9 X 7'/3 inches (22.7 x 18.6 cm),
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. This drawing is
a preparatory study for the unfinished, and now
lost, painting of the Battle ofAnghiari.
CHAPTER 4
Rome and Fn

In the spring of 1506, at the request of
Charles d'Amboise, Lord of Clairmont-
sur-Loire, and Governor of Milan in the
name of Charles XII, Leonardo was back
in that city. He had been granted three
months leave by the Signoria, but he re-
turned to Florence only in the fall of 1507
to end the legal battle with his family and
to settle with the friars of San Francesco
over the disputed commission for the
Madonna of the Rocks. Once all litigation
was complete, he returned to the French
court at Milan, where he stayed until
1512. Joining him in Milan as his pupils
were Francesco Meizi (the son of his old
friend from Vaprio), Giovanni Boltraffio
and Gian Giacomo Caprotti do Ornone,
nick-named 'Salai' or 'little devil'. Salai
had been part of Leonardo's 'household'
since 1491 and was employed as a house-
hold servant and occasional model.
Beautiful [according to Vasari), obsti-
nate, greedy, a liar and a thief, Salai was
also a talented artist and a faithful com-
panion to Leonardo, staying with his
master until he died. In Milan Salai was
known as the painter Andrea Salaino.
On 27 May 1507 Louis XII made his
official entry into Milan, and once again it
fell to Leonardo to devise the official

celebrations. According to Vasari he de-
signed a vast lion 'which came forward
several paces and then opened its breast
which was full of lilies.'

FAR LEFT: The Proportions of the Human Head,
silverpoint on blue prepared paper, 8^/4 X 6
inches [21.3 x 15.3 cm), Windsor Castle Royal
Library 12601. © 1994 Her Majesty The Queen.
In his measured drawings Leonardo was
attempting to divine the fundamental rules of
proportion in nature, and as such these drawings
are often much closer to his mathematical
studies than to his anatomical drawings.
BELOW: Detail of the hands of the Mona Lisa.
For some years Leonardo had also been
working on what was to become the most
famous portrait in the history of painting,
the Mono. Lisa. Mona or Madonna Lisa
Gheraditi was identified by Vasari as the
model. She came from a noble Neapol-
itan family and in 1495, aged about 17 or
18, she married a Florentine silk mer-
chant, Francesco di Bartolomeo di
Zanobi del Giacondo (hence the paint-
ing's other title La Giacondd). Francesco
was about 20 years older than Lisa. She
was his second wife, his first, Camilla
Rucellai (whose family were also traders
in silk) having died in childbirth.
It is very likely that Vasari's identifica-
tion was based on a misinterpretation, as
Anonimo Gaddiano recorded that
Leonardo painted Francesco del Gia-
condo and not his wife. Other inconclu-
sive evidence in documents of various
dates has linked the woman in the paint-
ing with both Isabella d'Este (which
seems unlikely given Leonardo's efforts
to avoid her) and the Duchess of Bur-
gundy, the wife of Louis XII. Since Louis
was in effect Leonardo's patron, this the-
sis is not unreasonable. Whoever the por-
trait represents, Leonardo spent around
four years on it. He took the portrait with

him to Milan and it is unlikely that any
money passed between him and Gia-
condo, which suggests that the Mono.
Lisa may not have been a commission at
all, but a single painting in which
Leonardo worked out all that he had
been trying to achieve in his portraits of
women, including those of angels, saints
and Madonnas.
The presentation and setting of the
figure in the Mono. Lisa is highly original
and, although the panel has been
trimmed at the sides, we can see enough
of the balustrade to recognize that the
figure is seated on a balcony with a land-
scape vista behind her. Such an image
was almost totally unprecedented in Flo-
rentine portraiture. Even Leonardo's
previous female portraits, such as those
of Cecilia Gallerani and Ginevra de'
Benci, had no such background, or just a
glimpse, as through a small window, of
such a scene. In the Mona Lisa the back-
ground is no longer merely a decorative
backdrop. The treatment of the figure
and the landscape are a reflexion of
Leonardo's twin areas of study in the
early years of the sixteenth century, the
anatomy of the human body, and the
movement and development of land-

