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of a special contract (here follow several uninteresting clauses). Then we have purchases of plaster, of Alexandrian ceruse, of paper (one ream and twenty-nine quires of royal folio), eighty-eight pounds of flour for pasting the said paper, and a bed sheet of three widths to edge it.
“Competition” is a word which has often been used in the course of references to the famous struggle between those two giants of art, Leonardo and Michelangelo. The term, as a matter of fact, is quite inapplicable. “Competition ” indicates a preference shown to one party, an elimination of the other. Nothing of the sort occurs in this case. Each rival receives his own separate order, each treats his separate subject, each has the certain hope of seeing his handiwork shine in perpetual glory in the chief hall of the ancient municipal Palace. The competition, if such there be, is purely platonic. The only object of either artist is
(Windsor Library.) to excel the other, and win more general applause. It was in this fashion that, some twelve years later, Raphael and Sebastiano del Piombo produced, the first his Transfiguration, the second his Raising of Lazarus, before the rapt and admiring eyes of Rome. These tournaments of art-distinct in every particular from all competition in the modern sense of the term—were far more refined, because they gave room for more independence, and therefore for greater fancy. Such, for instance, were those opened for the completion of buildings, the cathedrals of Milan and Pavia, the Vatican Basilica, the façade of San Lorenzo
1 Gaye, Carteggio, vol. ii., p. 88, 89.—Giornale storico degli Archivi toscani, vol. ii., p. 137-139.—Vasari, Milanesi's edition, vol. iv, p. 43-44.
at Florence, or even for the execution of the gates of the Baptistery at Florence, ordered just a century earlier.
Contemporary witness, however, is all unanimous as to the hostility between Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo.
It may be that the opinion expressed by Leonardo on the occasion of the setting up of the David gave umbrage to the sculptor. One thing is certain, the younger rival looked askance at the older man's genius. The man who had openly declared Perugino to be a dullard, who had accused Raphael of plagiarism, and pronounced the work of one of his best friends, Baccio d'Agnolo, puerile, was not disposed to bow his head before an artistic talent which, though less spontaneous, and less calculated to impress the vulgar than his own, was in reality far deeper. Vasari tells, in a very confused fashion, a story on this subject, the sense of which, unless I am mistaken, is as follows : Leo X. had consulted Leonardo as to the completion of the façade of the church of San Lorenzo at Florence. Hearing this, Michelangelo, who had been commissioned to do the work, left Florence, with the approval of the Duke, Giuliano de' Medici. Leonardo, in his turn, filled with disgust, made up his mind to travel to France. (See vol. i., p. 156, the story of Michelangelo's impertinent attack on Leonardo.)
Before we actually study Leonardo's composition, let us try to follow up the history of the masterpiece, its vicissitudes, and its destruction, so greatly to be deplored.
This time, contrary to his usual habit, Leonardo proved that he could be punctual.
At the appointed time, in February, 1505, he had his scaffoldings erected, not in the Pope's Chamber in Santa Maria, but in the Council Hall of the Palazzo Vecchio.
There are fresh entries of purchases of plaster, “gesso da murare,” (destined, this time, for covering the wall,) and linseed oil; then of Greek pitch, ceruse, gold leaf, Venetian sponges (663 lbs. of plaster, 89 lbs. of Greek pitch, 223 lbs. of linseed oil), etc. At the same moment the auxiliaries, artists or craftsmen (the painter Raffaello d'Antonio di Biagio, who worked for a fortnight on the picture, Ferrando Spagnolo, another painter, Lorenzo di Marco, Leonardo's “ garzone,” Tommaso di Giovanni Masini, who ground the colours), rise up round the master. Everything promised to go smoothly. In August, 1505, there is a purchase of fifty-four “braccia ” of canvas to cover the scaffolding, probably for the protection of the artists, then of nut-oil and ceruse and plaster, and last of all, wax to smear over the linen stretched in the window frames instead of glass. All at once the payments cease, although the work is still unfinished. What had caused so serious a check ?
i Published by Springer. Raffael und Michelangelo, 2nd edition, vol. i., p. 43.
For some time already, Leonardo, with the characteristic weakness which so often hampered his work, had been allowing the chemist to get the better of the artist. He had read in Pliny, without thoroughly understanding it, a recipe for some special stucco used by the Roman painters. He had tried it for the first time for his painting in the Pope's Chamber, where he was then working. Having placed his picture against the wall, he lighted a large charcoal fire in front of it, the heat of which dried and hardened the substance on which he had worked. He endeavoured to employ the same preparation in the Council Hall itself, and as a natter of fact, the lower part, which the fire could reach, did dry and harden satisfactorily. But in the upper region, which the heat could not touch on account of the distance, the substance remained soft and ran.1
This was more than enough to put Leonardo out of heart, and, as in the case of the Adoration of the Magi, the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza, and many another work, he left his masterpiece alone, and began to build fresh castles in the air.
