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the study of a woman's head, on green paper, preserved in the Uffizi Museum, which I think may be connected with the Saint Anne.
Dreamy eyes, a somewhat strongly-marked nose, a melancholy mouth, a shade of gentleness, kindness, almost of weakness, over every feature, characterise a profile study in the Louvre, wonderfully rich and easy in handling. This is the drawing above-mentioned for the Madonna Litta (reproduced in our plate xi.).
As a pendant to this somewhat sickly physiognomy, we have the face of a young girl, of resolute, almost of pert appearance, some waiting-maid probably, portrayed in a drawing now in the Windsor Library (reproduced vol. i., p. 5). Her thin, sharp contours seem to indicate a Florentine origin.
From this time onwards, Leonardo shows excessive skill in draping his female models, in decking and adorning them. He proves himself in this respect a worthy fellow-disciple of Perugino, who, we are told, was so devotedly attached to his young wife, Clara Fancelli, that he delighted in arranging her dress with his own hands.
In the Queen of England's Collection at Windsor Castle, Leonardo's studies of the winding and twistings of water as it escapes from a reservoir, and those for the plaits of his Leda, have been placed in close juxtaposition, and not without good reason. The idea of connecting the refinements of fashion with the caprices of nature was one well suited to his sublime fancy.
Later in his life, the artist gradually evolved a kind of ideal costume, closely approaching the beautiful simplicity of classic models. In his Trattato della Pittura, when treating of draperies, he reminds us that a nymph or an angel should be represented in light garments, that either swell in the wind or cling close to the body under its action (cap. 539). Then he reveals his inmost thought, and advises the artist to avoid, as far as possible, any reproduction of the fashions of his own times. Fuggire il più che si può gli abiti della sua età” (cap. 541).
The Saint Anne in the Louvre (the composition of which was determined in 1501, though not completed till long afterwards) gave the painter an opportunity of showing the world his ideal conception of female beauty. And in the first place, as M. Anatole Gruyer has pointed out in his delightful Voyage autour du Salon Carré du Louvre,
Leonardo, ignoring the inevitable difference in age between mother and daughter, has shown them both young with the same youth, and fair with the same beauty. Both,” adds M. Gruyer, “are enchantresses, with that gift of Italian beauty that is exuberant, yet always majestic. They seem compact of light and shadow. The tide of life runs full in their veins, without any taint of vulgar clay. Enigmatic, mysterious figures, instinct with a strange depth of sensibility-I had almost said of sensuality-which, while rousing our admiration, fills our souls with an agitation almost paralysing.” A detail of costume must be noted here. The sleeves of the Saint Anne are pleated in the same fashion as those of La Gioconda : the two pictures are of the same date, or very near it.
The glorification of saints and martyrs appears to have had but little charm for Leonardo. The Sibyls would have attracted him far
I cannot but think that he desired to portray one of these mighty and mysterious prophetesses in the tremendous silver-point drawing on green paper preserved in the Louvre Museum : a woman, full face, with great rolling eyes, and lips parted as if some prophecy were just about to break from them. Energy and inspiration are pictured here, with indescribable power.
A less startling, indeed an extraordinarily charming figure, is that of a young woman standing, in floating draperies, pointing with her left hand at some invisible object (vol. i., p. 121). Is this Dante's Beatrice, as has been recently affirmed ? The hypothesis is not an unlikely one.
Standing before one of the master's very latest works, that mysterious figure in the Louvre which seems to emerge out of the darkness, bending a face, all bathed in light, upon us mortals, and raising an arm, of matchless modelling towards heaven, a tormenting doubt enters our minds. Is the S. John the Baptist—such is the title bestowed upon the picture-really man or woman ? The voluptuous eyes, the straight delicate nose,
the mouth with its bewitching smile, seem to hold a place midway between the half-length cartoon of a nude woman at Chantilly and La Gioconda. They form a combination of “ Apollino,” Bacchus, and Hermaphroditus.
