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had still too much vitality and independence to be shut up in narrow formulae. Putting aside the kingdom of Naples, where external distractions very early became a factor in the encouragement of art, science and literature, the Italy of the early Renaissance had only a few friendly, unofficial, and essentially informal societies to show. At the court of the Sforzi, especially, artists, poets and savants might look for glory and fortune, but not for official honours. Those titles of knighthood, which they were already beginning to earn at Rome and Naples, were not awarded elsewhere. The most that II Moro did was to crown his favourite, Bellincioni, in public with the poet's bays, and to turn his physician, Gabriele Pirovano, who had cured him, into the Conte da Rosata.
It is generally agreed that the manuscripts left by Leonardo are fragments from the teaching he gave in his Milanese academy. We must therefore discuss, in some detail, a system of education nearly as vast as that of Pico della Mirandola, embracing as it did every branch of human knowledge, not excepting the occult sciences.
Before entering upon any discussion of those theoretical works in which Leonardo treats of painting, of proportion, and of other branches of art, it will be convenient to give a brief history of the manuscripts in which his observations have been preserved.
From about his thirty-seventh year, according to Dr. Richter, Leonardo made it a habit to write down the results of his observations, and continued that work till his death, thus fulfilling to the end that duty of activity which is incumbent on every human creature. Even now, after great and irreparable losses, his manuscripts and fragments of manuscripts reach a total of more than fifty, and form more than five thousand pages of text. Dr. Richter has attempted to classify them chronologically, an attempt in which we shall not follow him, for in most cases it rests on pure conjecture. More than once, indeed, he has been compelled to confess his inability to suggest even an approximate date.
As for Leonardo's peculiar habit of writing in Oriental fashion, from right to left, it may be well to say now what has to be said about it. We know from the Uffizi drawing reproduced on p. 29, that he began the practice as early as 1473. He was faithful to it to the end of his life, and that on no capricious impulse. Various pieces of evidence combine to show that it was only one among several precautions taken against the pilfering of his secrets. He was in the habit, for instance, of writing certain words in the form of anagrams, "Amor" for " Roma," "Ilopan " for " Napoli." >
From the pala:ographic standpoint, the writing of Leonardo is still fifteenth century in its character, and in its smallness, its rigidity, and the shortness of its strokes above and below the line, differs essentially
from the large and expressive writing of Michelangelo and Raphael.
During the thirtyfive years which separate the first manuscript from the last the writing undergoes no change whatever. The most we can do is to point to some slight difference between the characters used on the two early drawings of 14/3 and 1478, and those which belong to his maturity
ENGRAVING OF INTERLACED ORNAMENT INSCRIBED "ACADEMIA LEONARDI or old age. M.
(The Ambroshna, Milan.)
Ravaisson has remarked
that in his first attempts,
Leonardo takes pleasure in forming letters of some elaboration, which later on, he abandons for characters more suitable to a thinker and observer, who wishes to lose no time in recording his experiences. In 1478 — adds M. Ravaisson — Leonardo is found experimenting with a sign resembling the beginning of a loop to take the place of «; later on, he nearly always reduces it to the simple stroke in common
1 Here and there, at long intervals, we come upon a line written in the ordinary way (Manuscrit B at the Institut de France ; Ravaisson-Mollicn, Les Merits de Leonard da Vinci, p. 23). Some of Leonardo's contemporaries wrote from right to left, Sabba da Castiglione, for instance (Ravaisson, Les Manuscrits, vol. i., p. 2), and the sculptor, Raf, da Montelupo, who wrote "all' cbraica " (Gaye, Carfeggio, vol. iii., p. 582-3).
It is difficult to imagine a spontaneous genius, a genius like Donatello, for instance, sitting down to write about art, to dissect and account for his impressions, and to formulate receipts for his pupils. Reasoning is supposed to be inconsistent with spontaneity of inspiration! But without going very far for instances, can we not point, even in the Florence of the fifteenth century, to more than one eminent creator who took up the pen for didactic purposes, to Leone Battista Alberti, to Ghiberti, to Ghirlandajo, to Verrocchio? At Milan, Bramante, the rival and colleague of Leonardo, composed several treatises, now unhappily lost; so, too, did Zenale. Leonardo, then, had the authority of many illustrious examples for his attempt to combine the honours of the theorist with the glory of the
creative artist. And yet what a singular contradiction he presents! This man, whose work is one long, consistent protest against formulae, against teaching, against tradition, pretends to instruct others in the treating of a subject according to set and determined rules! Did the anomaly even strike him? If you, my artist reader, have not in your own imagination the force necessary to show you the attitudes and gestures of a man desperate, or transported by rage, do you think 1 Ch. Ravaisson-Mollien, Ies Mamtscrits, vol. v., p. 1.
your brush will ever succeed in depicting such a person by the help of a book? How thoroughly the precept of the old Latin author, "si vis me flere," applies in such a case! You may say that Leonardo wrote for second-rate artists; to which I answer that, from the artistic standpoint, such people do not exist, and that it was unworthy of Leonardo's genius to trouble itself about them.
