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TITOLO: Leonardo da Vinci (2nd lecture of four)

WRITTEN BY: Lorenzo Matteoli

DATE: January 2005

 

 

 

LEONARDO DA VINCI

University of Western Australia Extension
JANUARY 2005


Four Lectures by
LORENZO MATTEOLI



SECOND LECTURE
Leonardo’s life

 

 

Four seasons
Leonardo’s life was restless and adventurous: He moved from Florence to Milan, to Venice and Rome and ended his life in France.
We can organize his life into five main periods:
1452 - 1467 Childhood in Vinci to Verrocchio’s Shop in Florence
1467 – 1481 Youth and early Manhood in Florence with Verrocchio.
1481 – 1500 Maturity in Milan with Ludovico il Moro
1500 – 1516 wandering engineer and genius Venice, Florence, Rome
1516 – 1519 Old age in France with Salai, Melzi honoured guest of Francis I

 


1452 – 1467
Childhood in Vinci with Uncle Francesco
Leonardo was the illegitimate son of Piero da Vinci (a notary) and Caterina (a young peasant girl of Vinci). He was raised by his mother and grandmother and did not see much of his father during his childhood. Although illegitimate sons were quite common at the time and not an embarrassment to their families, they did not enjoy the same rights as legitimate offspring.
As a “bastard” (not an insult at the time) he could not join any “arti maggiori” guild (Merchants, bankers, notaries) but only have a career in the “arti minori”, (painters, craftsmen, artisans etc.).
Little has been recorded about his early childhood: He may have been brought up by Caterina who, soon after Leonardo’s birth, married Antonio di Piero di Andrea di Giovanni Buti (nicknamed Accattabriga: the quarrel-picker) and had four daughters and a son. From what happened later in his life he must have had a very affectionate relationship with his uncle Francesco (who was sixteen when Leonardo was born) who left him his house in Vinci when he died many years later. It was probably Francesco who taught him to observe Nature and ignited his passion for kites. Francesco must have been the real male figure in his childhood and adolescence. Francesco was 16 years old when Leonardo was born and 32 years old when he left Vinci. We do not have much information about this period: Francesco must have been very close to him because when he died many years later he left all his properties to Leonardo ignoring his brothers and their children completely. A rather serious decision and quite meaningful too.
Also, soon after Leonardo’s birth, his father Piero married Albiera di Giovanni Amadori (a young girl of the Florentine bourgeoisie).
Piero was to marry three more times (Francesca, Margherita, Lucrezia) and by the year 1498 Leonardo had sixteen half/step-brothers and sisters, though had very little to do with them as they were all much younger, living in Vinci, whereas he was sent to Florence in 1467, when he was 16 years old.1467 – 1481
Youth and early Manhood in Florence with Verrocchio. A cool relationship with Lorenzo il Magnifico
Since 1466, Florence was a “Signoria” governed by Piero de’ Medici. Piero died in 1469 and Lorenzo became “Signore” later to be known as The Magnificent. Lorenzo was a generous sponsor of the arts, but he also kept a close control on the city’s culture. He was always on guard against many enemies and spies; ready to control the feuds among jealous and powerful merchant Florentine families (Strozzi, Pazzi, Rucellai, Tornabuoni, Pitti, Pucci, Corsini, Niccolini, …) and extremely careful to keep at bay the continuous attempts of the Papacy to interfere with Florentine interests. In communal Florence the power was in the hands of merchants and bankers: royal or papal nobility was unknown. The Renaissance and late Medieval European city is probably the birthplace of the European “bourgeoisie”.
The experience in Verrocchio’s shop was exciting: Leonardo came to know all the important people of the art and cultural scene in Florence. He himself became well known for his natural talent in drawing and painting. He was also very socially active: elegant and handsome, with a beautiful voice and musically gifted. He had first-hand experience in the completion of Brunelleschi’s Dome (Santa Maria del Fiore) by Verrocchio and made sketches of the lifting machines used to elevate the lantern and the huge bronze sphere. For many years, he was thought to be the inventor and engineering genius of those machines, but they were, in fact, the product of Brunelleschi’s mind and of Verrocchio’s craftsmanship, quite a few years before Leonardo came to Florence.
In 1472 Leonardo joined the Guild of Painters and had his first commissions. In 1476 he was involved in a trial for sodomy by an anonymous accuser (possibly a young male prostitute named Saltarelli). He was cleared, but his name was tainted and he probably deeply resented the accusation (possibly for the rest of his life). There is no no direct comment to be found on this in his notebooks, but many bitter comments refer to human ingratitude which can be interpreted as this life long resentment A relative of the Medicis (Tornabuoni) was involved in the same episode and that may be the reason why the incident was dealt with quickly and relatively quietly by the Florentine justice.
However, there may have been some grounds for the accusation as, during his entire life, Leonardo had no known relationship with a woman, whereas his close male friends were many and his lifelong relationship with Salai, a young male model he met in Milan and took into his household for the rest of his life, can be interpreted as a homosexual partnership, or maybe of some more complex desire of Leonardo to give to the young lad what he himself never received from his father Piero.
Sigmund Freud in his famous essay “A Childhood Memory of Leonardo da Vinci” has no doubts on the matter.
Freud was the first to bring into the open the crucial problem of Leonardo’s illegitimacy and his parents’ separation. He drew a picture of the conflicts that raged inside the artist, deciphered the ambivalent feelings he had toward his mother: the deep root of his sexual inhibitions, his homosexuality and his eventual refusal of all sexual activity. Due to the phenomenon of sublimation, this also fuelled his intellectual curiosity and reinforced his instinct for investigation to the detriment, according to Freud, of his artistic creativity. (Check the lengthy appendix with Leonardo’s Horoscope on this specific matter).
In 1478 he left Verrocchio to set up his own “bottega” (workshop). He received his first commission on January 1st, with an advance of 25 florins, for a painting in the Chapel of St. Bernard, but never fulfilled the contract, later completed on his cartoons by his good friend, Filippino Lippi, who often covered up for Leonardo’s vagaries. This is the first recorded story of a pattern which Leonardo was often to repeat - needing money, seeking jobs, getting contracts, getting advance payments but not finishing, and sometimes not even beginning, the job.
One of the paintings he was allegedly working on during this period was the Benois Madonna. The work was lost for many years but re-surfaced in 1914. Apparently, an Italian musician travelling in Astrakhan sold it to a local merchant named Sapojnikov, whose grand-daughter (widow of the Russian painter Leon Benois) bequeathed it to the Hermitage Museum. It now hangs there, though is only a shadow of the original, after many disastrous restorations and refurbishments by incompetent hands. Berenson refers to this Madonna as : “a woman with a bald forehead and puffed cheek, toothless smile, blear eyes and furrowed throat.” Apparently the painting is beyond repair but is, nevertheless, an important work as Leonardo departed from the paradigm of previous Medieval and Renaissance Madonnas. His Madonna is humble in her attire and her posture is relaxed, while happily smiling at the stout baby on her lap. Compared to the conformist paradigm, Leonardo’s Madonna must have appeared almost blasphemous.
Though close to the “Medici circle” Leonardo was not given any specific commission from them, possibly on account of his bad reputation in terms of reliability, nor was he recommended to the Medici Pope in Rome when Florentine artists were called upon to build and decorate the city in 1477.
The relationship between Lorenzo and Leonardo is a matter of some interest: It is true that there was no great sympathy between them. Leonardo never received a commission from Lorenzo. Lorenzo chose different artists when he sent a group of Florentine Masters to Rome when Sixtus IV asked for competent assistance to paint the Sistine Chapel and carry out other major art projects in the Vatican. Botticelli, Signorelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino were in that powerful delegation and, above all, he favoured Michelangelo, who had a mutual loathing of Leonardo. Lorenzo was more interested in literature, poetry, ladies and political power than in the arts. He may have snubbed/disliked Leonardo because of the consistent rumors about his homosexuality, or to avoid a clash with Michelangelo. Lorenzo, who himself enjoyed singing and music, might have appreciated Leonardo more for his singing and musical skills than for his other talents, but there are no doubt many obscure details that history has not recorded which could explain the strange distance between these two great Florentine personalities of the 1480 decade.
The relationship between Lorenzo and Leonardo may be described in a mysterious quotation in Leonardo’s notes: “I have been built and destroyed by the Medicis”.
This note from Leonardo’s notebook may also explain more:
“ I know that since I am not a man of letters, some may presume me to be ignorant. Stupid people indeed! They do not know that I could answer them as Marius answered the Romans saying:
“Those who embellish themselves with somebody else’s values do not want to acknowledge my own values”. They will say that since I am not a man of letters I cannot state clearly what I want to deal with. They do not know that my knowledge comes more from experience than from the words of others. Experience is the master of those who write well, so as a master I will keep her and on her I will always rely.” (translation by LM)
