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d'Auton and the poet Jean Marot were to describe in prose and in verse. It was a trio of Jeans, a happy diversion for the “intermezzi” of war, if not much of a light for history. By dint of industry Jean de Paris satisfied the demands of his office. He reproduced with the frank fidelity of his time the conquered towers and castles, and their sites, the voluble rivers, the capricious mountains, the undulating plains, the order and disorder of battle, the bloody horror of the dead, the misery of the wounded hovering between life and death, the terror of those who fled, the impetuous ardour, exultation, and lightheartedness of those who triumphed! When Louis came back to France laden with Leonardo's drawings, men looked only at the works of Jean Peréal. The official historiographer made up for the non-arrival of the illustrious painter of the Last Supper, and Parisian vanity exalted Jean de Paris above the best artists to be found beyond the Alps!"
No sooner had the French King withdrawn, however, to his own country than Leonardo set himself anew to cultivate the friendship of his representatives, Florimond Robertet and Charles d'Amboise, to say nothing of his ally, Cæsar Borgia.
On the 30th of May, 1506, he obtained permission from the Florentine government to absent himself, on the condition that he returned at the end of three months, and reported himself to the Signory ; default to be punished by a fine of 150 gold ducats. He returned, in fact, more than once to his native city, during the autumn of 1507, and the spring of 1509, as well as in 1511, 1513, and, finally, in 1514. But he gave no more thought to his old commissions. For him, as well as for Soderini and the Medici, the Battle of Anghiari was dead and buried.
The Mecænas who summoned Leonardo into Lombardy was no other than the French King's Viceroy, Charles d'Amboise, Lord of Chaumont-sur-Loire (Loire-et-Cher), whence his title of the Maréchal de Chaumont. He belonged to a family which had always concerned itself with art, and was nephew to the famous Cardinal Georges d'Amboise, Archbishop of Rouen, who built the marvellous Château de Gaillon. Born in 1473, Charles d'Amboise was only twenty when he settled
1 Richter, vol. ii., p. 402-403 ; September 18, 1507. Leonardo, p. 94.
in Italy. In 1506 he was sent by Louis XII. to the help of Julius II. in his campaign against the Bolognese. The year after he was present at the siege of Genoa, and, in 1509, at the battle of Agnadel. In 1510 he besieged, in Bologna, that Pope Julius II. who from being the ally of the French King, had become his most implacable enemy. In 1511 he died, aged only thirty-eight.
The proofs of admiration lavished by Charles d'Amboise on Leonardo exercised the Florentine government not a little. Hitherto these gentlemen had been accustomed to look upon artists just as they did upon other members of the industrial classes. They considered them honest burghers, greatly attached to their civic duties, and more or less-generally less—taxable. Suddenly they found Popes, Kings, great foreign Princes, disputing their possession among themselves, and setting the whole diplomatic machinery in motion in order to attract this or that painter to their Courts. Julius II. claims Michelangelo, menacing with all kinds of penalties the city which should dare to obstruct his journey to Rome; Louis XII. and the Maréchal de Chaumont make an extension of Leonardo's leave of absence the price of their friendship; the Maréchal de Gié, or Florimond Robertet, intrigued to obtain Michelangelo's David from the Signory. In short, artists are rivalling the great ones of this world in importance! Soderini, brought up in the traditions of the old Florentine Republic, had some difficulty in adapting his ideas to the new conditions. His letters, not only those relating to Leonardo, but even those that concern his own friend Michelangelo, never cease to betray the contempt he felt for those fellow-citizens of his who devoted themselves to handiwork.
The negotiations between the French authorities in the North and the Florentine Republic were endless. On the 19th August, 1506, Jofredus Karoli and the Maréchal de Chaumont wrote from Milan begging the Signory to grant an extended leave—at least to the end of September, to Leonardo, with whose assistance the Maréchal could not possibly dispense any sooner. Soderini's answer (October 9, 1506) betrays extreme irritation. Leonardo, he declares, has not comported himself towards the Florentine Republic as he should have done. “He has accepted a large sum of money, and in return has
1 Gaye, Carteggio, vol. ii., p. 86–87.
LEONARDO IN THE SERVICE OF CHARLES D’AMBOISE
done but little to the great work with which he was intrusted. We desire,” adds the Gonfaloniere, “that no farther demand for an extension of his leave of absence be made, for his work must satisfy the general body (of the citizens), and we cannot dispense him from his obligations without failing in our duties.” 1
The 16th of December brings another letter from the Maréchal, in which Charles allows his enthusiasm for Leonardo to break through the terms in which he thanks the Signory for their consent to extend the artist's leave : “ The excellent works,” he writes, “left in Italy, and more especially in Milan, by Master Leonardo da Vinci, your fellow-citizen, have led all those who have seen them to have a singular affection for their author, even when they are personally unacquainted with him. For ourselves, we confess that we were among those who loved him even before our eyes had rested upon him. And now, since we have known him and been much in his company, and have had personal experience of his various gifts, we truly see that his name, famous in painting, is relatively obscure so far as those other branches of knowledge in which he has reached so great a height are concerned. And it pleases us to confess that in the efforts made by him to respond to no matter what calls we make upon his powers-architectural designs and other things relating to our state—he satisfies us in such a way that not only are we contented with him, but have even conceived an admiration for him. And therefore, as it has pleased you to leave him here all these days to do our will, it would seem to us ungrateful not to give our thanks to you on the occasion of his return into his own country. Thus we thank you as warmly as we can, and, if it be fitting to give a man of such talent a recommendation to his fellow citizens, we recommend him to you as strongly as we can, and assure you that you can never do anything, in the way of augmenting his fortune or comfort, or those honours to which he has a right, without giving, to us as well as to him, the most lively pleasure, and putting us under the greatest obligation to your Magnificences.”
