Friday, September 14, 2007

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)

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Leonardo da Vinci (1452 - 1519) was a celebrated Italian Renaissance architect, inventor, engineer, sculptor and painter. He can be seen as the archetype of the Renaissance Man and has been defined as a genius. His life was described in Giorgio Vasari's "Vite". Leonardo was born on April 15, 1452 in Vinci, Italy. This was before modern naming conventions developed in Europe. Therefore, his full name was 'Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci,' which means "Leonardo, son of Piero, from Vinci". Leonardo himself simply signed his works "Leonardo" or "Io, Leonardo" ("I, Leonardo"). Presumably he did not use his father's name because he was an illegitimate child. The son of a wealthy landowner and a peasant girl, Leonardo grew up with his father in Florence. He became a painter's apprentice and later an independent painter in Florence. From 1482 to 1499 he worked for the Duke of Milan and maintained his own workshop with apprentices there. He returned to Florence, entered the services of Cesare Borgia (also called "Duca Valentino" and son of Pope Alexander VI) as military architect and engineer, and eventually (1506) returned to Milan. From 1513 to 1516 he lived in Rome, where painters like Raphael and Michelangelo were active at the time; he did not have much contact with these artists however. In 1516, he entered the services of king Francois I of France at the Royal Chateau at Amboise. He died on May 2, 1519 in Cloux, France and is buried in the Chapel of St. Hubert in the castle of Amboise. Leonardo appears to never have had intimate relations with women. In 1476 he was anonymously accused of homosexual contact with a 17-year-old model, Jacopo Saltarelli, a notorious prostitute. He was, together with three other young men, charged with homosexual conduct and acquitted because of lack of evidence. For a time Leonardo and the others were under the watchful eye of Florence's "Officers of the Night" - a kind of renaissance vice squad.

Leonardo is well known for his paintings, such as Mona Lisa (La Gioconda, now at the Louvre in Paris, France) and the Last Supper (Ultima Cena or Cenacolo, in Milan). Only seventeen of his paintings, and none of his statues, survive. He spent many years making plans and models for a monumental 8m high horse statue in bronze, to be erected in Milan. Because of war with France, the project was never finished. Based on private initiative, a similar statue was completed according to his plans in 1999 in New York, given to Milan and erected there. Maybe even more impressive than his artistic work are his detailed studies in anatomy, engineering, bird flight and many other areas. He recorded his results in detailed notebooks which combine art and science. He was left-handed and used mirror writing, indicating that his notes were intended for his own reference. His approach to science was an observatory one: he tried to understand a phenomenon by describing and depicting it in utmost detail and did not emphasize experiments or theoretical explanations. Throughout his life, he planned a grand encyclopedia based on detailed drawings of everything. His notebooks contain drawings of several innovative machines, among them various flying machines, machine guns and a cog-wheeled device that has been interpreted as a mechanical calculator. Leonardo did not publish or otherwise distribute the contents of these notebooks. The notebooks remained obscure until the 19th century, and were not directly of value to the development of science and technology until that time. On this basis, L. Sprague de Camp, in his book, The Ancient Engineers, considered Leonardo not the first modern engineer, but "the last of the ancient ones", pointing out that after Leonardo's time the practice of disseminating and publishing scientific discoveries began in earnest. In 1994, one of da Vinci's notebooks was purchased by American entrepreneur, Bill Gates, Chairman of Microsoft Corporation, for US$25 million.

Detailed Biography

Florentine painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, and scholar, and one of the greatest minds of the Renaissance; born at Vinci, near Florence, in 1452; died at Cloux, near Amboise, France, 2 May, 1519, natural son of Ser Piero, a notary, and a peasant woman. He was reared carefully by his father, and was remarkably gifted and precocious. Few artists owed so little to circumstances and teachers. He was quite self-made. His work was small in bulk, and what remains may be counted on fingers of both hands. Few men had such varied talent and amassed such encyclopedic knowledge; his method as an artist was original with him, science was the measure of beauty, he combined fact with poetry and made use of both to carry on wide investigations in nature and to reproduce life according to the very laws of life. There are three periods in Leonardo's biography: The Florentine period (1469-82); the Milanese period (1483-99); the Nomadic period (1500-19).