At this moment he seems to have turned his eyes in more directions than one. Appearances all point to his having made a journey to Rome in 1505. In 1506 he went back to Milan, summoned thither, as early as the month of May, by Charles d'Amboise, who governed the duchy in the name of King Louis XII. Neither threats nor
1 Vasari only tells us that he desired to paint in oils on the wall, but that he used so thick a substance, “per lo incollato del muro," that in a short time the colour began to run. Paolo Giovio, who edited, in 1527 or 1528, the dialogues published by Tiraboschi (Storia della Letteratura italiana, Milan edition, vol. vii., p. 2495), also says that Leonardo used oil (nut), “Manet etiam in Comitio Curiae Florentinae pugna atque victoria de Pisanis praeclare ad modum, sed infeliciter inchoata, vitio tectorii colores juglandino oleo intritos singulari contumacia respuentis. Cujus inexpectatae (injuriae) justissimus dolor interrupto operi gratiae plurimum addidisse videtur.”
See also M. Ch. Brun's interesting study, Lionardo da Vinci (in Kunst und Künstler by Dohme, p. 43).
entreaties could induce him to alter his resolve. The Gonfaloniere, Piero Soderini, used very harsh language concerning him. The artist, he wrote, had not behaved as he should have done towards the Florentine Republic; he had accepted a considerable sum of money, and had only made a small beginning on a very large piece of work. But Leonardo was a proud-hearted man. Every one of his actions bore witness to his generosity. (There is a story that when he went to the bank to draw the monthly sum given him by Soderini, the cashier offered him the money in bags filled with “quattrini ” (farthings), but
the artist refused to take them. “I am no farthing painter,” he said.) Hearing of Soderini's complaints, he got together, with his friends' assistance, the whole sum he had received, and brought it back to him. Soderini, however, refused to accept it. Thus the painter saved his honour as a man. But how are we to excuse the artist's treason to his art ; his desertion from the battlefield, his abandonment of his imperfect work to all the
chances fate might bring? (Library of the Institut de France,
Let us say at once that the sketch on the MS. 2037.)
walls of the Palazzo Vecchio was destined shortly to disappear. On April 13, 1513, the Council of the Florentine Republic gave orders to a carpenter to put up a balustrade to protect the figures painted by Leonardo in the great hall. Then there is silence as to the masterpiece, and no one knows how or when it perished. .
As Leonardo's cartoon was hardly more long-lived than his sketch, we are forced to be content with a few more or less fragmentary
1 Gaye, Carteggio, vol. ii. p. 88-90. Landucci has left some interesting details which, up to the present, have escaped the attention of Leonardo's biographers, as to the damage done in the great Council Hall in 1512. “E in questo tempo, piacqui a questo governo nuovo di guastare la sala del Consiglio maggiore, cioé el legniamo e tante belle cose ch’ erano fatte con tanta grande spesa, e tante belle spalliere; e murorono certe camerette per soldati, e fecione una entrata dal sale ; la qual cosa dolse a tutto Firenze, non la mutazione dello stato, ma quella bella opera del legniame di tanta spesa. Ed era di grande riputazione ed onore della città avere si bella residenza. Quando veniva una ambasceria a visitare la Signoria, facieva stupire chi la vedeva, quando entravono in si magna residenza e in si grande cospetto di consiglio di cittadini. Sia sempre a laude e gloria di Dio ogni cosa, e posto nella sua volonta.” (Diario fiorentino dal 1450 al 1516, p. 333. Florence, 1883.)
STUDY FOR ONE OF THE HORSEMEN
copies. At these a rapid glance must be taken, so that by means of their scattered fragments we may endeavour to reconstitute the original composition.
Lorenzo Zacchia of Lucca was the first to reproduce the group of four men on horseback, in an engraving, inscribed “ Opus sumptum ex tabella Leonardi Vincii propria manu picta, a Laurentio Zacchia Lucensi ab eodem nunc excusum" (1558).
An unfinished picture preserved in the magazine of the Uffizi Gallery, which, though certainly never touched by Leonardo's hand, was spoken of as early as 1635 as being his work, would seem to have formed the basis of Zacchia's engraving. After this, in chronological order, come the Rubens drawing ac
(Accademia, Venice.) quired for the Louvre, and Edelinck's engraving, of which I shall speak presently. A drawing representing three horsemen and three foot-soldiers existed during the eighteenth century in the Rucellai Palace at Florence ; this drawing has been engraved several times, notably in the Etruria pittrice, vol. i. p. 29.
Some forty years since, a lithograph 4 appeared, said to be “a facsimile of a drawing by Leonardo, in the collection of M. Bergeret, the historical painter.” But Bergeret's reputation as an imitator is too well established to need further mention here, and his so-called drawing by Leonardo can only deserve notice in so far as
i Vasari, Milanesi's edition, vol. iv., p. 42. | 2 Robert Dumesnil, Le Peintre-Graveur français, vol. vii., no. 44, p. 203. The earliest editor of the Trattato, Du Fresne, mentions a picture owned in his time by Le Maire, an excellent painter of perspective, which was believed to have been the original of Edelinck’s engraving. (Mariette's Abecedario, vol. iii. p. 166.)
3“ Combattimento di soldati a cavallo, cavato da un antico disegno esistente in Casa Rucellai, copiata da un cartone di Leonardo da Vinci, che esisteva nel salone del Consiglio in Palazzo Vecchio, della grandezza del presente rame-Ant. Fedi fece ad acqua forte. Matteo Carboni termino a bulino” (vol. i., p. xxix.).
4 Dr. Rigollot has already described this lithograph as an imposture, Catalogue de ľ Euvre de Léonard da Vinci, p. 64.