網頁圖片
PDF

long career of Leonardo da Vinci is a standing witness to the fact that, from youth to old age, he set glory and honour before riches.

With such tendencies as these, the models created by his predecessors would have but little influence upon the youthful beginner. "He was most assiduous," Vasari tells us, " in working from nature, and would sometimes make rough models in clay, over which he then laid moist rags coated with clay; these he afterwards carefully copied on superfine Rheims canvas or on prepared linen, colouring them in black and white with the point of the brush to produce illusion." (Several of these studies have come down to us.) "He drew, besides, on paper," Vasari adds, "with so much zeal and talent that no one could rival him in delicacy of rendering." Vasari possessed one of these heads in chalk and camaieu, which he pronounced divine.

However, Leonardo soon abandoned this practice. In the Trattato della Pittura (chap. Dxxxviii) he strongly advises students not to make use of models over which paper or thin leather has been drawn, but, on the contrary, to sketch their draperies from nature, carefully noting differences of texture.1

However refractory Leonardo may have been to contemporary influences, it was impossible that there should have been no interchange of ideas and no affinity of style between him and his master. The better to make them understood, I shall compare the various stages in the development of Verrocchio's art, as I have endeavoured to define them (pp. 22—26), with some of the more salient landmarks in the evolution of his immortal pupil.

We do not know for certain when he entered Verrocchio's studio, but it was long before 1472,2 for at that date, being then twenty years of age, he was received into the guild of painters of Florence;

1 Among the artists of the sixteenth century who made use of clay models similar to those of Leonardo, we may mention Garofalo and Tintoretto (see my LHistore de FArt pendant la Renaissance, vol. iii. p. 148).

2 Miiller-Walde puts the date at 1466, which is quite within the range of probability, Leonardo being then fourteen years old.

in 1473, as is proved by a study to which I shall revert immediately, he already used the pen with perfect mastery; we may add that the intercourse between the two artists was kept up till 1476 at least.

Shall I be accused of temerity if, armed with these dates, I venture to maintain, contrary to common opinion, that between pupil and master there was an interchange of ideas particularly advantageous to the latter; that Leonardo gave to Verrocchio as much, if not more, than he received from him? By the time that a fragrance of grace and beauty began to breathe from Verrocchio's work, Leonardo was no

[graphic][merged small]

longer an apprentice, but a consummate master. The Baptism of Christ, to which I shall refer later, is not the only work in which the collaboration of the two artists is palpable, and the contrast between the two manners self-evident; this contrast is still more striking between the works of Verrocchio which are anterior to Leonardo's entry into his studio, and those he produced later.

In their drawings, we have an invaluable criterion whereby to measure the respective value of the work of the master and that of his disciple. It is true that Morelli and his followers have excluded from the works of Verrocchio the twenty-five sheets of the Sketch Book so long attributed to him. (In the Louvre, at the Ecole des Beaux Arts, at Chantilly, etc.) We will accept their verdict, and only take into consideration the Five Genii at Play of the Louvre, and the Head of an Angel in the Uffizi, declared to be ultra-authentic by Morelli' and by Gronau.2 Even here it must be admitted that the execution is cramped and poor, the types either unhealthy or undecided, (after the manner of certain compositions in the Raphael Sketch Book in the Accademia of Venice); in short, the drawings are the very antithesis of Leonardo's. To aver that the Sketch Book is not by Verrocchio's hand can add but little to his reputation. The drawings are not sensibly worse than those which Morelli and Gronau ascribe to him.

Let us now compare the earliest efforts of Leonardo with these archaic works. A curious pen and ink landscape, with the inscription: "Di di sca Maria della Neve, a di 2 d'aghosto 1473" (the day of S. Mary of

the Snow, August 2, 1473), dates from 1473, when Leonardo was twenty-one. It represents a plain between mountains, two, those which bound it to right and left of the foreground, rising almost perpendicularly. On the one to the left stands a town surrounded by ramparts flanked with towers.3 All around are trees with

1 Die GaUrien zu Miinchen und Dresden, pp. 350-351. (English translation by Miss Ffoulkes, 1893, p. 271.)

2 Jahrbuch der k. Pr. Kunstsammlungen, 1896, i.

3 One of the erudite writers who has rendered such valuable service in the interpretation of Leonardo's literary works claims to have discovered in this landscape a view of the Rigi, on which, indeed, there is a convent dedicated to S. Mary of the smooth trunks and parallel branches, something like pines : the type, as we know, so dear to the Primitives. The composition has none of the clumsiness of Verrocchio's; the most insignificant details acquire an incomparable delicacy and smoothness under that cunning hand. Nevertheless, the landscape (evidently a study from nature) is wanting in decision and in intention ; there is something vague about it, as in the vast majority of the productions of the genius which lent itself with such difficulty to any precise and categorical scheme of expression.