Florentine Period (1469-82)

At an early age, doubtless about his fifteenth year, Leonardo entered Verrocchio's studio which about 1465 was the foremost in the city. Among his associates was Pietro Vanucci called Perugino. A sculptor and painter, Verrocchio was not an artist of the highest genius, but he played an important part in the history of art. The contemporary of Castagno and Pollaiulo, he centralized their labours, codified their efforts, and circulated the results of their studies; in a certain sense Florentine naturalism was organized in his studio. The work of both generations was summed up in a work common to master and pupil, Verrocchio's "Baptism of Christ", in the Academy of Florence, wherein Leonardo painted the face of one of the angels who hold the garments of Jesus. In the midst of a work which, although a conscientious study, is dull and prosaic this ravishing countenance shines with a divine life. Under these conditions young Leonardo acquired the technique of his craft, all the progress attained by the Florentine School about the middle of the fifteenth century, but he gave to it a new value and incomparable beauty. As Verrocchio's collaborator in all branches of art he assisted in the preliminary studies and the preparatory researches for the famous equestrian statue of the condottiere Colleone. He was also admitted to the celebrated garden of the Medicis, where they had gathered a collection of antiquities, then the foremost in the world, and which they had, moreover, made a museum and a school, or academy, of fine arts. The young artist nevertheless almost entirely escaped the superstition of Antiquity, and this is a clear proof of his wonderful independence. The artists of the next generation, especially Michelangelo, scarcely beheld life save through the marble veil of Graeco-Roman sculpture; Leonardo, on the other hand, borrowed almost nothing from the past; a few details in a candelabrum in the small "Annunciation" of the Louvre, rare sketches such as the "Dancers" of the Academy of Venice, a warrior's head at London (British Museum), these constitute nearly the whole of his debt to Antiquity. In this sense Leonardo is the first of the "moderns".

We possess very few of the works of his youth. Apart from the face of the angel in the "Baptism of Christ" spoken of above, we can ascribe to him with certainty only the delicate miniature "Annunciation" of the Louvre, the portrait of a young woman in the Liechtenstein Gallery at Vienna, and two small terra-cottas in the South Kensington Museum, London; a "Madonna and Child", and a bust of St. John the Baptist. Drawings have preserved for us the traces of other projects, e.g., in "Adoration of the Shepherds" (drawing at the Louvre), but we have almost no information concerning this period. A landscape drawing dated 1573 and another study dated 1578 (Uffizi) are the first certain dates we encounter in his life. The following note has also been found: ". . . bre 1578 cominciai le due Madonne"; but no one knows what became of these Madonnas, nor even if they were executed. However, a great many studies, leaves covered with sketches, heads of young women, children playing with cats, etc., show the direction of his researches. He had already conceived this type of mother and child in which the divine expression results only from human race and the poetry of life carried to its highest degree. This was the formula of the Renaissance, of the Madonnas of Raphael and Andrea del Sarto, and which Leonardo himself soon applied in the immortal masterpieces, the "Virgin of the Rocks" and "St. Anne and the Blessed Virgin".

Milanese Period (1483-99)

In 1481 Ludovico il Moro assumed in the name of his nephew, Gian Galeazzo, the regency of the Duchy of Milan. He was one of the most remarkable princes in that age of tyrants of genius: clever, magnificent, ambitious, and cruel. A letter of which a copy forms part of the celebrated "Codex Atlanticus", in the Ambrosian Library, Milan, has preserved the terms in which Leonardo offered his services to this formidable lord; among other terms were read:

(1) I have a process for constructing very light, portable bridges, for the pursuit of the enemy; others more solid, which will resist fire and assault and may be easily set in place and taken to pieces. I also know ways of burning and destroying those of the enemy. . . (4) I can also construct a very manageable piece of artillery which projects inflammable materials, causing great damage to the enemy and also great terror because of the smoke . . . (8)Where the used of cannon is impracticable I can replace them with catapults and engines for casting shafts with wonderful and hitherto unknown effect; briefly, whatever the circumstances I can contrive countless methods of attack. (9) In the event of a naval battle I have numerous engines of great power both for attack and defense: vessels which are proof against the hottest fire, powder or steam. (10) In times of peace I believe that I can equal anyone in architecture, whether for the building of public or private monuments. I sculpture in marble, bronze and terra cotta; in painting I can do what another can do, it matters not who he may be. Moreover I pledge myself to execute a bronze horse to the eternal memory of your father and the very illustrious House of Sforza, and if any of the above things seem impracticable or impossible I offer to give a test of it in your Excellency's park or in any other place pleasing to your lordship, to whom I commend myself in all humility.