Leonardo has his commissions in Florence, possibly due to the recommendations and contacts of his father Piero (1481 contract for L’Adorazione dei Magi,) This painting was left unfinished and was later completed by others: Lorenzo di Credi, Filippino Lippi, Pollaiuolo.
In 1481 Lorenzo sent Leonardo to Milan with a rather odd task. Lorenzo, keen to establish a good relationship with Ludovico il Moro (who had just succeeded in a bloody coup and nominated himself Milan’s Duke), charged Leonardo to present the Duke with a special musical instrument. This was a silver Lyre shaped like a horse’s skull, which Leonardo himself had designed, In hindsight, this might have been an elegant way to get rid of him.
Before leaving, Leonardo was working on the Adoration of the Magi for the main altar of the Convent of the Friars of San Donato a Scopeto (just outside Florence). This was a huge painting, 2.5 meters wide, with dozens of figures in it.
The contract he signed was a strange one. Leonardo was to pay for his own colours and gold leaf and would have been paid with an estate that a merchant had left to the Friars in exchange for the dowry to his daughter Lisabetta. The estate would have remained inalienable for three years and the Friars could have bought it back for 300 florins (a huge sum). Leonardo was to finish the work in 24 to 30 months or else leave whatever he had completed to the Friars. To sign such a contract Leonardo must have been in dire need, with the almost certain knowledge that he could never comply -which is actually what happened.
St. Jerome in the desert
Probably painted in 1480 or 1481, There is no documentary evidence of the exact date, nor information about who commissioned it or where it was originally located. Also, this painting may be a disguised self portrait - an emaciated nude crouching before the mouth of a cave and watched over by a roaring lion. The painting is unfinished, like the Adoration, and disappeared to turn up later, by accident, at the beginning of the nineteenth century. One day, Cardinal Fesch, an uncle of Napoleon Bonaparte, was wandering through the streets of Rome when he saw, in the back of a second hand shop, a little cupboard with an extraordinary door panel. On closer inspection he recognized it as a Renaissance masterpiece. It was the head of Leonardo’s St Jerome, cut out to fit the dimensions of the cupboard. Fesch bought it and set out to find the rest of the painting Months later, he found it in the shop of a shoemaker, who had nailed it to his bench. Restored, the joints covered with thick varnish, the painting was acquired by the Vatican in 1845 six years after the death of the very observant Cardinal. St Jerome lived in Rome, in Gaul, in the Chalcidian desert and in Syria before retiring in Bethlehem. He translated the Bible and the New Testament into Latin with a commentary. Legend (confusing two different Saints) tells us that he won the friendship of a lion in the desert by removing a thorn from its paw. Traditional iconography depicts him in his study as a scholar (Carpaccio, Antonello da Messina) or as an anchorite.
In his treatise about painting Leonardo writes: “ How to represent despair: Give the desperate man a knife, let him tear at his garments with his hands and tearing at his wound with one of them…”
Leonardo’ s St Jerome is a skeletal body beating his breast with a stone in penitence …The cry on his lips is of neo-realistic strength…the most despairing work of the century.
Ginevra Benci 1475 approximately
Sold to the National Gallery of Washington by the Lichtenstein Collection in Vienna: This is the only picture by Leonardo now in the States, since 1967, sold for the record sum (at the time) of one million US dollars. This was later followed by the codex Hammer (1506-1508) bought by Bill Gates and now in Seattle.
The painting lost a strip of about 20 cm at the bottom where the hands were originally depicted (as documented by a Windsor cartoon). The loss is also documented by the missing lower part of a juniper garland decoration on the back of the panel with the inscription Virtutem Forma Decorat (Beauty adorns virtue).
The completion would bring the painting back to the classic 3 x 4 dimension: The fingers of the right hand were fiddling with the lacing of the bodice. The hand may have been holding a flower. It is the first time we find a portrait with hands. Verrocchio had introduced this in a marble bust and Leonardo was the first to do so in a painting.
The daughter of a rich banker, Amerigo de’ Benci, she was a writer of poetry and herself celebrated in many verses, notably two sonnets by Lorenzo de’ Medici who praised her beauty and virtue: (She did not yield to the courtship of the Venetian ambassador).
This portrait is a good example of Leonardo’s teaching: “Give your figures an attitude that reveals their thoughts, otherwise your work will deserve no praise.”
This young lady inspires severity and toughness, the spiky juniper being a suggestive symbol for that. Many see in the background landscape an integration of the character profile of Ginevra…With this painting Leonardo started to experiment with his sophisticated technique of “sfumato” (blending of shades and colours) that was to be evident in the subsequent Mona Lisa.
The way the background is treated - shades, colours and reflections – is so typical of Leonardo’s style that, for many critics, they represented his own personal views and thoughts.
1481 – 1500
Maturity in Milan with Ludovico il Moro
Leonardo went to Milan and played the Lyre for the Duke with his friend Atalante Migliorotti. Leonardo was received in Milan with curiosity and interest, but success was neither fast nor easy. It took a long time before Ludovico il Moro started to appreciate him and then gave him many commissions. Organizing elaborate feasts and parties at the Milan Court, devising events and shows, directing elaborate plays to amuse the Court seemed to be the main task in the early Milan period. Only later was he to receive the most important commission, which was the construction of a giant equestrian monument to celebrate Ludovico’s father, Francesco Sforza. Leonardo had promised to build the largest equestrian monument ever, and started it in 1489. The size of the monument and the structural problems related to it, plus the difficult foundry organisation, worried Leonardo for many years. He was eventually able to obtain the huge amount of bronze he thought he needed (80 tons!), but another war of Ludovico required guns and so the 80 tons were seized for that purpose. The clay model remained in the Corte Vecchia for many years and when Milano fell into French hands it was used as a target by the French longbowmen and destroyed, (300 years later there was a curious recurrence by French gunners and artillery people when Napoleons gunners smashed the Egyptian Sphinxes, seemingly just for the heck of it).
It was for this failure that Michelangelo mocked Leonardo in Florence.Finished and unfinished: the debate on the “Adoration”.
From Bramly’s:
“The incompletion of this picture has always perplexed historians, even more than that of the Saint Jerome. Leonardo had put a great deal of work in the “Adoration”, which some consider, even as it stands, to be one of the most extraordinary pictures of the century. “Truly a great masterpiece and perhaps the quattrocento produced nothing greater” says the usually cool Bernard Berenson. In it one can find most of the themes that were to obsess Leonardo all his life. The Magi prefigure the Apostles in the Last Supper; the combat on horseback would reappear twenty-five years later in the Battle of Anghiari; the figure pointing an index finger to the sky and leaning against the largest tree prefigures the smiling John the Baptist, which was to be a kind of last will and testament. (This characteristic gesture occurs twice in the Adoration on the left, between two horses, another character is raising his finger heavenward.) If further proof were needed of the importance of this work, one has only to look at the reactions it provoked in contemporary artists. Filippino Lippi, il Ghirlandaio, and Botticelli all took inspiration from it - but timidly without drawing on all its force. Raphael stood awestruck in front of it and reproduced elements from it in his frescoes in the Stanza della segnatura. Michelangelo himself seems to have borrowed from the hallucinating faces caught up in the swirling ring of darkness around the Virgin some of the grand elements he put in the Sistine Chapel. Why did Leonardo never finish the painting? Several explanations have been suggested. Vasari provides the most simple: Leonardo was “capricious and unstable” he said, and did not finish the Adoration because he was not able to finish anything. As a kind of justification, he adds: “His intelligence of art made him think of many projects but never finish any of them, since it seemed to him that the hand would never achieve the required perfection.” According to Vasari, Leonardo conceived of problems that were so subtle, so astonishing that he could never solve them despite his skill. Certain modern critics, following Vasari’s line of thought, have suggested that the Ambitious Adoration might not have benefited from being carried through to the end. “Finish is only of value when it is a pure medium of expression,” according to Kenneth Clark, who thought that the “finished” quality called by the Florentine ideal would no doubt have shattered the magical charm of the picture. For other critics the Adoration in its present state is finished and complete. “At this stage, “ wrote Spengler, “the supreme achievement and the clarity of intention have been reached.”…
Many were to follow him with the “non finito” technique and the most famous of the followers was his arch-rival Michelangelo with the Pietà Rondanini.