96
scapes through geological and meteor-
ological changes. The twisting flow of
drapery and head veil echoes the action
of the flowing water, while the spiralling
curls of her hair are reflected in the pat-
tern of the waterfall. But the reason for
the Mono. Lisa's fame rests less on this
novelty than on the famous 'Giaconda
Smile'. The key to the painting's success
is the very ambiguity of her expression,
and the question of whether or not Mona
Lisa is smiling. Whatever our interpre-
tation, we remain transfixed by her gaze.
At this time Leonardo was working on
some of the finest botanical drawings
ever produced. The majority of the ex-
tant studies are related to the years 1508
and after, when Leonardo seems to have
been working on the Mono. Lisa and on
variations on the theme of Leda and the
Swan, depicting a standing Leda and a
kneeling Leda. The story of Leda tells
how Jupiter, disguised as a swan,
fathered four children: Castor, Pollux,
Clytemnestra and Helen, who were all
hatched from eggs. The painting of Leda
is known only from drawings and from
sixteenth-century copies of the work.
The earliest studies for the painting date
from around 1504 [the same time that
Leonardo was working on the Battle of
Anghiari). These, and subsequent studies
up to around 1506, developed the theme
of Leda kneeling with one arm around
the swan. The kneeling Leda had classical
precedents in a type of kneeling Venus.
Some time around 1507-8 Leonardo
transformed Leda into a standing figure
and we can assume that this pose became
the basis for the painting, since the best
copies of the work use this format.
The Rotterdam Leda includes a draw-
ing of the plant Sparganum erectum,
which is also seen in the study Flowering
Rushes. In the Chatsworth Leda, a highly
finished drawing of the kneeling Leda,
Leonardo included both this elegant
marsh plant and a spiraling plant, Omith-
ogalum umbrellatum, at Leda's feet. The
study of this plant, the Star of Bethlehem,
ABOVE: A Star of Bethlehem and Other Plants
c.l 505-08, red chalk, pen and ink, 73/4 x 6 '
inches (19.8 X 16 cm], Windsor Castle Royal
Library 12424. © 1994 Her Majesty The Queen
Possibly Leonardo's most famous botanical
study, this is a highly finished drawing of the
same plant that appears at Leda's feet in the
Chatsworth Leda [page 95) and to the bottom
right in the Pembroke Leda (left).
99


in red chalk, pen and ink, is probably
Leonardo's best known botanical draw-
ing, as well as being the most spectacular;
there are in fact three different species of
plant depicted on this page. It has been
suggested by botanists that in its leaf for-
mation the 'star of Bethlehem' does not
have such a pronounced spiral arrange-
ment. Its appearance was most likely due
to Leonardo's method of observation and
analysis, which, as in some of his anatom-
ical studies, tended to result in an empha-
sis on the underlying structure of things
and the patterns that these structures
produced. Nevertheless, while he was
aware of the iconography of plants and
flowers in paintings, Leonardo also en-
sured that any plant life appeared in its
proper 'ecological' setting; while the
plants and flowers carry symbolic mean-
ing, they are also true to nature.
The spiraling form that is evident in
the ringlets of the Mono. Lisa and in the
drawing of the Star of Bethlehem, and the
energies embodied in such spirals, were
an area of interest to which Leonardo
often returned. We can see them in his
studies of water, in cloud formations, in
the Deluge drawings, and in the braided
hair of the Leda herself. The sheer num-

ber of drawings of landscapes and plants
testifies to the passionate interest with
which Leonardo observed nature. In
addition to recording the slight variations
within families of trees, Leonardo laid
the basis for a theory of landscape in his
Treatise on Painting. For Leonardo a land-
scape, as a work of art, had to be not
merely decorative but also to correspond
to something actual and true. His manu-
scripts reveal his interest in the changing
appearance of trees under different light-
ing conditions, as well as in their growth
patterns, and he excelled, in both his
paintings and drawings, in modeling
forms by gradations of light and dark.
Some of the botanical studies are also
related to architectural forms, such as
arches and vaults. The grass Coix
Lachryma-Jobi was a relatively new plant
to Europe when Leonardo made his
study of it, A Long-stemmed Plant, and we
can see a similar shape in his studies for
churches and in the triburio for Milan
Cathedral. At the same time this study of
grass also explores the theme of repro-
duction that can be seen in other draw-
ings of seeding, flowering and fruiting
plants. Some of the drawings which at
first sight appear to be purely botanical