Leonardo was at this time thirty years of age and very handsome. He was an accomplished gentleman, and had a keen mind for the invention of fables. His contemporarie, for example the storyteller Bandello, relate the charms of his conversation. He was a musician, being given to improvising verses while accompanying himself on a lute of his own invention, shaped like a bucranium and possessing wonderful sonorousness. For the fetes, ballets, and amusements, and interludes of which the Renaissance was so fond, Leonardo was unequalled. At the time of Louis XII's entry into Milan a mechanical lion crossed the banquet hall, halted before him a shower of lilies. This machine Leonardo had invented. Such was Leonardo when towards the end of 1482 he entered the service of Ludovico il Moro. One of his earliest Milanese works was the delightful "Woman with a Marten", which is believed to be the portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, Ludovico's mistress, and which is now at Cracow, in the collection of Count Czartorisky. Unfortunately, the work has been much injured by restorations, but it is the first truly modern work of its kind, wherein feminine grace, subtlety of analysis, refinement of the moral personality, and not merely resemblance of features, constitute the subject of the picture. The pretty profile of "Beatrice d'Este" at the Ambrosian and the so-called "Lucrezia Crivelli" (also called "La Belle Ferroniere") of the Louvre have nothing in common with Leonardo.

At Milan, also, in the early years of his sojourn there, he completed his first large picture, the wonderful "Virgin of the Rocks". Besides copies there are two of these pictures in existence, differing somewhat in details, one at the Louvre and the other at the National Gallery. There have been endless discussions with regard to their authenticity. The truth is that they are both originals, the first in point of time being that of the Louvre, the execution of which, extremely minute in detail, still shows something of the somewhat dry methods of Verrocchio's studio. The other and somewhat later one repeats the same motif for the convent of San Francesco, Milan. On the side panels Ambrogio da Predis painted angels playing on musical instruments. These side panels are with the central picture at the National Gallery. But Leonardo did not finish the picture he had begun, its Madonna and the landscape are the work of a pupil and a mediocre pupil. On the other hand the angel kneeling behind the Infant Jesus whose attitude differs from that of the Paris Angel, is one of the artist's most perfect creations. Both pictures are poetical. The fantastic landscape, the dolomite grotto of prismatic rocks, the ineffiable art of the "pyramidal" grouping, the often copied triangle of which the base is formed by two beautiful children, and the summit of the head of a smiling virgin; the grace and life of the motif, the selection of the moment, the perfection of the model, the depth of the atmosphere, and even the smallest details of the herbs, the stones, the slight ripples in a surface of transparent water -- all this endows the "Virgin of the Rocks" with an imperishable charm, making it one of the works which open a new world to the imagination and fixing eternally the poetry of the subject. Without Leonardo Raphael's "Madonna", his "Belle Jardiniere" and "Madonna of the Goldfinch" would not exist and even their charm does not equal that of their sublime model.

Leonardo's most important work at Milan is his "Last Supper" which he painted in the refectory of the Dominican convent of Sta Maria delle Grazie. This masterpiece is now little more than a ruin, the disaster being largely due to the painter's methods. Fresco seemed to him too summary and hurried a process and he painted in oil on the wall. Dampness soon soaked into and ruined the work, and as early as the middle of the sixteenth century the damage was irreparable. Vandalism did the rest. In 1652 a door was opened in the wall mutilating the feet of Christ and two Apostles. In 1726 and 1770 daubers wrought a masterpiece of injury with their restorations, and finally in 1797 a French army occupied the convent and made a stable of the refectory; even Bonaparte's orders could not prevent the men from mutilating the "Last Supper"; such was the long martyrdom of the masterpiece. Only in recent years have precautions been taken to preserve the remains; the wall has been separated and the hall dried but this tardy care threatens to complete the destruction of the picture. It is to be feared that it will scale and crumble to dust. However there exist /bin/bash: grpe: command not found memorials and copies of it. Few works have exercised a similar fascination and been as often reproduced from the beginning. Some of these copies have been collected in the refectory of Sta Maria delle Grazie; among them the best of all, which was formerly at Castellazzonear Milan, is believed to be by Solari. An excellent copy is preserved at Ponte Capriasca, a neighbouring parish of Lugano. The Academy of London has one, which was formerly at the Certosa of Pavia and attributed to Oggionno or to Gianpietrino. There are two at Paris, one at the Louvre, and the other at St. Germain l'Auxerrois. All there copies, which are fairly correct as regards the composition, vary in detail and especially show great difference of colouring.

