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Milan, whither Francesco had been summoned to give advice as to the construction of the Duomo. I may add that Bramante, too, seems to have taken part in this campaign ; and, to conclude, another gifted artist, the sculptor, Pietro Torrigiano, was serving as a soldier in the army of the Borgias.
On August 18, 1502, the son of Alexander VI. sends Leonardo a patent intended to facilitate his inspections of the towns and fortresses so boldly snatched from their legitimate owner's hands.
This document, dated from Pavia, where the usurper was at the moment, describes the master as architect and engineer-in-chief.2
Leonardo had not waited to receive it before beginning his tour. As early as July 30, we find him at Urbino, where he sketches a dovecote, a staircase of several flights, and the fortress itself; on August 1, he puts in an appearance at Pesaro, where he surveys several engines of war, and sketches the library ; on the 8th, he stops at Rimini, and takes note of the harmonious sound of the water falling from the fountain. He pays a longer visit (from August u to 15) to Cesena, makes a drawing of a battlemented house, and describes a waggon, and the local system of vine planting ; on September 6, he reaches Porto Cesenatico, and sketches the harbour there. In the course of these wanderings, he halts at Piombino, Acquapendente, near Orvieto, at Siena, where he notes the plan on which a bell is hung (probably that in the “ Torre del Mangia,” the belfry of the Palazzo Pubblico). Imola, Faënza, Forli, Bertinore, are visited in turn,
1 Alvisi, Cesare Borgia, p. 126.
2 Della Valle, Vasari's edition (Siena, 1792), vol. v., p. 72–73.—Amoretti, Memorie, p. 87.—Alvisi, Cesare Borgia, Duca di Romagna, p. 357–358. Here is a translation of this curious document :-“Cæsar Borgia of France .... all our lieutenants, castellans, captains, condottieri, officers, soldiers, and subjects, who may have knowledge of these presents are ordered and commanded (as follows) : To give free passage, without levying any public tax either on himself or his company, to grant friendly welcome, and freedom to take measurements, and make examination as he wills, to our most excellent and wellbeloved friend, architect, and engineer-in-chief, Leonardo Vinci, bearer of these presents, commissioned by us to inspect all strong places and fortresses in our dominions, so that we may, according to their necessity and his counsel, provide for their maintenance. And to this end they are to provide him with as many men as he shall require, and give him all the help, support, and favour he may demand. It being our will that every engineer in our dominions shall be bound to confer with him, and follow his opinion, let no man dare to do otherwise, if he does not wish to incur our displeasure .. Given at Pavia, August 18, 1502
by Cæsar Borgia's inspector-general. Perhaps he travelled as far as Buonconvento, Chiusi, Perugia, Santa Maria degli Angeli, and Foligno. One of his notes, at all events, mentions the distances between these various towns. Everywhere he draws out plans, sketches fortresses, takes note of curiosities of every sort and kind.
It is asserted that Cæsar's engineer in ordinary advised his employer to destroy the fortifications of Castel Bolognese, and that, on the other hand, the barracks built at that place to accommodate troops were erected under his superintendence. The honour of having planned the canal intended to connect Cesena with Porto Cesenatico is also ascribed to him.
The one point absolutely certain is that, on most occasions, he mingled the performance of his military functions with other occupations of the most varied nature. Wherever he was, he played truant to some extent. A strange fancy this, surely, which led an eager and practical man, like Cæsar Borgia, to take this dreamer, this dilettante, this visionary into his service!
· A letter to the Marchesa Isabella of Mantua, dated April, 1503, gives us some valuable details as to Leonardo's occupations at this moment.
“ Most illustrious and most excellent Lady,—During this Holy Week I have learnt the intentions of Leonardo the painter from his pupil Salai, and from several other of his friends, who, to inform me yet more fully, conducted me to his house, on Wednesday in Holy Week.
To sum it up, his mathematical studies have so drawn him away from painting that he cannot endure to use his brush. Nevertheless, I endeavoured, first of all, skilfully to plead your Excellency's cause. Then seeing him well inclined to please your Excellency, I spoke to him in all sincerity, and we came to the following conclusion : he can leave the service of the King of France without incurring his displeasure, and, as he hopes, within a month, at latest, he will place himself at your Excellency's orders, in preference to those of any other person. But in any case, no sooner shall he have finished a little picture he is now painting for one Robertet, the favourite of the King of France, than he will immediately execute the portrait and send it to your Excellency. I have left two good canvassers about him. The small picture on which he is working is a Madonna, seated,
1 Richter, vol. ii. p. 243 ; Alvisi, p. 309-310.
disentangling her spindles, while the Child, with his foot on the basket containing the spindles, has laid hold of the winder, and gazes attentively at its four rays (branches) which form a cross, and, as though desiring to have the cross, he holds it firmly, though laughingly, and will not give it back to his Mother, who tries to take it from him. This is what I have succeeded in arranging with him .. .. Florence, April 4, 1502, Fra Pietro da Nuvolaria, vice-general of the Carmelites. 1
Meanwhile, Leonardo had laid the first touches on one of his masterpieces, the Saint Anne.
" Leonardo,” says Vasari, “having heard that the Servites had commis. sioned Filippino Lippi to paint the picture for the high altar of the Nunziata,' expressed his desire to receive an order for some similar work. Forthwith Filippino, like the kindly and courteous man he was, made over the commission to him. The
first IDEA FOR THE “SAINT ANNE."