Leonardo certainly found it hard to finish most of his works: the Sforza monument, the Musician in the Ambrosiana, the Battle of Anghiari, the Virgin with Sainte Anne, …
But the question opened by this debate is in fact another, well known to any painter: When can you say that a painting is in fact “finished”?
When to stop and start a new painting is the best choice for the overall painting experience. When all is said in one painting, why proceed any further…? A brilliant idea just intuitively expessed can be spoiled by useless toiling and fussing with details?
Vasari again describes the problem in his Life of Luca della Robbia, saying:
“ that… rapidly made sketches in the first flush of inspiration express the idea marvellously in a few lines; whereas excessive labour and too great meticulousness deprive the work of all force and character, and the artist does not realize when to stop.”
When he eventually finished them, for some strange and unknown reasons the paintings found a way to go back to an uncertain undefined state: the Last Supper is the most daunting example, as if “they” did not want to be “finished”.
If you think that a sketched painting has the highest semantic potential, while you go on painting you reduce such potential. The finished painting has theoretically zero semantic potential: it’s all there. There is an unfinished stage where the semantic potential is still high and the meaning that you would add by painting further is very limited. Ritratto di Musico 1490
Unfinished, one of the last before leaving Florence or one of the first in Milan, possibly his friend Atalante Migliorotti
Cecilia Gallerani (Dame with Ermellino) 1488-1490
La Belle Ferroniere (Lucrezia Crivelli?) 1495-1498