For the third time the whilom favourite of Lodovico Sforza and of Cæsar Borgia had exercised the arts of a consummate courtier ;
i Gaye, Carteggio, vol. ii., p. 86–87.
he had won the favour of the Maréchal de Chaumont, as a preparation for the conquest of the King of France himself.
A sight of the Last Supper had been enough to fascinate Louis. This we know from the letter addressed by the Florentine envoy, Pandolfini, to his government under date January 7, 1507: “ This morning, when I was in the presence of the most Christian King, his Majesty addressed me, saying, 'Your Signory must do me a service. Write to them that I wish to employ their painter, Master Leonardo, who is now in Milan, and that I want him to make several things for me. Act in such a way that their lordships will order him to enter my service at once, and not to leave Milan before my arrival. He is an excellent master, and I desire to have several things from his hand. So write at once to Florence, sending me the letter. (This is the letter ; it will reach you by way of Milan.) I replied that if Leonardo were at Milan your lordships would order him to obey his Majesty—although, as his Majesty was master in Milan ('essendo in casa sua '), he could give such orders as well as your lordships, and that if Leonardo had returned to Florence, your lordships would send him back to Milan as soon as his Majesty should demand it . ... and the cause of all this is a little picture by Leonardo which has been lately brought here, and is considered an excellent piece. During our conversation I asked the King what kind of works he desired of Leonardo ; he answered, “Certain little Madonnas and other things, as the ideas may come to me. Perhaps I shall also cause him to paint my portrait. Continuing the conversation, I talked to his Majesty of Leonardo's perfection and of his other qualities, and the King said he had already been informed of them, and asked me if I knew him. In order to safeguard your lordships, however matters might go, I answered that we were great friends. * Very well, then,' added his Majesty ; write to him at once, so that he may not leave Milan before letters arrive from your Signory.' I have therefore written a line to the said Leonardo, acquainting him with the good intentions of his Majesty, and exhorting him to show prudence (' essere savio '). Your lordships will, no doubt, promptly do all that you can to meet the desires of his Majesty."
Two days afterwards the King himself addressed the following
letter to the Signory : “ Louis, by the grace of God King of France, Duke of Milan, Lord of Genoa, etc. Very dear and close friends : As we have need of Master Leonardo da Vinci, painter to your city of Florence, and intend to make him do something for us with his own hand, and as we shall soon, God helping us, be in Milan, we beg you, as affectionately as we can, to be good enough to allow the said Leonardo to work for us such a time as may enable him to carry out the work we intend him to do. And as soon as you receive these letters (we beg you to write to him and direct that he shall not leave Milan until we arrive there. While he is awaiting us we shall let him know what it is that we desire him to do, but meanwhile write to him in such fashion that he shall by no means leave the said city before
r arrival ; I have already urged your ambassador to write to you in the same sense. You will do us a great pleasure in acting as we desire. Dear and close friends, may our Lord have you in his keeping. Written from Blois, the 14th day of January, 1507. (Signed) Louis. ROBERTET." Addressed : “ To our very dear and close friends, allies, and confederates, the Priors and perpetual Gonfaloniere of the Signory of Florence.” 1
The year 1507 was signalised by the French King's triumphal entry into Milan (May 24). Leonardo certainly had a share in the great preparations made to do honour to the occasion. Jean d'Auton tells us that between the cathedral and the castle, in a street in which were the city hospitals and asylums, an arch of greenery was erected
1 The original French is as follows : "Loys, par la grâce de Dieu Roy de France, Duc de Millan, Seigneur de Gennes, etc., Trèschers et grands amys. Pour ce que Nous avons nécessairement abesognes de Maistre Léonard a Vince, paintre de votre cité de Fleurance, et que entendons de luy faire fer quelque ouvrage de sa main ; incontinent que nous serons à Millan, qui sera en brief, Dieu aidant, Nous vous prions tant et si affectueusement que faire pouvons que vous vueiellez estre contens que le dit maître Léonard besongne pour Nous pour ung temps qu'il aura achevé l'ouvrage que Nous entendons luy faire fer. Et incontinent toutes lettres que vous receves, lui escripvez que insynes à notre venue à Millan il ne bouge de dela ; et en Nous attendant, lui ferons dire et deviser l'ouvrage que Nous entendons qu il fait : mais escripvez-lui de sorte qu'il ne se partes de la dite ville infines à notre venue, ainsi que j'ay dit à votre ambassadeur, pour le vous escripre, et vous Nous ferez très grand plaisir en ce faisant. Très chers et grands amys, notre Seigneur vous ait en sa garde. Escript de Blois le xiiiie jour de Janvier, 1507, Loys. ROBERTET. [On the verso). A nos très chers et grans amys, alliez et confédérés, les Prieurs et Gonfalonnier perpétuel de la Seigneurie de Fleurance.”— Delécluze, Saggio intor no Leonardo da Vinci, Siena, 1844, p. 127.