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falling one upon the other, lance in rest; others lying prone upon the earth ; foot-soldiers struggling, horses plunging, and men-atarms in the background, drawing their crossbows : the whole canvas full of movement, but without unity, and marred by that absence of pictorial sentiment and lack of taste peculiar to the artist, although the general effect has something very stirring about it. In the work of another member of the Tuscan School, Piero della 'Francesca (Battle between Heraclius and Chosroës), the incidents of the fray are closely observed and well reproduced. The Tartar soldier, who seizes by the hair the foeman falling on his knees before him, the horsemen thundering one against the other, the rearing chargers, are all evidently taken from life. But warmth, spirit, animation, are all lacking; the composition is cold. The artist never drops his cloak of impassive reserve, and, above all, the whole action of the scene is confused; there are no episodes that stand out and rivet attention. Exactness in every particular, but no passion. Naturalness, but not a symptom of eloquence. And then, how stiff are the figures, how devoid of freedom or suppleness of gesture ! The distinguishing feature of Leonardo's work as compared with that of his forerunners is, as we shall see, the clearness of his incidents, the exuberance of his dramatic feeling.
How did Leonardo solve this problem ?
In one of his manuscripts, the master has left us a description of the Battle of Anghiari, as he had read it in some chronicle, or, perhaps, as he had gathered it from the lips of one of the last survivors of the famous struggle. “Let us begin,” he writes,
with the speech of Niccolò Piccinino to the soldiers and the Florentine exiles, amongst whom were Messire Rinaldo degli Albizzi, and other Florentine citizens. After that, he must be represented mounting his horse, fully armed, with his army following him—forty squadrons of cavalry and 2,000 foot-soldiers went with him. The Patriarch climbed up a mountain, early in the morning, to examine the country ; that is to say the hills, the fields, and the valley watered by the river. He perceived Niccolò Piccinino in a cloud of dust, coming with his troops from Borgo San Sepolcro ; having seen him, he returned to the camp and addressed his own men. When
i Cardinal Scarampi, Patriarch of Aquila.
he had finished his speech, he put his hands together and prayed ; and immediately S. Peter was seen to appear out of a cloud and speak to the Patriarch, who sent five hundred horsemen to break or check the enemy's onslaught. Francesco, son of Niccolò Piccinino, came first to attack the bridge held by the Patriarch and the Florentines. Beyond the bridge, on the left, he sent foot-soldiers to prevent ours (from advancing); these repulsed him.
alsed him. Their leader was Michelotto, to whom the duty of keeping the army had fallen that day. Round this bridge a great struggle was waged. Our
side won, and the enemy was driven back. Then it was that Guidone, and his brother Astorre, Lord of Faënza, with a great following, formed in array again, and recommenced the fight, pressing the Florentines so vigorously that they took the bridge, and got as far as the tents.
But Simonetto, with six (University of Oxford.)
hundred cavalry, fell on the enemy, drove them out of the position again, and recovered the bridge. After him came up more troops, and 2,000 horsemen. Thus for a long time the struggle went on with changing results. At last the Patriarch, to carry confusion into the enemy's ranks, sent Niccolò da Pisa, etc."
This description is worth mentioning, but not worth quoting in its entirety, for none of the episodes he refers to found favour in Leonardo's eyes, while, on the other hand, that which he portrayed, the capture of the standard, is passed over in silence.
Machiavelli, less prolix and more incisive, has left a very characteristic account of the struggle to which the patriotism of his fellow-citizens had given undue importance. He declares that only one man lost his life in the battle, and that he was trampled under the horses' feet !
On the other hand, and this fact is an exceedingly curious one,
Leonardo has left us a manuscript account of a battle as he conceived it, and this description is the very opposite of his rendering of the Battle of Anghiari. First of all,” says Leonardo, “the smoke of the artillery must be rendered, mingled in the air with the dust thrown up by the cavalry and the combatants.” (Here follows a long dissertation on the mixture of these impalpable substances.) “ The air must seem full of streaks of fire like lightning flashes ; some of these flashes caused by the burning gunpowder must run upwards, some must fall downwards, some must fly horizontally, and the bullets from the firearms must leave a trail of smoke behind them. You must show the victors running with wild hair tossed, like their draperies, by the wind, with wrinkled faces, and swollen knitted brows. Their limbs must work in contrast, that is to say, if the right foot is in front, the left arm must be the foremost of the two, and if you represent a fallen man, attention must be drawn to him by the marks on the blood-stained soil, while all around him, on the sodden ground, there must be the footmarks of the men and horses who have passed him by. You must also show some horses each dragging his dead master's corpse along, and cruelly mangling his body, which hangs from the stirrups, and covers the path it has travelled with marks of blood. The vanquished party, put to rout, must have pale faces, arched, astonished eyebrows, wrinkled foreheads, nostrils drawn up into a bow, making a crease from the point of the nose up to the eye; their mouths gaping and the lips drawn back, the teeth exposed, and parting as though to shout the louder. Let one man, wounded and fallen on the ground, hold one hand over his terrified eyes, the palm turned toward the foe, while he leans on the other as though to raise himself. Others must be in full
1 Trattato della Pittura, translated by Gault de St. Germain, cap. lxvii. Cf. Richter, The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, vol. i., p. 301-303 ; and Ludwig, Das Buch der Malerei, cap. 148.