In Milan, Leonardo found a very congenial social and cultural environment: the Duke Ludovico il Moro, son of a military chief, was a man of power and not of letters, with no cultural hang-ups. The court was not attended by sophisticated philosophers, poets or literary snobs. Leonardo’s “practical” profile was very much appreciated. His mechanical ingenuity and versatility in many crafts made him “the man of the day”. Whereas in Florence he was reputedly not “a man of letters”, in Milan his eclectic geniality and his pragmatic approach were highly esteemed.
Even today there is a huge cultural difference between Milan and Florence. The Milanese are considered “Yankees” by the Florentine: down to earth people, no fuss money-makers, workaholics. Efficiency, efficacy and pragmatism will take you far in Milan.
It is a very ancient “divide” between the “Lombard” ethnicity and the “Tuscan” (Etrurian) ethnicity that still remains deeply rooted in the DNA of the people of the two regions.
The Etruscans
The Etruscans formed the most powerful nation in pre-Roman Italy. They created the first great civilization on the peninsula, whose influence on the Romans as well as on 20th-century culture is increasingly recognized. Evidence suggests that it was the Etruscans who taught the Romans the alphabet and numerals, along with many elements of architecture, art, religion, and dress. The toga was an Etruscan invention, and the Etruscan-style Doric column (rather than the Greek version) became a mainstay of architecture of both the Renaissance and the later Classical revival. Etruscan influence on the ancient theatre survives in their word for “masked man,” phersu, which became persona in Latin and person in English.
……….
The 20th-century notion that there is a “mystery” regarding the Etruscan language is fundamentally erroneous; there exists no problem of decipherment, as is often wrongly asserted. The Etruscan texts are largely legible. The alphabet derives from a Greek alphabet originally learned from the Phoenicians. It was disseminated in Italy by the colonists from the island of Euboea during the 8th century BC and adapted to Etruscan phonetics; the Latin alphabet was ultimately derived from it. (In its turn the Etruscan alphabet was diffused at the end of the Archaic period [c. 500 BC] into northern Italy, becoming the model for the alphabets of the Veneti and of various Alpine populations; this happened concurrently with the formation of the Umbrian and the Oscan alphabets in the peninsula.)
The real problem with the Etruscan texts lies in the difficulty of understanding the meaning of the words and grammatical forms. A fundamental obstacle stems from the fact that no other known language has close enough kinship to Etruscan to allow a reliable, comprehensive, and conclusive comparison. The apparent isolation of the Etruscan language had already been noted by the ancients; it is confirmed by repeated and vain attempts of modern science to assign it to one of the various linguistic groups or types of the Mediterranean and Eurasian world. However, there are in fact connections with Indo-European languages, particularly with the Italic languages, and also with more or less known non-Indo-European languages of western Asia and the Caucasus, the Aegean, Italy, and the Alpine zone as well as with the relics of the Mediterranean linguistic substrata revealed by place-names. This means that Etruscan is not truly isolated; its roots are intertwined with those of other recognizable linguistic formations within a geographic area extending from western Asia to east-central Europe and the central Mediterranean, and its latest formative developments may have taken place in more direct contact with the pre-Indo-European and Indo-European linguistic environment of Italy. But this also means that Etruscan, as scholars know it, cannot simply be classified as belonging to the Caucasian, the Anatolian, or Indo-European languages such as Greek and Latin, from which it seems to differ in structure.
The Lombards
The Lombards were one of the Germanic tribes that formed the Suebi, and during the 1st century AD their home was in northwestern Germany. Though they occasionally fought with the Romans and with neighbouring tribes, the main body of the Lombards seems to have pursued a settled, pastoral existence until the beginnings of their great southward migrations in the 4th century. By the end of the 5th century they had moved into the area roughly coinciding with modern Austria north of the Danube River.
The Lombards gave their name to the northern Italian region that was their stronghold, now known as Lombardy.
Incidentally, this is something which is true for many cities in the World: each has a very specific character and the people who live in them also have specific characteristics. In Italy this is even more true because the different regions and cities have radically different ethnical origins: Milan was inhabited from early times (centuries before Christ and before the Roman conquer) by the Longobard Gauls, a Celtic tribe originating from Northern Europe. Florence and Tuscany were inhabited by the Etruscans a Middle Eastern ethnic population. Still today the basic Milanese and Florentine characters are very different and can be specifically described. despite centuries of common history and the powerful cultural levelling of things like military service, public education, soccer and TV.
Leonardo had many commissions from the Duke and possibly also from rich Milanese merchants and bankers: the record shows that he organized the mega parties for the Duke, with events and stunning stage settings: marvellous machines, tricks and mechanical gizmos.
The Duke gave him two very important commissions: the Horse for the Equestrian monument of his father Francesco Sforza and the Last Supper, to be painted in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie where the Duke intended to place his family’s mausoleum.