Still more valuable are the separate studies of heads, although the most of them may be originals; the most important series are at Strasburg and Weimar. The famous head of Christ in crayon at the Brera seems to be a study of Sodoma or of Cesare da Sesto and to have no relation to the "Last Supper". None of these helps to the study of the masterpiece should be neglected, but despite its ruinous condition there are impressions which can only be given by the picture itself, which still preserves the atmosphere, the moving tonality, a peculiar pathos which seems the sorcery or presence of genius. Its extraordinary superiority is apparent when we compare it with all the extant "Last Supper" with those of Giotto, Castagno, or Ghirlandajo. The old representations become antiquated and obsolete and a new order of ideas is inaugurated. With regard to its subject the theme of the "Last Supper" may be divided into two distinct movements: the institution of the Sacrament and the "Unus vestrum". Leonardo has chosen the moment at which Christ declares that there is a traitor in the company. We are shown the effect of a speech on twelve persons, on twelve different temperaments: a single ray and twelve reflections (Burckhardt). The subject has been well analyzed by Goethe . It is clear that in a drama of this class, a kind of "seated" drama, of which the subject is interior disquiet, surprise, anguish, it suffices to show the persons at half length; busts, face, and hands suffice to manifest the moral emotion; the table with its damask cloth by almost completely concealing the lower limbs offered the ingenious artist a resource which he knew how to use. The difficulty under these conditions was to succeed in constituting a whole with these thirteen figures seated side by side; the greatest weakness of the old painters was composition; each table companion seemed isolated from his neighbour.

With an instinct of genius Leonardo divided his actors into two groups, two on each side of Christ, and he linked these groups so as to imbue the general outline with a certain continuity, animated by a single movement. The whole is like the successive undulations of a vast wave of emotions. The fatal word uttered by Christ seated at the middle of the table produces tumult which symmetrically repels and agitates the two nearest groups and which lapses as it is communicated to the two groups farther removed. The intimate composition of each group is no less wonderful. Stupefaction, sorrow, indignation, denial, vengeance, the variety of expression which the painter has gathered together in this picture, the depth of the analysis, the veracity of the types and physiognomies, the power and the accumulation of contrasts are without parallel in all previous art; the countless studies made for each piece denote in the author a world of new preoccupations. Each head is the "monograph" of a human passion, a plate of moral anatomy. It will be readily understood how such a work cost the artist ten years of preparation. None ever summarized in a single picture a similar total of life. The hands possess incomparable beauty and eloquence. Here for the first time and for the whole future was created the definitive formula of historic painting.

On the wall opposite the "Last Supper" Leonardo had painted (1495), in the great Montorfano Crucifixion, portraits of Ludovico il Moro, his wife Beatrice d'Este, and their sons Maximillian and Francesco. Only whitish traces and uncertain lineaments of these portraits remain. Finally in 1893 Professor Muller Walde discovered in the castle of Milan under a rough cast of the hall of the Torre delle Asse a whole decoration painted by Leonardo in 1498; it is a trellis of laurel, vines, and foliage. The artist conveyed the illusion of a hall of verdure. To this period likewise belong the studies of St. Anne. Together with the cult of the Immaculate Conception the end of the fifteenth century saw the rise of that of the mother of the Blessed Virgin. The work of the learned Trithmius, "De laudibus sanctissimae matris Annae", dates from 1494 (cf. Shankell, "Der Kultus der heilige Annas am susgange Mittelalters", Freiburg, 1893). Leonardo composed two different versions of this subject, one of them being now at the Louvre, the other at the London Academy. That of the Louvre is unfinished. The Virgin is only sketched, the head of St. Anne alone showing that modelling in which Leonardo is unrivalled. Art possesses few groups more charming than that of these two women, one seated on the other's knees. Together with the "Last Supper" Leonardo's greatest Milanese work must have been the equestrian statue of Ludovico il Moro, the famous "bronze horse" which he pledged himself to cast in the letter quoted above. He worked on this constantly for more than fifteen years (1483-99). A plaster model was cast in 1489, but the artist was dissatisfied within and made another which was moulded in 1493. He then turned his attention to preparations for casting. But the French came in 1499 and besides driving out the duke they broke the plaster model of his statue. We have only countless sketches, studies, and drawings of this masterpiece and Leonardo's books dealing with the anatomy and science of the horse.