EPISODE IN THE
flight, and yelling as they go. The battle-field must be strewn, under the feet of the combatants, with arms of every kind, shields, spears, broken swords, and such like. Amongst the dead, some must be half hidden under dust and broken weapons, others again quite covered and half buried; the dust and soil, sodden with blood, will form a crimson mire ; streams of blood issuing from the corpses, must run through the dust. Some dying men must be shown grinding their teeth, rolling their eyes, clenching their fists, and in various contortions of the body, legs, and arms. One supposed to have been overthrown and disarmed might defend himself still, with teeth and nails. A riderless horse may be represented, tearing through the enemy, his mane and tail flying in the wind, kicking and plunging, and throwing them into great confusion. Some poor maimed wretch may be seen falling to the earth, and sheltering himself beneath his shield, while his foe bends over him, and strives to slay him. There might also be a group of men lying heaped under a dead horse; and some of the victors, escaping out of the thick of the fight, might wipe themselves with their hands, their eyes blinded by the dust, and their cheeks befouled and smeared with the dirt of their own sweat, and of the water the dust has caused to run from their eyes. There will be the squadrons coming up to render aid, full of hope mingled with caution, with eyebrows raised, and shading their eyes with their hands, so as to discern the
enemy in the fray or athwart the dust, and attentively obey their captain's orders; and the captain himself, baton in hand, galloping and pointing to the spot to be reached. Some river may be put in, with men on horseback in it, making the water fly up as they ride along, and whitening their whole road with foam : nothing must appear all over the field, but what is full of blood and horrid carnage.”
Judging partly by the programme he thus assigns to the battlepainter, and partly by the care with which he collected minute information concerning the Battle of Anghiari, Leonardo should have treated the scene in an essentially realistic fashion : topography, strategic movements, correctness of costume, in a word, local colour, should have taken the foremost place in his conception. But nobody who understood the artist's profoundly idealistic nature would attribute such a plan to him ! He is willing enough to make the most minute investigations before he begins his labour, but the moment his brush
is in his fingers he must recover all his liberty of action. These preliminary researches, of which scarce a trace is discernible in his ultimate production, have only one value in his eyes—that of preventing his imagination from going astray; they provide him, in a certain sense, with ballast. And all the time his idea takes stronger hold on his mind, throws out deeper roots, ripens yet more and more. At last, when the final moment comes, the artist rebels against the theorist, and face to face with a fresh subject, he claims a perfect independence.
No one looking at it from this point of view can hold Leonardo's mighty labour of assimilation and preparation to have been wasted.
The sketches which led up to the final cartoon 1 prove how slowly the composition shaped itself in the master's mind. These gropings of his should not surprise us, for no man worked with less ease than Leonardo, none found it more difficult to formulate what I will call a literary idea. A whole series of drawings show us isolated motives, very few of which found their way, even with modifications, into the
At Windsor we notice a knight and a foot-soldier rushing upon one or two men on foot who face them, bending down.2
A hastier and less definite sketch, also preserved at Windsor, shows us two figures, one pursuing the other. In the foreground a man brandishes a battle-axe, while two men and a horse lie stretched upon the ground. In a charcoal drawing in the same collection, in which the outlines are scarcely discernible, we catch a glimpse of the idea which was to be the foundation of the ultimate composition—two horses dashing one against the other, crushing each other's breasts, striving to tear each other. This idea is more clearly shown in a drawing in the British Museum-horsemen charging desperately, one horse biting the neck of another. Then the idea of single combats is succeeded by that of a general mêlée. A drawing
1 In the Gazette des Beaux Arts (vol. xii., p. 302–304) and the Collection d'Objets d'Art de M. Thiers, léguée au Musée du Louvre (Paris, 1884, p. 112), Charles Blanc has published a sort of first idea for the Battle of Anghiari, a drawing from M. Thiers's collection, now in the Louvre, in which a horseman rides full gallop with his spear aimed at a foot-soldier, also armed with a spear. To my mind this work is one later, by eight or ten years, than Leonardo's time, and more closely connected with Michelangelo than with his rival. M. de Geymüller, in his Derniers Travaux de Leonardo da Vinci, ascribes it to Bramante. Morelli calls it a clumsy forgery (Die Galerie Borghese, p. 89).
? Richter, pl. xxi.