1500 - 1516
Venice, Florence, Rome:
with Giuliano de’ Medici, military engineer and advisor to Cesare Borgia
In 1500 the Duke was defeated and became a prisoner of the French: Leonardo understood that he had to find another sponsor. He travelled with Luca Pacioli, first to Mantua where he finally drew a cartoon for Isabella d’Este but never finished it as a proper oil painting. He actually could not stand the preposterous and arrogant lady, who had been pestering him for decades to obtain a painting. In fact, looking at the sketch one can see that it is a very grudging Leonardo who did it: coarse and still, without the usual subtle but tender loving correspondence between subject and the painter. To him that lady was just a pain in the neck. (Isabella had a habit of wanting paintings from all the most famous Italian painters and to collect them).
This period of his life is marked by the discovery of geometry and mathematics (under the guidance of Luca Pacioli), a very important cultural passage that was to have consequences on all his subsequent works. Back in Florence he was able to live for a while in the convent of the monks of the Annunziata and in 1501 he painted for them the Virgin with Child and Sainte Anne, then Venice proposing devices to defeat the Turks. He was also trying to get a commission from the Turkish Sultan Baizet III proposing the construction of a bridge over the Bosphorous, (without success).
In 1502 he was invited by Cesare Borgia (son of the Pope Alexander IV) le Valentinois (il Duca Valentino) to be his military engineer and advisor. He supervised castles and forts, thought of some extraordinary military tricks, like deviating rivers to flood enemy cities, devised military equipment (fragmentation bombs?) and multiple guns (the ancestor of the modern machine gun)
Back in Florence the Republic (with the Gonfaloniere Pietro Soderini) commissioned the Battle of Anghiari (1502-1504) to be painted in the main hall of the Palazzo della Signoria in front of a fresco by Michelangelo (La battaglia di Cascina). Leonardo botched up the work by his desire to test new techniques, colours, media and wall preparation. Back in Milano with the French Governor Charles d’Amboise (his good friend) worked on various theatrical projects and also probably began the Mona Lisa.
In this period Leonardo travelled back and forth between Milan andFlorence, designed a residence for Charles d’Amboise and worked on a mega equestrian monument for Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, the military commander of the French Army who, under Louis XII, conquered Milan and defeated Ludovico il Moro.
He also made geological studies of the Lombard valleys, worked on plans to channel the Adda river from Lecco to Milano, and developed an intense fascination for anatomy
In 1513 the new Pope, a Medici (Giovanni son of Lorenzo il Magnifico) was elected and chose the name of Leo X). Leonardo went to Rome under the protection of Giuliano de’Medici (not to be confused with the late brother of Lorenzo). He worked on many projects: painting, perspective, bird flight, mechanics and proposed a project for the drainage of the Pontine swamps and for a new port in Civitavecchia.