100
ABOVE: Deluge, c.1513, black chalk, 6Vi x 8'/4
inches (16.3 X 21 cm), Windsor Castle Royal
Library 12378. © 1994 Her Majesty The Queen.
The spiralling forms evident in Leonardo's
studies of braided hair and plant forms appear
again in his cloud and water formations.

RIGHT: Studies of Water Formations, c.1507-09,
pen and ink, IP/z x 8 inches [29 x 20.2 cm),
Windsor Castle Royal Library 12660v. •© 1994
Her Majesty The Queen.
RIGHT: Drawings of the Heart, c.1513, pen and
ink on blue paper, Windsor Castle Royal Library
19074r. © 1994 Her Majesty The Queen. The
circulatory system was described in detail by
Leonardo in over 50 drawings of the heart. Early
drawings show it with two ventricals while later
studies, no doubt informed by his dissections,
show the four chambers of the heart in minute
detail, but Leonardo did not fully understand the
connection between the circulation of the blood
and the pumping action of the heart itself.

studies are in fact related to motifs that
appear in paintings. Oak Leaves with
Acorns and Dyer's Greenwood, comes
from a group of studies in the Royal Col-
lection at Windsor related to the lost
Leda painting. The oak also appears as a
motif in the lunette garlands of The Last
Supper and in St John-Bacchus.
The large number of different studies
of plants gives credence to the belief that
Leonardo was planning a book on the
subject. Had he produced one, it would
have been the first of its kind, since the
notes that accompany the drawings make
no mention of any medicinal properties
the plants have. Instead of producing a
traditional 'herbal', he was studying and
drawing plants in the manner of a true
botanist, revealing the qualities of each
plant for no other purpose than that of
understanding its structure, growth,
flowering and reproductive patterns.
Both Leda and the Mona Lisa repre-
sent ideas that Leonardo had formulated
earlier in Florence. While there he was
deeply involved in anatomical and geo-
logical studies, which were then worked
on over a number of years up to and even
perhaps after 1516, when he left Italy for
France. The first date in Leonardo's note-
books on the subject of anatomy comes
from April 1489; presumably he was
undertaking illegal dissections, a practice
strictly forbidden by papal decree. It is
possible that rumors of this secret work
were spread abroad in Florence, leading
to the accusations of his being a heretic
and of 'making magic'.
The majority of Leonardo's anatomical
ana or maKmg magic .
The majority of Leonardo's anatomical
drawings, including the famous studies of
the heart and of embryoes, were in fact
carried out during the second period in
Milan, between 1506 and 1513. These
studies gained impetus from a particular
dissection that had taken place in
Florence in the winter of 1507-8, carried
out on the body of an old man, the 'cente-
narian'. Leonardo believed that the old
man's death was brought about by the
failure of the blood to maintain a supply
102
RIGHT: Study of the Vulva, c.1513, pen and ink,
Windsor Castle Royal Library 190995. © 1994.
Majesty The Queen.
FAR RIGHT: Dissection of the Principal Organs of a
Woman, c.1510, pen, ink and wash over black
chalk, 18'/2 x 13 inches [47 x 32.8 cm),
Windsor Castle Royal Library 12281r. © 1994
Her Majesty The Queen. In the accompanying
notes to this drawing, Leonardo wrote of a
planned series of works, beginning with a study
of the formation of the child in the womb, and
followed by a discussion of digestion,
reproduction and the blood vessels, as well as the
cycles of life and death within the human body.

