the re-creation — after Verrocchio and after Donatello—of the monumental treatment of the horse.

Painter and sculptor, Leonardo was also a poet, and not among the least of these. He is, indeed, pre-eminently a poet ; first of all, in his pictures, which evoke a whole world of delicious impressions; and secondly, in his prose writings, notably in his Trattato della Pittura, which has only lately been given to the world in its integrity. When he consented to silence the analytic faculty so strongly developed in him, his imagination took flight with incomparable freedom and exuberance. In default of that professional skill, which degenerates too easily into routine, we find emotion, fancy, wealth and originality of images; qualities which also count for much. If Leonardo knows nothing of current formulae, of winged and striking words, of the art of condensation, he acts upon us by some indwelling charm, by some magic outburst of genius.

The thinker and the moralist are allied to the poet. Leonardo's aphorisms and maxims form a veritable treasury of Italian wisdom at the time of the Renaissance. They are instinct


with an evangelic gentleness, an in- (Wind»r Library.)

(Windsor Library.)


finite sweetness and serenity. At one time he advises us to neglect studies the results of which die with us; at another he declares that he who wishes to become rich in a day, runs the risk of being hanged in a year. The eloquence of certain other thoughts is only equalled by their profundity: "Where there is most feeling, there will also be most suffering."—" Tears come from the heart, not from the brain." It is the physiologist who speaks; but what thinker would not have been proud of this admirable definition!

The man of science, in his turn, demands our homage. It is no

longer a secret to any one that Leonardo was a savant of the highest

order; that he discovered twenty laws, a single one of which has

sufficed for the glory of his successors. What am I saying? He

invented the very method of modern science, and his latest biographer,

M. Seaillesl has justly shown in him the true precursor of Bacon.

The names of certain men of genius, Archimedes, Christopher

Columbus, Copernicus, Galileo, Harvey, Pascal, Newton, Lavoisier,

Cuvier, are associated with discoveries of greater renown. But is

there one who united such a multitude of innate gifts, who brought a

curiosity so passionate, an ardour so penetrating, to bear on such

various branches of knowledge; who had such illuminating flashes of

genius, and such an intuition of the unknown links connecting things

capable of being harmonised? Had his writings been published, they

would have advanced the march of science by a whole century. We

cannot sufficiently deplore his modesty, or the sort of horror he had

of printing. Whereas a scribbler like his friend Fra Luca Pacioli

comes before the public with several volumes in fine type, Leonardo,

either by pride or timidity, never published a single line.

In this brief sketch, we have some of the traits which made Leonardo the equal of Michelangelo and Raphael, one of the sovereign masters of sentiment, of thought, and of beauty.

It is time to make a methodical analysis of so many marvels—I might say, of so many tours de force, were not Leonardo's art so essentially healthy and normal, so profoundly vital.

We will begin by inquiring into the origin and early life of the magician.

The painter of the Last Supper and the Gioconda, the sculptor of 1 Leonard de Vinci. L'Artiste et le Savant. Paris, 1892.

the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza, the scientific genius who forestalled so many of our modern discoveries and inventions, was born in 1452 in the neighbourhood of Empoli, on the right bank of the Arno, between Florence and Pisa. The little town of Vinci, in which he first saw the light, lies hidden away among the multitudinous folds of Monte Albano. On one side, the plain with its river—now almost dry, now rushing in a noisy yellow torrent: on the other, the most broken of landscapes; endless hillocks scattered over with villas, and here and there at intervals, a more imposing height, whose bare summit is bathed in violet light at sundown.

Leonardo's native country was such then as we see it to-day; austere in character rather than laughing or exuberant, a rocky territory intersected by interminable walls, over which, in the vicinity of the houses, some straggling branch of rose-bush may clamber; for nucleus of the vegetation, vines and olive trees. Here and there, one catches a glimpse of villa, cottage or farm; in the distance, the dwelling has a smiling air, with its yellow walls and green shutters; but penetrate to the interior, and you will find nakedness and poverty—the walls with a simple coating of rough plaster, mortar or brick for flooring; very little furniture, and that of the humblest, neither carpets nor wall papers; nothing to give an impression of comfort, not to speak of luxury; finally, no precautions whatever against the cold, which is severe in this part of the country during the long winter months.

On these stern heights a race has grown up, frugal, industrious, alert, untouched by the nonchalance of the Roman, by the mysticism of the Umbrian, or the nervous excitability of the Neapolitan. The majority of the natives are employed in agricultural pursuits; the few artisans being merely for local use. As for the more ambitious spirits, for whom the horizon of their villages is too restricted, it is to Florence, to Pisa, or to Siena they go to seek their fortunes.

Certain modern biographers tell us of the castle in which Leonardo first saw the light; over and above this, they conjure up for us a tutor attached to the family, a library wherein the child first found food for his curiosity, and much besides. But all this—let it be said at once—is legend and not history.

There was, it is true, a castle at Vinci, but it was a fortress, a stronghold held by Florence. As to Leonardo's parents, they can only have occupied a house, and a very modest one at that, nor do we even know for certain if this house was situated within the walls of Vinci itself, or a little beyond it, in the village of Anchiano.1 The domestic service consisted of one fante, that is, a woman servant, at a wage of eight florins per annum.

If there ever was a family to whom the culture of the arts was foreign, it was that of Leonardo. Of five forbears of the painter on his father's side, four had filled the position of notary, from which these worthy officials derived their title of " Ser " corresponding to the

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[graphic][merged small]

French "Maitre ": these were the father of the artist, his grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great-grandfather. We need not be surprised to find this independent spirit par excellence developing in the midst of musty law-books. The Italian notary in no wise resembled the pompous scrivener of modern playwrights. In the thirteenth century, Brunetto Latini, Dante's master, was essentially wanting in the pedantic gravity which we are accustomed to associate with his profession. In the following century, another notary—Ser

1 This last hypothesis is vigorously contested by Signor Uzielli {Ricerche, 2nd ed. vol. i. pp. 38-40), who shows that Leonardo's father owned no property at Anchiano till after the birth of his son.

2 Our illustration reproduces a view of the town of Vinci from Signor Uzielli's Ricerche intorm a Leonardo da Vinci (1st ed. 1872, vol. i. frontispiece; 2nd ed. 1896, vol. i. p. 3.)

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