La Scapiliata 1508 approximately
Monna Lisa (Gioconda) 1506-1510 and 1513-1516

1516 – 1519
In France with Francis I
Nothing keeps now Leonardo in Milan: he accepts the offer of the French King Frances I and moves to France where he was hosted in the Royal Residence of the Chateau d’Amboise. He works on the Romorantin Castle Project and on the Channeling project for the Sologne River. He still works on the Monna Lisa. In these same years are the drawings of the Deluge (now at the Royal Library of Windsor Castle).
Leonardo dies there on May the 2nd, reportedly in the arms of the King.

Moving on, running ahead and curiosity were the curse of Leonardo’s life, as well as the reasons for his extraordinary achievements.
Here are excerpts from the Arundel Code that explain his drama:
Proemium for an autobiography.
“ Drawn by my incessant want and by the desire to see the great number of various and strange forms made by the ingenuity of Nature, I wandered for some time among the shady rocks and reached the entrance of a large cave; in front of which I stayed for a while in wonder and ignorance, I leaned forward and placed my left hand on my knee while with the right hand I cast a shadow on my eyes I turned here and there to see without discerning anything for it was very dark inside. Immediately two things grew within me, fear and desire: fear for the menacing dark cave, desire to see if inside there was any miraculous thing.” (translation by LM)Leonardo’s character and behavioural profile can be perceived from his way of painting: We have a brilliant description by Matteo Bandello:
“He sometimes stayed there from dawn to sundown never putting down his brush, forgetting to eat and drink, painting without pause. He would also sometimes, remain two, three to four days without touching his brush, although he spent several hours a day standing in front of the work, arms folded, examining and criticizing the figures to himself. I also saw him, driven by some sudden urge, at midday, when the sun was at its height, leaving the Corte Vecchia, where he was working on his marvellous clay horse, to come straight to Santa Maria delle Grazie, without seeking shade, and clamber up unto the scaffolding, pick up a brush, put in one or two strokes, and then go away again…”
This syndrome is well known to anybody who paints!
Vasari made a good point on the subject:
“It is at the moment that they are working the least that higher minds achieve the most; they are then mentally in search of the unprecedented and find the perfect form for the ideas, which they afterward express by tracing with their hands what they have conceived in their minds.”Leonardo’s painting craftsmanship, technique and the famous blunder.
From a close observation of the Last Supper one can gather a lot of information on Leonardo’s “way” of painting: his craftsmanship, his “gesture”.
He painted with his left hand; his strokes were at times elegant, quick and light, or in different situations he used long firm strokes. He changed his mind while working: the process of painting was itself a design and thinking process, the work done suggested the work to be done. Once completing a bit he could get ideas on changes that should be brought to already completed parts. Changes in his mind were progress: continuous changing was the essence of his creativity. No other Renaissance artist has produced so many “exploratory” cartoons or sketches.
This is why he had prepared the wall for the Last Supper with a special fine plaster, topped by lead white priming. He wanted to have a surface that would allow him his normal painting process of “changing” re-thinking and re- touching finished parts. He wanted to paint on the wall as if it were a board. He neglected the fact that the thick wall was subject to a complex condensation problem: the inner mass of the wall would get very cold during the winter and during the early warm spring condensation would form inside the wall.
In normal conditions the condensation would be dried up by ventilation, but the lead white priming was water proof so the condensed water would build up beneath the priming layer and in time it would allow mould growth and decay. This eventually occurred.
Many authors refer to the Last Supper as a fresco: with this technique the pigments are laid in the plaster and when the plaster is dry there is no way to re-touch or to make any change. If you want to change you have to scrape off all the plaster and start from scratch (which is probably where the very idiom comes from) - exactly what Leonardo did not want.
His way of painting was very similar to a thinking process: new thoughts are induced by previous thoughts. Leonardo’s painting was the development of continuous discovery, fed by the sight of what he had already painted He tried to reduce the complexity of the process with many preliminary cartoons, sketches and studies, but even so there were still many further changes in the course of the final painting. There was no way he could do that with a fresco technique, his ideal medium being oil on board, but the mere size of the Last Supper (8.82 x 4.59 meters) made this impossible.
This is the reason for the specific preparation with the fine plaster and the white lead paint priming: the whitest available that gives light and shimmer to the faces and figures as nothing else available at the time.
For many years the Last Supper has been referred to as a “fresco” and Vasari is responsible for this mistake.
The actual medium used for colouring was an untested recipe: a very thick tempera diluted in an emulsion of oil and egg-white. The egg-white with the water from the condensation caused the disastrous decay that started practically while Leonardo was still finishing the painting in 1499.