Nomadic Period (1500-19)

By Ludovico's fall Leonardo was left unemployed, and he was in no hast to seek another position and there began for him a period of wandering. Completed works grow more and more rare, each of them showing traces of more complicated ambitions. From this period date most of his scientific works. After fifty he began to gather the elements of a new synthesis which was never completed. The last twenty years of his life were given to this activity and these experiences. From Milan, Leonardo went to Mantua where he sketched (1500) the portrait of the Marchesa Isabella d'Este, the cartoon of which is one of the wonders of the Louvre. Then he went to Venice (1501) and thence to Florence; from there he entered the service of Caesar Borgia as military engineer and head of the corps of engineers in his Romagna campaign. After Caesar's fall he returned to Florence and seems to have stayed there for three or four years. Then he began see-sawing between Florence and Milan, finally taking up his residence in the latter city where he was called by a law-suit concerning the property left by his father. In 1514 we find him at Rome, but at the end of the year he returned to Florence; in 1515 came journeys to Pavia, Bologna, and a last stay for some months at Milan. Finally in 1516 he accepted the invitation of King Francis I to come to France and left Italy, never to return.

During these wandering years there are only two places where we find undoubted proofs of his activity, at Florence (1501-06) and Milan (1506-13). At Florence he executed to of his most famous works now unfortunately lost of destroyed. The Seigniory of Florence had for the decoration of its council hall opened a contest for the portrayal of two patriotic subjects drawn from the annals of the Republic. One was an occurrence of the war against Pisa in 1304 and was confided to Michelangelo; the other commemorated the victory of Anghiari Maria Visconti. This was the subject treated by Leonardo. The rival cartoons were exhibited in 1505 and were an event in the history of the school. All the youth of the artist world hastened to copy them, but in the midst of all this Michelangelo was called to Rome and abandoned his work. Warned by his experience with the "Last Supper" Leonardo refrained from painting in oil, but would not be satisfied with fresco; he fancied some process of encaustic (one of the rare instances in him of the influence of the ancients). The attempt was unfortunate. The coat did not dry and the colours flowed together. But the artist was not discouraged and continued his work. The cartoon still existed in the eighteenth century; it is not known when it or that of Michelangelo disappeared. The latter is known only through a famous engraving by Marcantoni Raimondi. Leonardo did not fare so well. Apart from countless sketches there exists only a single group of his work, that of the knights of the "Battle of the Standard" which has been preserved by a drawing of Rubens (Louvre) and an engraving of Edelinck. Nevertheless there are few more important battle pieces in the art work of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. All the chasses of Rubens and the Flemish school are but variations and repetitions of this furious melee. The Adoration of the Magi in the Uffizi is unfortunately only a sketch, a rough cartoon, chiefly interesting for the information it gives concerning the basis of Leonardo's painting and his manner of preparing a picture. It belongs to the same period (about 1505) as that work of the artists which is most popular, most complete, and most closely associated with his name as that which best sums up in a woman's face all the research, grace, and seductiveness of his genius. This is the portrait of Madonna (Monna) Lisa, wife of Ser Giocondo, and universally known as Jaconde (La Gioconda), and which, acquired directly from the artist by Francis I, and preserved for three centuries at Fontainebleau, disappeared, 21 August, 1911, under mysterious circumstances, from the Louvre, where it had been since 1793.

The numerous copies of this enchanting face, those of the museums of Madrid, Munich, Quimper, and St. Petersburg, the Torlonia Gallery at Rome, and the Mozzi Gallery, Florence, of the Villa Sommariva on Lake Lugano, of the Hume and Woodburn collections at London, can scarcely console us for the loss of the masterpiece. Leonardo never painted anything with more love. He devoted four years to this single face. Vasari relates what delicate care he took to amuse his graceful model during the sittings and to bring to her lips that imperceptible smile, which has been taken to mean such depth and perfidy and which is merely the serene expression of a harmonious soul, of moral peace and health, with a slight tinge of Florentine irony. Its place in the Louvre is occupied by another of Leonardo's works, one of the last really authentic of his productions, the enigmatic St. John Baptist. Here the depth and complexity of his intentions, above all the systematic use of chiaroscuro, lead to odd and equivocal results. But the spoiled work formulated the whole language of chiaroscuro, and fixed its laws with a clearness which has never been surpassed.