[graphic]

SKETCH, SCHOOL OF VERROCCHIO.

(The Louvre.)

The drawing of 1473 furnishes us with another valuable landmark: Leonardo had already adopted his peculiar system of writing from right to left, after the manner of the Orientals.

Besides these dates, which are fixed by figures, there are others which may be determined by peculiarities of style. Though bearing no chronological inscription by Leonardo's hand, the two studies I am about to mention belong none the less to a well-defined period of his career; if, hitherto, they have not attracted the attention of the historians of the master, the question once raised, no one will deny that they must have been executed at the beginning of his term of apprenticeship, and in Verrocchio's studio.

The first, now at Weimar, shows us the head of a youth, in every point the counterpart of Verrocchio's David (1476), but less harsh, more rounded, the mouth less compressed, the cheek-bones and the throat less angular—in a word, the type bears the Leonardesque imprint in every particular. For the rest, we note the same curled locks as in the statue, save that the clusters, which are more abundant, fall lower on the forehead; the same long eyes. We have here, probably, a model treated at one time by the master, at another by the pupil; where one is dry and restless, the other is all

Snows. But de Geymiiller has objected, and with reason, that these mountains have not the Alpine character; that the heights of the foreground are much lower than the Rigi; finally, that the latter has never had a city bearing the smallest resemblance to the one in Leonardo's drawing upon one of its slopes. Moreover, there is nothing to show that, at this period, Leonardo bad crossed the Alps. In Baron Liphart's opinion, this drawing represents a view of the Apennines, near Lucca. (Miiller-Walde, Leonardo da Vinci, p. 64.)

[merged small][ocr errors]

suavity. Here, if I am not mistaken, is the point where that striving after beauty begins which, after a certain moment, makes itself felt in Verrocchio's chief works: his Incredulity of S. Thomas} wherein the saint, with his serene and benign countenance, is worthy to sit among the Apostles of the Last Supper in Santa Maria delle Grazie, the Angels of the Forteguerra tomb, and the Lady with the Bouquet of the Uffizi Gallery, that meagre bust which is nevertheless so distinguished and fascinating in expression.

Another study of Three dancing Girls and a sketch of a head (Accademia at Venice), offers the same points of resemblance, and the same differences. Here we see again the crumpled draperies so dear to Verrocchio, his abruptness of movement, his stiffness of foreshortening, notably in the dancer in the background holding a scarf over her head like a child with a skipping-rope.2 At the same time there is much of the grace peculiar to Leonardo; one of these dishevelled Bacchantes, in classic costume, is remarkable for her smile, her deep-eyed gaze, the curve of her arm, the rhythm of her gesture. The technique—the drawing is executed in pen-and-ink —recalls the hand of Verrocchio, but it has a freedom and charm unknown to that artist. A curious drawing among those ascribed to Verrocchio in the Louvre (His de la Salle collection, No. 118), contains a few words written backwards, in which M. Charles Ravaisson-Mollien does not hesitate to recognise Leonardo's writing.3 Though the Madonna of this sheet is of a somewhat mean and archaic type, not without analogies to that of the Umbrian school, the slight sketch of the youth (S. John the Baptist?) has a grace and freedom that suggest Leonardo.

1 Great was the impression produced by this group when it was installed, on June 2r, 1483, in one of the tabernacles of Or San Michele. A contemporary, Landucci, declares that never before had so beautiful a head of Christ been seen: "la piu bella testa del Salvatore ch' ancora si sia fatta." {Diario fiorentino dal 1450 al 1516; Florence, 1883, p. 45.)

2 This figure may be compared with the Angels in the Thiers collection at the Louvre, those of the Forteguerra monument, and those of the ciborium of the church at Monteluce, which Venturi attributes to a pupil of Verrocchio, Francesco di Simone Ferrucci of Fiesole (Archivio storieo dell' Arte, 1892, p. 376).

3 Memoires de la Societc rationale des Antiquaires de France, 1885, p. 132—145.

« 上一頁繼續 »