Like the other works of Leonardo, the Trattato della Pittura awaits the editor. It has not yet undergone the remodelling and co-ordination required to make it a real didactic treatise. The want of sequence in the arrangement of its chapters, and the innumerable
repetitions show that it ~~g—2 — /Ik—-~ ~r—CG —. t "^ never received the
m I m £& A ' ^T m ^r
L, A.)A., V^ Co b, L, L, *-C* J master's last touches.
Let us add that, imperfect as it is, it has never ceased, since it
SKETCH IN THE "TRATTATO DELLA PITTURA."
,v . was first made public, to
excite the keen interest
of the artist and the amateur. Between 1651, when it was first sent to the press, and 1898, nearly thirty editions and translations have been published.
The treatise has come down to us in two different forms. In the first place, we have the autographic fragments, illustrated by numerous drawings of the master, which Dr. Richter was the first to publish; secondly, we have several old copies, more complete in some respects than the fragments; in these we can recognise an effort at re-arrangement due, no doubt, to one or another of his disciples, if not to Leonardo himself.
Of these the two most important copies are in the Barberini Palace and the Vatican. Upon the former were based the early printed editions, especially that of 1651, which contained illustrations by Nicholas Poussin.1 The Vatican manuscript was published by Manzi in 1817. It is much more complete than the Barberini codex, for it contains books i., v., vi., vii. and viii,, all wanting in the latter. As the name of Melzi occurs in three separate passages, it has been supposed that he had something to do with the production or arrangement of the Vatican codex. But that of course is only a more or less probable hypothesis.
1 It is now asserted that some of the figures hitherto ascribed to Poussin are copies by the French master of drawings by Leonardo himself. • As to this, a comparison between them and the copies made by Rubens, or one of his pupils, from the same originals ought to be decisive. (Pawlowski, in Pierre-Paul Rubens, p. 227-233, Librairie de 1'Art; De Geymiiller, Lcs deniien Trai'aux sur Leonard de Vinci, p. 34, 36). But—" pace" these respectable authorities—could there be anything more out of harmony with Leonardo's manner than heavy, common figures like these?
We must add that beyond the diagrams of perspective and the drawings of trees, the Vatican MS. contains but a small number of sketches: the series of noses, a few anatomical sketches and studies of movement, a horse walking, &c. The nude figure, front and back (plate ix., no. 16, in the Manzi edition) is a reproduction from two of the Windsor drawings.
Manzi allowed himself various libertie swith Leonardo. Not content with much arbitrary modification of his author's orthography, he left out paragraphs and even whole chapters, and so it became necessary to prepare a definitive edition, a task brought to a happy conclusion by the late Heinrich Ludwig (died 1898), a German painter, settled in Rome. The German translation facing the text in Ludwig's edition shows a scrupulous fidelity, also evident in the commentaries, of which the third volume is made up. Ludwig followed up his edition of the Trattato with a special volume (1885), in which the differences and analogies between the original manuscripts of Leonardo, and the
After taking, by his drawings, an active part in the publication of the Trattato, Poussin renounced his convictions, and finally wrote the following letter to Abraham Bosse: "As for Leonardo's book, it is true that I drew the human figures in the copy which belongs to M. le Chevalier du Puis (del Pozzo); but the rest of the drawings, geometrical or otherwise, are by a certain degli Alberti, the same who did the "plantes" (plates or plans?) in the book of subterranean Rome. As for the landscapes ("gaufes paisages ") which are behind the figures in the copy printed by M. de Chambray, they were added by one Errard [Charles Errard, first director of the French Academy in Rome), without my knowledge. All that is good in this book might be written on a single sheet of paper, and that in large letters, and those who think I approve of all that is in it do not know me, me who profess never to give free course to things relating to my calling which are ill-said or ill-done." (De Chennevieres-Pointcl, Recherches sur la Vie et las Outrages de quelques Peintres provinciaux, vol. iii., p. 166.)