The following pictures preserve the memory of others of Leonardo's works of which the originals are lost. The St. John the Baptist or Bacchus full length, seated, amid a landscape; the picture belongs to a date previous to 1505 and is contemporary with the Giaconda. Ancient copies are at the Louvre and at Sant'Eustorgio, Milan. The Leda; same period; copy (by Bacchiacca?) at the Casino Borghese; others in the Ruble collection, Paris, and the Oppler collection, Cologne; drawing by Raphael at Windsor. The Resurrection at the Museum of Berlin is apocryphal. The famous wax bust required in 1909 by the same museum is the work of an English forger who worked about 1840. Finally the charming wax Head of the Wicar Museum, at Lille, belongs probably to the school of Canova, which robs it of none of its exquisite grace. The last picture of Leonardo's which we possess is the splendid sketch of St. Jerome in the desert in the collection at the Vatican. It dates from 1514. Leonardo spent the last three years of his unquiet life in France. The king gave him a pension of 7000 crowns and had given him a dwelling in the Chateau of Cloux near Amboise. At this period the master was very tired, and his faculties were declining. He was still engaged with the question of canalization and studied ways of regulating the course of the Loire and making it navigable. He died amid these occupations at the age of 67. A legend, popularized by Ingres's picture, relates that he passed away in the arms of Francis I; but on that day the king was at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.


Art represents only a small part of Leonardo's activity. Always and especially at Milan from 1506 his genius was absorbed in scientific matters, but these researches had begun in Verrocchio's studio, as is shown by the letter of 1482 to Ludovico il Moro. It is impossible to give here a detailed analysis even of his principal works, for his studies included all branches of knowledge. On the other hand their strictly personal nature, the secret and deliberately cabbalistic practices with which he loved to surround them, the methods of abbreviation and cryptography of which he made use in order to conceal his discourse (he wrote from right to left, in an inverted hand which could probably only be read with the aid of a mirror), all this mystery removes a great deal of interest from the treasures of observation which Leonardo consigned to countless manuscripts. In fact by refusing to disclose his discoveries, by wishing to retain the monopoly of his processes and secrets, he condemned this portion of his work to oblivion and sterility. However, his art is in so many ways connected with his science that the former cannot be known without an acquaintance with the latter. In his drawings of flowers, plants, landscapes, and in his studies of persons, it is impossible to say whether it is the botanist, the geologist, the anatomist or the artist who interests us most. In Leonardo, knowledge and art are never separate. The characteristics frequently seen in the men of the Renaissance, the encyclopedic turn of mind so striking in a Leone Battista Alberti, a Bramante, or a Durer, is never more brilliantly evident than in Leonardo da Vinci. His method is based exclusively on observation and experiment. He recognized no mistress save nature. Neither in science nor in art did he admit the authority of either the ancients or the scholastics.

Furthermore he clearly understood: (1) that science should be subject to formulation in mathematical laws; (2) that science has power over nature, and ability to foresee phenomena and at need to reproduce or imitate them. This granted, there were few questions which this tireless mind did not study, and to which he did not bring ingenious views and new solutions. Often he perceived truths established by modern science. Long before Bacon and with a far different range of application he invented the positive sciences. As a geologist, for example, he discerned that there was a "history of the earth", that the outside of the globe was not formed at a single stroke, and in this history, guided by studies of hydraulics, he successfully saw through the function of water. He divined the true nature of fossils. In botany he formulated the laws of the alternation of leaves, that of the eccentricity of trunks, and that of solar attraction. As an anatomist (he had dissected nine bodies) he gave figures concerning the insertion of the muscles and their movements which specialists still admire for their accuracy. He devised the earliest theories concerning the muscular movements of the cardiac valves. By his studies in embryology he laid the foundations for comparative anatomy. In mechanics he understood the power of steam and if he did not invent any action machines he at least made it an agent of propulsion, for he invented a steam cannon. He composed explosives and shells. But perhaps his most "modern" title to fame lies in his having laid down the principle of aviation, devoting years to this task. He foresaw nearly all the forms, parachute and montgolfier, but by boldly adhering to the "heavier than air" principle he constructed the first artificial bird. Long series of studies analyze with astonishing clearness the flight of the bird, the form and movement of the wing Leonardo distinguishes between the soaring flight and that made by successive flappings, in each case defining the action of the air and the part played by it; he understands that the bird rises obliquely on an aerial inclined plane, forming under it a kind of angle and that currents form in the concavity of the wing which serve it as momentary supports to recover its equilibrium, like the waves on which the car is rested to propel the boat.

