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not escape the necessity of glorifying the Medici, the oppressors of his native land. The great point in connection with these involuntary sacrifices was to preserve some human respect, to avoid insulting the vanquished, after having extolled him to the skies. The stars of the golden age of the Renaissance, more careful of their own glory than many a modern artist, succeeded in reconciling the gratitude due to their former patrons with the consideration claimed by those of a later date.
In Leonardo's case, one would willingly discover, side by side with the thinker and the moralist, a generous heart, full of passionate interest in all the struggles that marked his period. But this would be a delusion. As M. Séailles has most truly pointed out," he looked at political phenomena like a Spinoza : “sub specie æterni,” from the eternal point of view. The evil wrought by others interests him less than the good he may do himself. Politics and social organisation, therefore, offered no attraction to the solitary speculator, accustomed to hover far above the level of the questions of the day. The multiplicity of the doubts which assailed him whenever he approached any particular problem, precluded him from being a man of action. It is only men of a narrow, or of a dishonest turn of mind, who have the gift of distinguishing, in complex matters, the one feature which makes most for their own advantage. But Leonardo, the very essence of scientific honesty and disinterestedness, believed he owed it as a duty to himself to exhaust every aspect of a phenomenon, instead of putting forward one side only, to the exclusion of all the rest. From this excess of indecision arose his contradictory behaviour, his weakness, and his compromises.' .
The foregoing statement was indispensable for the definition of the point of view from which we must judge a nature as rich as it was vacillating
After his visit to Venice (March, 1500), Leonardo returned, like the prodigal son, to his native city. He took up his residence, for six months, in the house of his young disciple, the sculptor Giovanni Francesco Rustici. He had saved money during his stay at Milan ; this is proved by the fact that he deposited 600 florins (somewhere about twelve hundred pounds) at the Hospice of “Santa Maria Nuova” in the month of January, 1500. On various occasions, 1 Leonardo da Vinci : L'Artiste et le Savant, p. 501.
between April 24, 1500, and May 20, 1506, he drew out 450 forins of this sum.
Sixteen or seventeen years had elapsed since Leonardo had left his native country : and during this interval both public and artistic prosperity had been sorely shaken. The wealthy bankers of former days were now replaced by bankrupt merchants. There was as much confusion in men's minds as in their financial affairs. In spite of the punishment inflicted on Savonarola, mysticism was still rise among the Florentines, and more particularly among the artists ; this we know from the biographies of Botticelli, Lorenzo di Credo, Fra Bartolommeo, and the Della Robbia.
On April 14, 1500, the Government, in the transport of delight aroused by the capture of Lodovico il Moro, reared a beautiful crucifix before the entrance of the Palazzo Vecchio, as though to remind the city that she had chosen Christ to be her King. A few days later, the famous Madonna dell' Impruneta was carried in solemn procession through the streets.2
The most eminent of Da Vinci's artistic contemporaries, Verrocchio, Pollajuolo, Ghirlandajo, had passed away. Botticelli, aged and worn out, had, in a sense, outlived himself; Filippino Lippi, though in the prime of life, had not produced anything in advance of his earlier work. Others, such as Lorenzo di Credi and Piero di Cosimo (1462–1521) 3 were more than ready to enrol themselves under the banner of their fellow-citizen, who had returned from Milan after having founded a flourishing school there. The same may be said of Andrea del Şarto (1486-1531), who imitated his tender colour and the suavity of his types.
On the other hand, new men had come to the front. At their head was Michelangelo, already, and in spite of his youth (he was only twenty-five), accepted as the unquestioned leader of the Florentine school.
Perugino, who oscillated backward and forward perpetually between Perugia and Florence, had identified himself, for his part, with a style of art as remarkable for its mystic and devout expression as for the warmth and richness of its colour. Leonardo's former fellow
1 Uzielli, Ricerche intorno a Leonardo da Vinci, ist ed., vol. i., p. 164-165; 2nd ed., vol. i., p. 609-610.
2 See Landucci's Diario, del Badia edition, .p. 208–209.
3 Leonardo mentions the name of Piero di Cosimo without comment of any sort, (Richter, vol. ii., p. 437.)
disciple was at that moment the most popular and admired painter in Italy, and perhaps in Europe. Princes, republics, religious communities, vied with each other for the possession of the works he produced so profusely. The cities of Umbria, of the Romagna, Orvieto, Pavia, Venice, all, in their turn, approached him with the most flattering requests.
The most brilliant of all Perugino's pupils, Raphael, had not, as yet, left Umbria. We shall see that he had hardly settled at Florence before he revealed himself one of Leonardo's most ardent admirers.
As for Fra Bartolommeo, as soon as his Last Judgment, now preserved in the Museum of Santa Maria Nuova, was completed, overwhelmed by the tragic end of his master, Savonarola, he had laid aside his brush for a time, and was living in the deepest seclusion. Leonardo's return to Florence coincided with the return of the Frate to his artistic labours. The Dominican painter did not attempt to withstand the influence of so mighty a master. He was especially indebted to Leonardo in the matter of chiaroscuro and colour, 1
Another artist who should be mentioned as having come within the sphere of Leonardo's influence is Ridolfo Ghirlandajo (1483-1561), the son of Domenico.
Leonardo had returned to Florence famous and admired. Did his country realise, at last, that in the case of a man of such genius, the current rate of production must be put aside ; that perfection so great could only be attained by dint of infinite toil ? No man was ever less prone to improvisation ; in those days of
1 Histoire de l'Art pendant la Renaissance, vol. ii., p. 672