Accademia, Venice.) brothers, to ensure Leonardo every possible facility, received him in their house, entertaining both himself and all his following (that following which stood him in the stead of family). For a long time the artist kept them waiting, and did nothing at all. At last he produced a cartoon, with the Madonna, S. Anne, and the Christ. Not only did this work,” Vasari adds, “ fill all the artists with admiration, but on its completion, a continuous procession of men and women, of old men and youths, who hastened to admire the masterpiece, filled the chamber in which it was exhibited, for two whole days ; the whole town was in a hubbub; you might have fancied it was a procession on some solemn feast day. . . . The face of the Virgin ” (I still quote Vasari) “shows all
i Calvi, Leonardo da Vinci, p. 97. VOL. II.
that simplicity, beauty, and grace which characterise the Mother of Christ, together with her modesty and humility, mixed with joy at the sight of the beautiful Child she holds so lovingly on her lap. Her eyes, too, rest kindly on the little S. John, playing with his lamb, while the smile of S. Anne expresses her deep joy at beholding the association of her terrestrial descendants with celestial glory : a kind of expression which, as is well known, was specially suited to Leonardo's talent. This cartoon, as will be shortly shown, was carried into France. Leonardo having relinquished the undertaking, the brothers once more confided it to Filippino, but death overtaking him, neither was he able to accomplish it.” And further on : “Leonardo went to France, for the King,' who possessed some of his works, showed him great affection and expressed his desire to see the cartoon of Saint Anne carried out in colour ; but he, as was his wont, put him off, for a long time, with words."
The history of this masterpiece is exceedingly obscure. For many years, the work now preserved in the Royal Academy in London was thought to be the Servite cartoon. But this differs in several points from Vasari's description. The little S. John the Baptist is not playing with a lamb; he is advancing towards the Holy Child, as though to do Him homage, and the Child's right hand is raised to bless him. Further, it will be noticed that S. Anne points her finger heavenward, a gesture which would not have escaped Vasari's notice. The London cartoon is most certainly only the very earliest conception of the composition. It may be, indeed, that it was produced at a different period, and intended for some other picture. This would explain why only one artist, Bernardino Luini, thought of copying it (his picture is now preserved in the Ambrosiano at Milan), whereas the final cartoon gave birth to a
1 Springer is inclined to think this means Louis XII., but there is no room for doubt that Vasari referred to Francis I.
2 In a study published in the Gazette des Beaux Arts (1887, vol. ii., p. 98), M. A. Gruyer shows an inclination to believe that the Saint Anne was painted at Milan between 1507 and 1512, and thereby explains the numerous copies of it made by the best Lombard painters of that school. But may not Leonardo have brought the picture from Florence to Milan ? See also Mr. Alfred Marks' exceedingly conscientious work, The Santa Anna of Leonardo da Vinci, London, 1882 ; Springer's article in the Zeitschrift für bild. Kunst, 1888; L'Art, July, 1888; Marks, Magazine of Art, April, 1893 ; La Chronique d' Art, Dec. 5, 1891; the London Athenæum, April 23, May 21, June 18, 1892 ; Cook, Gazette des Beaux Arts, Nov. 1897; Kiegel, Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte Italiens, Dresden, 1898, p. 109, etc.
score of copies or imitations, which are all enumerated in Mr. Marks' article. It will be remarked that these copyists or imitators have all clung to the graceful fancy of making the Child Jesus embrace the lamb, an incident which does not occur in the Royal Academy cartoon.
Personally, I am inclined to believe that the painting in the Louvre is the cartoon executed for the Servites, and that there are several inaccuracies in the description of it left us by Vasari. One thing is certain, that all the sixteenth-century writers—Paolo Giovio, Signor Milanesi's anonymous author, etc., speak of a Saint Anne purchased by Francis I.1 And further, when the Cardinal d'Aragon paid a visit to Leonardo at the Château de Cloux in 1516, the artist showed him a picture of the “Madonna e del figliolo che stan posti in gremmo di Sancta Anna.” 2 This, evidently, is the Saint Anne in the Louvre. A sonnet published in 1525, by a Bolognese, Geronimo Casio de' Medici, expressly mentions “S. Anna che dipinse L. Vinci, che tenea la Maria in brazzo, che non volea il figlio scendessi sopra un agnello.” 3
Francis I. did not acquire the Saint Anne, as we learn on the testimony of the Cardinal d'Aragon, till after the month of October, 1516. Perhaps he purchased the picture directly from Leonardo; perhaps, again, he bought it from his legatee, Francesco Melzi.
It is true that the Louvre picture does differ in some particulars from the description given us by Vasari, but that description was very probably founded on hearsay. Vasari never went to Florence till 1528, and thus had no opportunity of studying the cartoon with his own eyes, for, as we shall shortly learn, it had left Italy long before that date. I will limit myself to the indication of a few of the divergencies. The biographer mentions, among the figures in the sacred idyll, the infant S. John the Baptist. Now there is no figure of S. John in the Louvre picture. Further, he tells us that the Child Jesus is seated on His Mother's lap. In the Louvre picture, the Child is sitting on the ground, and just about to bestride the lamb.
Signor Milanesi's anonymous writer says, “Fece una Nostra Donna e una Santa Anna che ando' in Francia.”
2 Uzielli, Ricerche intorno a Leonardo da Vinci, ist edition, vol. ii., p. 460.
3 It should be noted that Paolo Giovio speaks of a “tabula," and the Cardinal's secretary of a “quadro"; that is to say, in each case of a picture, a painting, and not at all of a cartoon. Now what does Vasari tell us ? That the King of France pressed the artist to put the cartoon of Saint Anne into colour : “Che colorisse il cartone della Santa Anna,” in other words, to transfer the grisaille drawing to panel and colour it.