Leonardo was more a scholar than a philosopher, nevertheless his wholly naturalistic science implies a certain philosophy, which if it is neither the kind of paganism nor the materialism in which the Renaissance so often resulted cannot be called truly Christian. Either through prudence or through scorn of abstract ideas Leonardo seems to have avoided declaring himself on this subject. Nevertheless it is easy to see that the idea of miracles is repugnant to his imagination. He admits or would logically admit only an immanent Providence, a God who refrains from intervention in the universe like to God of Lucretius or the Stoics. It is also certain, and he does not conceal it, that he did not like the monks. However, as an artist, he accommodated himself perfectly to the Christian tradition. His art, though not at all mystic, is in its forms certainly less pagan than that of Raphael or even Michelangelo. He died a very Christian death.

His manuscripts are now divided among several depositories. The most important are (1) the gigantic collection in the Ambrosian Library of Milan called the Codex Atlanticus consisting of 393 folio pages on which are pasted more than 1600 leaves of notes; (2) at Paris in the library of the Institut twelve manuscripts numbered from A to M; (3) at London three volumes at South Kensington, a manuscript of 566 pages at the British Museum, and at Windsor splendid anatomical plates and drawings. Other books are in the possession of Count Manzoni and the Earl of Leicester. The treatise on painting is his first work. It was printed at Paris in folio in 1651 in the Italian text by Raphael du Fresne and almost immediately translated into French by Freart de Chambray. More correct editions have since been issued, notably that of Manzi (1817), and thatof Ludwig made according to a Vatican manuscript (3 vols., at Vienna, 1883). Ventura compiled a memoir on Leonardo's scientific works properly so called which he presented to the Institute in 1797. He announced that this would soon be followed by the publication of original documents, but this promise was not kept. In 1872 the Italian Government issued a limited number of copies of a de luxe work, "Saggio dell' opere di L. da V.", containing extracts from the Codex Atlanticus with twenty-four facsimiles. In 1889 J.P. Richter issued at London, under the title "The Literary Works of Lenoardo da Vinci",two quarto volumes comprising more than 1500 extracts and fragments of manuscripts. Systematically classified, with beautiful reproductions.

However, Ravaisson-Mollier had undertaken the entire publication of the manuscripts of the Institut in a model edition with facsimiles of the original text, transcription in ordinary characters and French translation (6 vols. for., Paris, 1881-92). The example at Milan a manuscript of Leonardo's belonging to Prince Trivulzio. And since 1892 the Accademia dei Lincei has published completely the Codex Atlanticus. If the London manuscript were published we should have as complete knowledge as possible of this extraordinary man who united in himself the triple or quadruple genius of an Apelles, an Aristides, a Euclid, and an Archimedes. Mention must be made of Leonardo's artistic influence. His influence on painting was supreme; it has been shown above what paths his genius opened to historical painting, to portraiture, to scenes of sanctity, landscapes, and the art of chiaroscuro. But this general action, profound as it was, did not give rise to a school at Florence. Leonardo's pupils and imitators properly so called must be sought for at Milan. There were very numerous, and nothing enables us to judge better of his ascendency than the revolution of taste which his appearance determined in Milanese painting. The national school of Foppa, Zenale, Borgognone was suddenly cast into the shade, eclipsed by a host of disciples, among them Solario, Ambrogio da Predis, Cesare de Sesto, Marco d'Oggione, Boltraffio, some of them very gifted and talented men. To them we owe the multitude of copies which often take the place of lost works of the master; but only two or three pupils attained an absolute independent expression, and were other than reflections of Leonardo: these included the gentle and prolific Bernardino Luini and the troubled, passionate, and very unequal Sodoma. [This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License and uses material adapted in whole or in part from the Wikipedia article on Leonardo da Vinci and Catholic Encyclopedia (1912).]

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1 comment:

Nikki said...

What is the name of the painting?