of life-giving humors to the parts of the
body. In an analogy with the earth and
the landscape, Leonardo saw the old
man's channels as silted up and no longer
able to irrigate the body. The 'irrigation'
system of the human body was examined
by Leonardo in his Dissection of the Princi-
pal Organs of a Woman, dating from
c.l 507, in which some forms appear in sec-
tion, some are transparent, while others are
shown three-dimensionally. Some organs,
including the liver, spleen, kidneys and
bronchial tubes, demonstrate the know-
ledge Leonardo had gained from dissec-
tions, while others, such as the heart and
womb, are conceptualized.
From a note accompanying a drawing
of a foot and lower leg, it appears that
Leonardo was hoping to complete all his
studies of human anatomy in the winter
of 1510. He was convinced that his true
task as an investigator was to explain each
detail of the human body on the basis of
its function. Thus the bones and muscles
were conceived as perfect mechanical de-
signs: small and economical, yet capable
of many complex movements.
In the last decade of his life, particu-
or many complex movements.
In the last decade of his life, particu-
larly when he was in Rome in 1513,
where he was given a dispensation allow-
ing him to continue his studies in ana-
tomy using cadavers [possibly because
the papal authorities were convinced
that he was searching for the 'seat of the
soul'), Leonardo concentrated his studies
on two fundamental areas: the heart and
the embryo. He was the first to draw the
uterine artery and the vascular system of
the cervix and vagina, as well as the
single-chambered uterus at a time when
it was generally believed to be made up of
several compartments. This was the ex-
planation given for the mysteries of twin
births and litters. Furthermore, Leonardo
was the first to describe the fetus in utero,
correctly tethered by the umbilical cord.
The circulatory system was described in
detail, often lavishly, in over 50 drawings
of the heart. For Leonardo the circulation
of blood in the heart, the flow of sap in

plants and of waters in the earth were all
analogous processes. Leonardo planned
an unrealized treatise on anatomy like his
Treatise on Painting; although he
observed the human body with an anato-
mist's eye, he was neither surgeon nor
physician but a painter. For Leonardo,
the knowledge of anatomy was not in
itself enough; the artist had to penetrate
deeper in order to express the human
spirit. The body for Leonardo was the
physical expression of the spirit; as a
painter he could only give expression to
this spirit by understanding and 'recon-
structing' the body.
One project that occupied Leonardo
for a much shorter period of time was for
the Trivulzio Monument. In 1504 the
Milanese condottiere Giovanni Giacomo
Trivulzio had assigned 4000 ducats to
pay for a monumental tomb to be erected
in his honor in the church of San
Navarro. This commission seems to have

104
offered Leonardo some compensation for
the destruction of his masterpiece-never-
to-be, the equestrian statue of Francesco
Sforza. He toyed with the idea of a rear-
ing horse, but the scheme he seems to
have settled on was for a walking horse
mounted on a canopy, over an effigy of
Trivulzio on a coffin. Once again, how-
ever, the Trivulzio Monument was never
completed; Trivulzio was not on good
terms with Charles d'Amboise, the
Governor of Milan, and was forced to flee
to Naples. After Charles's death in 1511,
Trivulzio returned to Milan and
Leonardo's drawing of that date suggests
that he hoped that the project might be
resumed, but presumably the funds Tri-
vulzio had set aside for were put to some
other use. Most likely they were swal-
lowed up in Milan's preparations against
hostilities on its eastern borders.
When Pope Alexander VI had died in
1503, he had been succeeded [after the
RIGHT: Study for the Trivuhio Monument, c.1511,
pen, ink and red chalk, SVi X GYs inches (21.7 X
16.9 cm), Windsor Castle Royal Library 12356r.
© 1994 Her Majesty The Queen.
FAR RIGHT: St John the Baptist, c.1509, oil on
wood panel, 27Vs x 22'/2 inches [69 x 57 cm),
Musee du Louvre, Paris.

