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Leonardo's AcademyHis Writings On ArtThe "treatise On Painting"Fra Luca Pacioli And His Treatise On ProportionLeonardo's "Atelier" And His Teaching.

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(British Museum.)

EONARDO was not content to create, he burned with the desire to teach also. In order to act more strongly on those by whom he was surrounded, he founded the academy which bore his name. This was not, as we might be tempted to think, merely an academic body, devoted to the glorification of ability, nor even an institution for public teaching. In all probability, it was a free society, through which its members could obtain a more fruitful influence on each other and their neighbours, by discussion, by working together, and by general community of tastes and studies. All the documents we possess to throw light on this mysterious institution are half a dozen engravings with the words "Academia Leonardi Vinci"' in an interlaced ornament, and the

1 Various hypotheses have been put forward to explain these "tondi," as they have been called from their circular shape. Leonardo, says Vasari, wasted a good deal of time in drawing festoons of cords—"gruppi di cordi''—in a pattern ; one of these, a very beautiful and intricate example, was engraved. Modern writers have suggested that these


engraving of a woman's head, bearing the same inscription. And yet there can be no doubt about the influence this institution had upon the formation of the Milanese school, and even, I may add, upon the genesis of modern science.1

Leonardo's academy is usually pictured as one of those essentially solemn and formal societies which rose into vogue in the sixteenth century, and reached their full expansion in the seventeenth. Such an idea is anachronistic. The epoch with which we are now concerned

prints were intended to serve as entrance tickets to the sessions or courses of the Milanese Accademia, or that they were destined for "ex libris," to be pasted into the books belonging to the Academy library. The Marchese d'Adda explains them as models of linear ornament, for the use of the pupils of every kind who frequented the Academy, painters, miniaturists, goldsmiths, and even handicraftsmen. More recently, M. Charles Henry has suggested that they were demonstrations of the master's scientific aesthetics. {Introduction a I' Esthclique scientifique, Paris, 1885, p. 5.)

It is evident that this interlaced ornament is not of German origin, as Passavant declared it to be, though Diirer indeed copied it, for it recurs in Leonardo's manuscripts (Codex Atlanticus, fol. 548—Ravaisson-Mollien, vol. vi. MS., no. 2038 of the Bibliotheque Nationale, fol. 34 v*.), in the paintings of one of the small rooms in the castle at Milan (see p. 205), on the spandril of the vault in the sacristy of Santa Maria delle Grazie, also at Milan (Mongeri, L Arte a Milano, p. 213), on the sleeves of the woman in the female portrait of the Ambrosiana, and on those of one of the horsemen in the Battle of Anghiari. M. Errera, Professor of the University of Brussels, suggests that the interlacements may have been an armorial rebus; the word "Vinci" means "enchained," and is the root of "vincoli" (bonds). Pacioli, however, plays on the word "Vinci," i.e., who has vanquished, who can vanquish. Winterberg's ed.,

P- 32-33

1 In Uzielli's last edition (vol. i., p. 505), the very existence of Leonardo's academy, whether as a scientific or as an artistic body, is contested. According to Signor Uzielli, it was nothing more than a pious but unfulfilled aspiration. I cannot share his opinion. Do we not know, thanks to Luca Pacioli, that on February 9, 1498, at least, Lodovico organised a grand scientific tournament (" laudabile e scientifico duello ") at the Castle of Milan in which prelates, generals, doctors, astrologers, and men of law, besides Leonardo himself, took part as combatants and spectators. It was there declared —" ces paroles douces comme le miel "—that nothing could be more meritorious in a man of talent than to communicate his gift to others (Divina Proportione. Cf. MullerWalde: Jahrbuch, 1897, p. 115-118).—Another contemporary, the chronicler Corio, speaks of the elegant academy of Lodovico il Moro.

In one of his Novelle, Bandello describes the "salon " of Cecilia Gallerani, the favourite of II Moro and the original of one of Leonardo's most famous portraits, and shows us soldiers, musicians, architects, philosophers, and poets grouped about her. Such " reunions" were in fact academies, and have been compared, reasonably enough, with that of which Leonardo was the instigator.

The organisation of the Milanese Academy would be of great interest for us, were it only to let us know how far the discoveries of Leonardo had a chance of propagation, and whether some among them may not have come to the knowledge of his immediate successors by direct oral tradition.

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." > a sign resembling the beginning of a loop to take the place of n; later on, he nearly always reduces it to the simple stroke in common use.1

From the palatographs 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 ex-
pressive writing of
Michelangelo and

During the thirty-
five years which sepa-
rate 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 1473 and
1478, and those which
belong to his maturity



(The Ambrosiana, 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

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-Mollien, lcs £crits dc 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' ebraica " (Gaye, Cartegs;io, vol. iii., p. 582-3).

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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 Albcrti, 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, Les Manuscrits, vol. v., p. 1.



(The Ambrosiana, Milan.)

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