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monster, whose noisome breath filled the air with flames as it issued from a rift among gloomy rocks, black venom streaming from its open jaws, its eyes darting fire, its nostrils belching forth smoke. The young artist suffered severely meanwhile from the stench arising from all these dead animals, but his ardour enabled him to endure it bravely to the end. The work being completed, and neither his father nor the peasant coming to claim the shield, Leonardo reminded his father to have it removed. Ser Piero therefore repaired one morning to the room occupied by his son, and knocked at the door; it was opened by Leonardo, who begged him to wait a moment before entering; whereupon the young man retired, and placing the shield on an easel in the window, so arranged the curtains that the light fell upon the painting in dazzling brilliancy. Ser Piero, forgetting the errand upon which he had come, experienced at the first glance a violent shock, never thinking that this was nothing but a shield, and, still less, that he was looking at a painting. He fell back a step in alarm, but Leonardo restrained him. 'I see, father,' he said, ' that this picture produces the effect I hoped for; take it, then, and convey it to its owner.' Ser Piero was greatly amazed, and lauded the strange device adopted by his son. He then went secretly and purchased another shield, ornamented with a heart pierced by an arrow, and this he gave to the peasant, who, nothing doubting, ever after regarded him with gratitude. Afterwards, Ser Piero sold Leonardo's shield secretly to some merchants of Florence for ioo ducats, and they, in their turn, easily obtained 300 for it from the Duke of Milan.":

The biographer has obviously embellished the story, but there is nothing to authorise us in supposing that it is not founded on fact, such pleasantries being extremely characteristic of Leonardo. Who knows but that this shield served him as a passport, when he went to seek his fortune at the Court of the Sforzi?

As a pendant to the shield there was, according to the biographers, a picture representing a Gorgon, surrounded by serpents intertwined, and knotted in a thousand folds—"una testa di Megera con mirabilj et varj agruppamenti di serpi."

1 Vasari . Lomazzo confirms this story, saying that the "rotella" was sent to

Lodovicoil Moro. {Trattato delta Pittura, book vii. chap, xxxii.)

This picture was long identified with the one in the Uffizi. But the oracles of Art have now decided that this could not have been produced till long after the death of da Vinci, and that it is the work of some cinquecentist, painting from Vasari's description. We know, however, from the testimony of an anonymous biographer1 that a Medusa painted by Leonardo was included in the collections of Cosimo de' Medici about the middle of the sixteenth century. Cosimo's interventory is not less precise; it mentions "un quadro con una Furia infernale del Vinci semplice." 2

The cartoon of The Fall has shared the fate of the Medusa. Here again we have to content ourselves with Vasari's description, corroborated by the testimony of the biographer edited by Milanesi. "A cartoon was entrusted to Leonardo, from which a portiere in cloth of gold and silver was to be executed in Flanders for the King of Portugal. The cartoon represented Adam and Eve in the garden of Paradise at the moment of their disobedience. Leonardo made a design of several animals in a meadow studded with flowers, which he rendered with incredible accuracy and truth, painting them in monochrome, with touches of ceruse. The leaves and branches of a fig-tree are executed with such loving care that, verily, one can scarcely fathom the patience of the artist. There is also a palm, to which he has imparted such elasticity by the curves of its foliage as none other could have attained to but himself. Unhappily, the portiere was never executed, and the cartoon is now in the fortunate house of the magnificent Ottavio de' Medici, to whom it was given a short time ago by Leonardo's uncle."

Thus, from his earliest youth, Leonardo showed a taste for bizarre subjects: the monster painted on the shield, the Gorgon surrounded with serpents, so little in harmony with the prevailing taste of contemporary Italian artists, which was becoming more and more literary. Thus in The Fall we see him engaged upon the reproduction of the very smallest details of vegetation. His burning curiosity searched into problems of the most intricate, not to say

1 Milanesi, Documenti inediti riguardanti Leonardo da Vinci, Florence, 1872, p. u# Fabriczy, // Codice dell' Anonimo gaddiano, Florence, 1893, p. 77.

2 See my Collections d'Antiques formees par les Medicis au xvi'. sftcle, p. 61.

repulsive order. M. Taine has expressed this admirably in one of his penetrating pieces of analysis, in which he teaches us more about the genius of a master in a few lines than we learn from whole volumes by others; we will set it down as it stands, for it would be impossible to put it better. "It happens now and then," writes the author of the Voyage en Italic, "that among

these young athletes haughty as Greek gods, we light upon some beautiful ambiguous youth, of feminine mould, his slender form contorted into an attitude of languorous coquetry, akin to the androgynes of the Imperial epoch, and like them, giving evidence of a more advanced but less healthy, an almost morbid art, so eager after perfection, so insatiable of delight, that, not content to accord strength to man and delicacy to woman, it must needs confound and multiply the beauty of the two sexes by a strange fusion, and lose itself in the dreams and researches of the ages of decadence and immorality. There is no saying to what the protracted striving after exquisite and profound sensations may not finally lead." Leonardo was not one of those limited spirits for whom nature is nothing but a convenient source of picturesque themes; he embraced it in all its infinite variety, and it was perhaps because he studied its deformed and hideous aspects that he was enabled to show us its purest, most ideal beauty.

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Study for a Head of the Virgin, ascribed io Lconardo.

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