brief papacy of Pius II) by Julius II, and
Cesare Borgia had found himself cut off
from the papal treasury and opposed to
Julius, who was a longtime enemy of the
Borgias. As Cesare's Romagna dukedom
fell apart, Venice was on hand to pick up
the spoils. But since the land now
claimed by Venice technically belonged
to Rome, Julius, in preparation for war on
Venice, entered into an alliance with the
Emperor Maximilian and Louis XII of
France. As pressure on Venice mounted,
she ceded some of the lands formerly
held by the Borgias but refused to give up
others. Despite backing by Swiss and
Romagna mercenaries, Venice was
swiftly relieved of Trieste, Gorizia, Por-
denone, Fiume and further territories in
Hungary. At this point Julius and Maxi-
milian successfully fostered anti-Vene-
tian sentiments in Europe, and the result
was the League of Cambrai, December
1508, which allied all major western
powers against Venice.
In a sudden reversal of policy, however,
in which Louis XII was now seen as the
great enemy, Pope Julius resolved to rid
Italy of the French through a coalition, the
Holy League of 1511, which allied the Pope
with Venice and Spain, with additional re-
sources supplied by the English and Swiss.
In 1512 Massimiliano Sforza, son ofLudov-
ico 11 Moro, entered Milan with the Pope,
the Emperor and the Venetians and finally
expelled the French.
way me League or (^amoral, Uecember
1508, which allied all major western
powers against Venice.
In a sudden reversal of policy, however,
in which Louis XII was now seen as the
great enemy, Pope Julius resolved to rid
Italy of the French through a coalition, the
Holy League of 1511, which allied the Pope
with Venice and Spain, with additional re-
sources supplied by the English and Swiss.
In 1512 Massimiliano Sforza, son ofLudov-
ico II Moro, entered Milan with the Pope,
the Emperor and the Venetians and finally
expelled the French.
Leonardo was in a tricky position: he
would not be very popular with Massimi-
liano, since he had fled Milan and Ludov-
ico at the first sign of trouble. Fortunately
for him, a bloodless revolution in
Florence had returned Lorenzo II de'
Medici as head of state, and the following
year Giovanni de' Medici was hailed as
Pope Leo X and his brother Giulano be-
came Prince of Florence. On 24 Septem-
ber 1513 Leonardo and his companions
Salai and Francesco Meizi were on their
way to Rome.
Once in the Eternal City, Leonardo
was lodged in the Belvedere, the summer

palace at the top of the Vatican hill. Also
in Rome were Bramante, Raphael, and
Michelangelo, all of whom seemed to be
the preferred artists, since papal commis-
sions for Leonardo were few. Rumors
were being spread again that Leonardo
was a sorcerer, rumors fueled, no doubt,
by stories of night-time dissections. Of
the commissions he did receive, one
which interested Leonardo greatly was
the project for draining the Pontine
marshes around Rome. By transforming
the Afonte river into a controled canal
system, the marshes could be drained and
the land reclaimed for much needed
building land.
When the Pope finally awarded
Leonardo a painting commission, he
noted that he never expected the work to
be completed. Leo X had learnt [accord-
ing to Vasari] that Leonardo was experi-
menting with a varnish and he is said to
have commented that Leonardo would
never get any painting done because he
was too busy thinking about the end of
the project before he had even started^
The only surviving painting which
seems, on the strength of a drawing re-

106
palace at the top of the Vatican hill. Also
in Rome were Bramante, Raphael, and
Michelangelo, all of whom seemed to be
the preferred artists, since papal commis-
sions for Leonardo were few. Rumors
were being spread again that Leonardo
was a sorcerer, rumors fueled, no doubt,
by stories of night-time dissections. Of
the commissions he did receive, one
which interested Leonardo greatly was
the project for draining the Pontine
marshes around Rome. By transforming
the Afonte river into a controled canal
system, the marshes could be drained and
the land reclaimed for much needed
building land.
When the Pope finally awarded
Leonardo a painting commission, he
noted that he never expected the work to
be completed. Leo X had learnt (accord-
ing to Vasari) that Leonardo was experi-
menting with a varnish and he is said to
have commented that Leonardo would
never get any painting done because he
was too busy thinking about the end of
the project before he had even started!
The only surviving painting which
seems, on the strength of a drawing re-