Note:
The positions of the Apostles at the table from the left to the right of the observer:
Bartholomew, James Minor, Andrew
Judas, Peter, John (or Maria Magdalene)
Christ
Thomas, James the Elder, Philip,
Matthew, Thaddeus, Simon
Giuseppe Bossi discovered a fresco copy of the Last Supper in the parish church of Ponte Capriasca (near the Lake Lugano Canton Ticino). The fresco was attributed to Pietro Luini and on a frieze beneath the table there were the names of the twelve apostles. This nomenclature has been accepted by Stendhal and Goethe and has been challenged by various critics, but is confirmed by Leo Steinberg who confronted the positions and the couplings of the characters with the information given by the new testament. Leonardo makes a precise statement with the positioning of the apostles which is consistent with their meaning in the history of the church.
According to Steinberg the positioning of the apostles is very subtle and yields complex messages. They are divided in two groups of six (to the right and left of Christ) and then in four groups of three, but also a coupling by twos is readable with semantic consistency.


Matteo Bandello (1480—1562) was an Italian novelist.
He was born at Castelnuovo, near Tortona, about the year 1480. He received a good education, and entered the church, but does not seem to have been very interested in theology. For many years he lived at Mantua, and superintended the education of the celebrated Lucrezia Gonzaga, in whose honour he composed a long poem. The decisive Battle of Pavia, as a result of which Lombardy was taken by the emperor, compelled Bandello to flee; his house at Milan was burnt and his property confiscated. He took refuge with Cesare Fregoso, an Italian general in the French service, whom he accompanied into France

Leonardo’s paintings:
works entirely or very largely by his own hand
Annunciation Uffizi, Florence
Benois Madonna Hermitage, Leningrad
Portrait of Ginevra Benci National Gallery, Washington
Adoration of the Magi Uffizi, Firenze
Saint Jerome Vatican, Rome
Virgin of the Rocks Louvre, Paris
Portrait of a Musician Ambrosiana, Milan
Lady with Ermine (Cecilia Gallerani) Czartoryski Museum, Cracow
The Last Supper Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan
Virgin and Child with S.te Anne and Lamb Louvre, Paris
Mona Lisa Louvre, Paris
Saint John the Baptist Louvre, Paris

Appendix 1
Statue of Francesco Sforza
The Last Supper. (Milan 1495-1499)
The Battle of Anghiari. (Florence
The Statue of Francesco Sforza.
These three items have two things in common. The first is they were intended to be Leonardo's greatest achievements. The second is that all failed.
Starting in 1483, a design was developed for a massive statue of Francesco Sforza, Ludovico's father. He would be displayed mounted on a horse and the entire piece would stand over 17 metres tall and weigh approximately eighty tons. That would have made it twice the size of any an other equestrian statue of the time.
Leonardo spent much time thinking about the statue and, as was his way, he didn't do much obvious work on it until April, 1490 when he heard Ludovico was threatening to find another sculptor. At this point he decided to use one of the horses in Ludovico's bodyguard as his model.
The Statue of Francesco Sforza would have been Leonardo's only major work of sculpture. He apparently did not hold this form of art in very high regard and wrote in his notebooks that working with stone was a, "wholly mechanical exercise." However, this statue was different. Not only would it be cast in bronze, but Leonardo had a craze for horses and once he started work he drew huge numbers of sketches on the subject.
Leonardo's original intention was to show the horse as rearing on it's hind legs; this obviously would not work without some support for the front end, so a fallen soldier or a tree log was to be under the hooves of the horse to provide balance. Practicalities put an end to this design as it proved impossible to cast.
The second version simply showed the horse as walking; this was a design that would become the model for many later equestrian statues by various artists.
During his development of the design Leonardo did exhaustive work, studying horses, drawing one detailed anatomical study followed by another. He drew directly from nature, frequenting the stables to ensure accuracy of detail. It was noted that Leonardo exhibited no such interest in the intended rider; he was treated almost as an afterthought. From what can be ascertained through Leonardo's drawings, the rider was holding the baton of high command in his right hand, the reins in his left, and was bare-headed.
By 1493 Ludovico was once again becoming impatient. He wrote to Leonardo and instructed that the statue must be ready by November for the marriage of his illegitimate daughter. Leonardo replied that he could deliver only the clay model and, somewhat surprisingly, he did so. This then went on display in the courtyard of the Palazzo Vecchio and was received warmly by the Milanese, becoming known as 'colosso'. At the unveiling it was described thus:
"see, he has had a great colossus of bronze made in the courtyard to the memory of his father. I firmly believe that Greece and Rome never saw a bigger. Just look how beautiful that horse is! Leonardo Vinci did it all alone."
It was the statue that made Leonardo famous throughout Italy which was somewhat ironic as he considered sculpting to be noisy and dirty work.
Leonardo drew up plans for the building of four enormous furnaces required to cast the statue; he then designed a crate which would hold the clay model during transport to the foundry. The next step was to collect the enormous quantities of bronze needed for such an enormous piece. Almost as soon as this was done Milan came under threat of attack by the French and the bronze was taken to be used for the manufacture of cannons. Even the clay model was lost when the French used it for target practice. The little that remained was taken to the Court of Ferrara where it was claimed by neglect and decay.
So, sadly the result of nearly 16 years of sporadic work was nothing.The Re-Creation of Leonardo's Horse
No complete sketches exist of Leonardo's horse so any attempt to reproduce it involves much careful study and a degree of guesswork. Nevertheless, it has been successfully done with a team of enthusiasts from the United States working to bring Leonardo's dream horse to life. This cannot be considered a faithful reproduction due to the lack of a good blueprint, but copies of his drawings were studied, along with drawings and photographs by other Renaissance artists. From this an interpretation of Leonardo's horse was built.
This is believed to be the world's largest equine statue and was gifted to the Italian city of Milan. Building costs for the 10-12 ton, seven metre high statue were almost US$6m and funding for the work took 20 years to collect. An obvious question is why Leonardo requested 80 tons of bronze for his statue and the answer is we really don't know. Leonardo's horse would have had an elaborate rider which would account for some of the difference.
The horse came about after amateur sculptor Charles Dent saw some copies of Leonardo's sketches which were rediscovered in Spain in 1966. Dent sculpted a clay model of the horse with the thought of building it, then presenting the statue to the people of Italy. Ironically, Dent's death in 1994 provided much of the funding as his will was primarily a bequest for the horse and provided the needed money to take the animal to the foundry.

