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Girolami, who is at present one of our very high and mighty Signors, before whom this business now lies, and who is further specially charged by his Excellency the Gonfaloniere with the said suit, which must be ended and decided before the feast of All Saints. Wherefore, my Lord, I beseech your reverend Lordship, with all my strength, to write a letter hither, to the said Signor Raphael, in the skilful and affectionate tone which you will know so well how to devise, to recommend Leonardo Vincio, your Lordship’s very eager servant, as I still am and claim to be always, to his favour, and to request and authorise him not only to do me justice, but give me a favourable verdict; and I do not doubt, according to the numerous reports that have been brought to me, that the said Signor Raphael being filled with affection for your Lordship, things will turn out as we desire, which I shall attribute to the letter from your reverend Lordship, to whom I once more present my respects.
Et bene valeat. Florence, this 18th of September, 1507. “ Your Very Reverend Lordship's very humble servant,
“ LEONARDIUS Vincius, pictor.” 1
But, more than any other thing, the failure to fix the Battle of Anghiari upon the wall of the Council Hall disgusted the artist with a work which might have retained him in his own city.
So once again Leonardo turned his face to a foreign country.
LEONARDO IN THE SERVICE OF LOUIS XII.-SECOND SOJOURN IN MILAN -VARIOUS MADONNAS THE BACCHUS” -CANALISATION WORKS--JOURNEY TO ROMELEONARDO AND LEO X.—THE MADONNA OF SANT' ONOFRIO.
EONARDO'S eyes were once
more turned to Milan, where a
regular government had been established by the French. What changes had taken place since his last visit! Let us take up our narrative at the point where we left off, the moment when Louis XII. crossed the Alps to assert his right over the Milanese, and to put an end to the usurpation of Lodovico Sforza.
Louis XII., a son of Charles of (Windsor Library.)
Orleans, the refined and somewhat
bloodless poet, a grandson of that Valentina Visconti who, in the fourteenth century, had carried a foretaste of Italian art into France, was a very different person from his father-in-law, Louis XI. He took a real, if not always very intelligent, interest in art and letters. He had already become familiarised with Renaissance ideas through the expedition of his
cousin and predecessor, Charles VIII.; he had even had an opportunity at Amboise of frequenting the colony of Italian artists imported by that prince. Among them we know he had found one intimate in Domenico da Cortona (Il Boccador), the future architect of the Paris Hôtel de Ville, and another in Fra Gioconda. Louis, when he undertook the conquest of the Milanese (in 1499-1500), was not yet forty years of age, so that his mind was still open to new impressions.
It was in the smiling plains of Lombardy, among the mountains and the lakes, that French art first came into immediate contact with that of Italy. The French Renaissance, daughter of the Italian, had preserved an aroma of “naïveté” and youth, which the Florentine school, already on the decline which inevitably followed its apogee, could not have given it. Our artists, still imbued with the Gothic tradition, were irresistibly drawn to the picturesque forms, to the sincerity and charm, to the frankness, the ingenuous curiosity of the North, rather than to the purer design and finer style of the Tuscans. They found their happiest inspirations in the Pavian Certosa, in the piquant physiognomies, the tormented draperies, and the love for all kinds of amusing details, which marked the Lombard artists.
During his first stay in Milan, Louis XII, had already seen and admired the Last Supper of Santa Maria delle Grazie and the equestrian statue of Lodovico Sforza. His personal acquaintance with the artist seems, however, to have dated only from 1507, the year in which he again passed the Alps to take possession of revolted Genoa. The ground had been well prepared by Charles d'Amboise, whose admiration for Leonardo passed all bounds. The artist had only to reap what this protector had so generously sown for him.
Louis XII. was considerably in advance of his subjects. One of Leonardo's biographers, whom it gives me pleasure to quote, has characterised the “ entourage” of the French King from the point of view of taste, with much felicity : “ Louis XII.," he
“ had brought with him, on his triumphal journey into Italy, a painter of Paris, his chief painter and valet-de-chambre, one Jean Peréal, who had been already called a second Zeuxis and a second Apelles. Louis wished him to set down on panel or canvas what the chronicler Jean
1 Arsène Houssaye, Histoire de Léonard de Vinci, p. 179