lating to it, to belong entirely to the
period after Leonardo left Florence in
1508 is St John the Baptist. The effects of
age must surely play a part in the overall
darkness of this painting, but this is
merely an exaggeration of the original
effect. The three-dimensionality of the
figure is achieved by its being brightly lit
against a dark background. This chiaros-
curo effect is present to a greater or lesser
degree in all of Leonardo's paintings, but
in this instance it is used to underline St
John's message, with the crucifix and the
gesture of the raised finger found so often
in Leonardo's paintings from The Adora-
tion of the Magi onward.
It is difficult to determine what paint-
ings Leonardo was working on after 1510,
apart from presumably continuing work
on the Mona Lisa and Leda. Some red
chalk drawings from 1510 and after may
be studies for a 'Christ, a Demicorps'
being recorded as being at Fontainebleau
in 1642. Several versions of the Salvator
Mundi, a hieratic figure of Christ with a
globe in one hand and the other raised,
must be copies of the painting for which
these drawings are preliminary studies.
RIGHT: Study for a Sleeve for the lost painting
Salvator Mundi, c.1510-15, red chalk on red
prepared surface with touches of white, SYs x
SVz inches [22 X 13.9 cm), Windsor Castle
Royal Library 12524. © 1994 Her Majesty The
Queen.
FAR RIGHT: St John-Bacchus, c.1513, oil on wood
panel, 69V8 x 451^ inches [177 x 115 cm),
Musee du Louvre, Paris. Believed to be mostly
the work of one of Leonardo's pupils, this
painting is nevertheless very closely related to
Leonardo's red chalk preparatory drawing.

At least partly by Leonardo, though
largely by one of his pupils is the St John-
Bacchus, a painting based closely on a red
chalk drawing by Leonardo formerly in
the mountain monastery at Varese. The
drawing is of a seated St John figure, and
the transformation of the figure in the
painting to Bacchus, for reasons we can
only speculate on, was achieved by
merely adding the crown of vine leaves
and the leopard skin.
The year 1515 proved to be yet another
turning point for Leonardo, as it did for
most of Italy. The first day of the year
brought him the news of the death of the
French king Louis XII. Succeeding him,
Francis I set out to regain the Duchy of
Milan for France. Allied with the Vene-
tians, Francis quickly gained control of
Genoa and defeated the combined forces
of Maximilian, Ferdinand of Spain, Mas-
similiano Sforza, the Swiss cantons and
Pope Leo X. In September 1515, against
cavalry, artillery and some 20,000 Swiss
pikemen, Francis was the victor at the
Battle of Marignano. On 14 December
1515, Francis and Leo held secret dis-
cussions in Bologna and, according to
statements in the Vatican archives which
show that he was paid 33 ducats for ex-
penses, Leonardo was in the Pope's re-
tinue. It was in Bologna that Leonardo
was probably introduced to the French
king, who would have been familiar with
the French court at Milan and his work
for Charles d'Amboise.
Following Giuliano de' Medici's death


Leonardo, at the age of 65, was crip-
pled with rheumatism and was suffering
from the effects of a stroke. While he
continued to devise pageants (there are
designs for spectacular animals, such as
dragons), canal systems, and even a royal
residence, drawn up between 1516 and
1518 and planned as the Queen Mother's
residence at Romorantin, Leonardo was
unable to paint.
After a hard winter, and in declining
health, Leonardo dictated his last will
and testament to a royal notary at
Amboise on 23 April 1519. To his student
and friend Francesco Meizi he
bequeathed his books, his instruments
and the remaining portion of his pension.

To a servant, Batista, he left half his
Milanese vineyard, and to the ever faith-
ful Salai he left the other half. To the
poor of the parish of Saint Lazarre he left
70 soldi. On 2 May 1519 Leonardo da
Vinci died, as one story has it, in the arms
of the French king. Although certainly
groundless, this has contributed to the
tangled web of myth that has surrounded
and embellished the few known facts of
Leonardo's life. In August 1519 he was
buried in the monastery of Saint Floren-
tine in Amboise. In his life he had never
settled and, ironically, in death Amboise
was not to be his final resting place;
Leonardo's mortal remains were scat-
tered during the French Wars of Religion.

 

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