The manufacture of the bronze statue was entrusted to the Tallix Art Foundry in New York, where it was cast in seven sections. Leonardo aimed to cast his horse in one piece, however experts today say they would have been quite impossible mainly because of the difficulties involved in handling such an enormous amount of hot bronze, keeping even temperatures, and ensuring the bronze coated all the crevices properly. The horse was also easier to ship in sections (head/neck, body, four legs, tail) and was welded together in Milan.
Then, on September 10th 1999, five hundred years to the day after archers used Leonardo's clay model for target practice, the bronze horse took its place in the city of Milan.
Love for the gift was not universal with some people branding it tasteless and claiming that the great work of Leonardo could never be recaptured. The Milan city council claimed to be thrilled with the work, but did not choose to place it in a central area of the city, instead placing it outside the Hippodrome racetrack.
The only other casting of the horse was be for Grand Rapids in the U.S.A. Referred to as the American Horse, it was installed in October, 1999. Another Leonardo horse is being built by the Japanese, however this is of fibreglass.Appendix 2
On April 24th, 1478 Giuliano de' Medici, brother of Lorenzo the Magnificent, was stabbed to death by Francesco de' Pazzi during high mass in the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. His brother, Lorenzo, was also stabbed in the neck in what was an attempt at a double assassination sparked off by a new inheritance law. Lorenzo had been the primary target but a friend saw what was happening and threw himself in front of the intended victim. In doing so he was killed, but this gave time for Lorenzo to escape and barricade himself in with a young aide who was instructed to suck the wound, lest the knife had been poisoned.
An accomplice of the assassins galloped into the area shouting 'People and Liberty', the surrounding crowd replied with 'Ball!s', a reference to the six balls of the Medici house. Realising they lacked support the attackers fled towards the Santa Croce city gates, but the assassin and his accomplices were quickly arrested and hanged. The Archbishop of Pisa was thrown out of a window on a rope just after Francesco de' Pazzi, one of the main men in the conspiracy; he managed to turn and bite Francesco on the chest just prior to their dying. Others were lynched in the same way and when their bodies were finally lowered they were carved up into pieces. On top of this, any monks thought to be involved had their noses and ears cut off prior to hanging; the main hired assassin gave himself up, sign a confession and was beheaded.
It was made clear that the Pope would never forgive Lorenzo for the killing of an Archbishop, despite his participation in the planned assassinations. Even more than that, the Pope had supported the assassins so the failure of them to successfully kill Lorenzo meant only one thing, Florence would soon be at war.
The Tuscan reaction to the failure of the assassination was an interesting one. Though many Florentines were appalled at the treacherous act many others found it disgraceful for another reason; the conspiracy failed. The reasoning of the day was that if one was to develop such an elaborate plan, one ought to be efficient enough to carry it out successfully. This was simply the attitude of the day, of Leonardo's day.
While all of this excitement went on around him a young Leonardo da Vinci happily wandered the streets sketching the faces of alarmed and excited people. Just in his twenties, he was already successful and sought after by his patrons. He was also already gaining a strong reputation for being unreliable and having a restless curiosity, which stopped him getting down to work and dispersed his creative genius.
In the orgy of killing one man could not be located; he had managed to escape to Turkey where he considered himself safe from arrest, but the Signoria of Florence requested his extradition and the Sultan obliged. As a result, on December 29th, 1479, Bernado di Bandino Baroncelli and his wife were hung in a public ceremony. Leonardo drew this sketch of that event and in his typical mirror writing also added the following note:
"A tan-colored small cap. A doublet of black serge. A black jerkin, lined, and the collar covered with black and red-stippled velvet. A blue coat lined with fur of foxes breasts. Black hose, Bernado di Bandino Baroncelli."
The notes on the pen and ink drawing are obviously references for a painting, however there was no commission for this sketch and it is thought Leonardo may have been hard up and hoping to sell this later for a sum of forty florins; this never did eventuate