The years 1504—1505, when Leonardo finished the Mona Lisa,
mark the apogee of his artistic talent. It was then he revealed his absolute mastery over the resources of his art, and notably his possession, to quote the felicitous expression of Charles Blanc, of the secret of modulations in the minor key. Never, either before this period or after it, did he carry his feeling for relief farther ; and his triumph is all the more brilliant because he obtained his effects by
the legitimate resources of painting, without recourse to any of the methods of the sculptor.
It was in all probability during his residence at Florence that Leonardo drew the Triumph of Neptune, on a sheet of paper, for his compatriot and intimate friend, Antonio Segni. Vasari praises the extreme finish of this drawing. It showed, he tells us, the stormy sea, the chariot drawn by sea-horses, with
monsters (“fantasime”) grampuses, winds (“noti ") and some very fine heads of sea-gods. This drawing was given by Fabio, son of Antonio Segni, to Mesire Giovanni Gaddi, with the following inscription :
FIRST IDEA FOR
Pinxit Virgilius Neptunum, pinxit Homerus ;
Mente quidem vates illum conspexit uterque,
The central part of this composition is probably shown in the magnificent drawing from the Windsor Library, reproduced vol. i., p. 140. No words can describe the life and movement, the intensity, the fancy, overflowing yet restrained, of this fragment. Every line is melodious, eloquent, and triumphant.
We have every reason to suppose that Leonardo was also working at this period on his picture of Leda.
Nothing can exceed the obscurity which veils the history of this composition. We know—and this through an anonymous biographer 2—that the master did paint this subject; and Lomazzo
1 Müller-Walde, p. 88, no. 48. The Neptune in his chariot drawn by sea-horses may be compared with the analogous subject represented by the miniaturist Attavante in the frontispiece of the Missal of Mathias Corvinus (La Renaissance au temps de Charles VIII., p. 384).
2 De Fabriczy, Il Codice dell'Anonimo Gaddiano, p. 77.
informs us that he represented Leda nude, with the swan on her breast, her eyes modestly downcast The picture, he adds. was at Fontainebleau, with the Mona Lisa.l
In a recent article in the Jahrbuch, Herr Müller-Walde has pointed out, on a sheet of the Codex Atlanticus, which every student of Leonardo had handled and fingered without discovering anything at all, the painter's original sketch for the lost masterpiece. There can be no doubt about the matter. The sketch, though microscopic in dimensions, contains the germ of the whole idea of the Leda. She stands erect, holding in her left arm (the side of the heart) a confused mass which is easily recognisable as Jupiter under the form of a bird.
This subject was subsequently worked out by Leonardo in several drawings now in the Windsor Library, and more particularly in some studies of heads, in which the arrangement of the hair is of the most extraordinary character. I am aware that Signor Morelli claims these drawings as the work of Sodoma ; but his theory will not bear investigation. Not only, indeed, is the treatment quite different from that of Sodoma, but the studies form part of a series which can only have been produced by Leonardo. And further, one of them bears an autograph note : " Da levare e pore.
Herr Müller-Walde, who is nothing if not prompt, has lost no time in marking out the various stages of the composition. A first version, according to him, was produced at Florence, between 1501 and 1506, and a second at Fontainebleau, between 1516 and 1519. I do not myself altogether trust these geometric solutions, and will leave Herr Müller-Walde to sail alone on the wreck-strewn ocean of conjecture.
Signor Morelli, not content with robbing Leonardo to enrich Sodoma, has also, and for the same artist's benefit, filched an absolutely
1 "Leonardo da Vinci l'osservò (l'atto della vergogna) facendo Leda tutta ignuda, co'l, cigno in grembo, che vergognosamente abbassa gli occhi” (Trattato della Pittura, p. 164). "Come la Leda igunda ed il ritratto di Mona Lisa Napoletana che sono nella Fontana di Beleo in Francia" (Idea del Tempio della Pittura, ed. 1590, p. 6-7).
2 The first edition is said to be characterised by the complicated plaits of hair that form a kind of interlacing ornament on the temples and poll. In the second the hair floats loose. But may not this modification have been introduced by some copyist? These were accustomed, in the sixteenth century, to take liberties with their originals, and gave themselves out, indeed, as imitators, and not as servile reproducers.