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and also to ourselves. Given at Milan. In everything yours, D’AMBOISE.” 1
At the beginning of the autumn of 1508 (certainly by September 12) Leonardo was back in Milan.? A month later he wrote on the first leaf of an album the following note : “ Bought at Milan, the 12th of October, 1508." On page 29 of this same album we find the sketch of a lock or weir (“scaricatoio "), intended for the “ naviglio grande,” and on page 76 a dissertation on the Martesana canal. A drawing of the “scaricatoio," near San Cristoforo, which still exists, is to be found in the Codex Atlanticus, accompanied by the note: “Canal of San Cristoforo at Milan, made on the 3rd of May, 1509.” 3
By all this we are left in no doubt as to how Leonardo employed his time between 1508 and 1510, or thereabouts.
In the first place, let us see in what his canal works consisted.* In order to open navigation all the way from Milan to Como, it was necessary to prolong the Martesana canal from Tresso to Brivio, and to construct two sets of locks in the length of about six miles and a half. Leonardo thought out the scheme (Cod. Atlan. fols. 137, 139, 233, 328), which was taken up again in 1519 with variations, It was finally put into execution at the end of the sixteenth century, by the engineer Meda. Mazzenta tells us that in his time the canal was called the Machine of the French. I may add that it was not a success, because Meda failed to understand the economy of Leonardo's scheme. Venturi tells us that, in his time, many improvements had been added to the original work. 5
Louis XII. rewarded his artist-engineer with a permit to take twelve “ounces” of water from the main canal at San Cristoforo, a measure which, according to Venturi, corresponds in the Milanese to a water-way of some importance.
Unhappily he had long to wait before he obtained any benefit from
i Gaye, Carteggio, vol. ii., p. 97.
2 Richter, vol. ii., p. 416. One of Leonardo's dated notes : Comiciato a Milano a di 12 di Settebre, 1508.
3 Saggio, pl. vi.
4 Venturi, Essai, p. 39-40. Beltrami claims the Poderno canal, so-called, for della Valle or de Massilia. 5 Essai sur les Ouvragis . ... de Leonard de Vinci, p. 38.
this privilege. In 1511 (approximately) he found himself obliged to addresy a very pressing letter to the Maréchal de Chaumont, in which among other things he says: “I suspect that my feeble recognition of the great benefits I have received from your Excellency has indisposed you towards me, and that is why so many letters addressed by me to your lordship have never had an answer. To-day I am sending Salai to inform your lordship that my litigation with my brothers is nearing
its end, and that I hope
the right of water the King gave me. I have never yet been put in enjoyment of the privilege, because at the time there was not much water in the canal in consequence of the great drought, and because the openings (?) had not been regulated. But he promised that I should be put in possession as soon as the regularisation had been made. I pray your lordship, then, to be good enough to take the trouble, now that the openings are regulated, to remind the President of my rights, so that I may get the said water; for I hope, when I come, to make machines and other things which will give great pleasure to our Most Christian King. I have nothing more to tell you. I am always at your orders.” In another letter, addressed to Francesco Melzi, Leonardo returns to these same claims, which were in the end satisfied.
1 We may note that in 1510 and again in 1511, “Me. Léonnard painctre " figures on the budget of the Duchy of Milan for the sum of 400 livres a year (Chronique de Jean d'Auton, ed. de Maulde, vol. ii., p. 386).
Once more, in 1509, Louis XII. wrote his name large on the Fasti of Milan, which at that time contained so many brilliant pages. Once more, on the first of May, he made a “ Joyeuse Entrée ” into the ancient capital of the Visconti and the Sforzi. It is said that the master of the ceremonies was no other than Leonardo, and that the preparations took no less than forty-six days. The King then passed eight days in Milan. He returned there on July 1, when, as the conqueror of Agnadel, he was received with still greater magnificence.2
The artistic and scientific labours of Da Vinci were interrupted now and then by excursions into the country round Milan, especially to Vaprio, situated at some distance from the capital, between Gorgonzola and Bergamo, on the Adda. The Melzi had a property there. We know that he was there on the 5th of July, 1507, for on that day he thence addressed a long letter to his step-mother, his
THE VAPRIO MADONNA.
1 Uzielli, ist edition, vol. i., p. 190–196.
2 Of this the chronicler Prato has left us an enthusiastic description (Archivio storico italiano, 1842, vol. ii., p. 277).
sister, and step-sister. The letter is dated from “the Canonry of Vaprio."
The Melzi family had a house near the canon's; their palace, properly speaking, was a little farther off.1 It was on the facade of this Palazzo that a colossal Madonna and Child was painted. The head of the Virgin was six palms high, that of the Child, four ; the Virgin's figure was shown to the knees : “What beautiful tresses of hair fall round the Virgin's head !” cries P. della Valle ; " how fat the carnations! What morbidezza! What contours ! Here, any one can see that Correggio sprang from the school of da Vinci!”
Criticism was long unanimous in ascribing this painting to Leonardo. It was greatly damaged in 1796 by soldiers, who lighted a brazier in front of it, careless of the masterpiece. Nowadays every critic provides it with a new attribution : "tot capita, tot census.” According to Messrs. Morelli and Frizzoni, the true author was Sodoma, who may have painted it between the years 1518 and 152 1.2 They found their opinions chiefly on the fact that the work was done in fresco, a method never used by Leonardo. The new edition of the Cicerone gives this Madonna to a pupil. To my eyes, the type of the Child Jesus, still so archaic, suggests the Florentine models of the end of the fifteenth century, and consequently involves the more or less direct intervention of Leonardo.
We must retrace our steps for a moment to mention a commission received by Leonardo in 1510, from the authorities of Milan Cathedral. They asked him to furnish designs for the choir stalls, conjointly with various distinguished artists—G. A. Omodei, Andrea da Fusina, and Cristoforo Solari. Such a proceeding at least shows the esteem in which the Milanese held their quasi-compatriot. Understanding his superiority, mingled with so much independence and originality of character, they knew how difficult it was to get so transcendent a genius to stoop to such a piece of work as a model or
i Certain writers declare, quite without foundation, that Leonardo himself furnished the designs for the Palazzo Melzi, in 1481. (C. Calvi, Notizie dei principali Professori di Belle Arti, vol. iii., p. 17.)
? See Frizzoni, Arte italiana del Rinascimento, p. 158-160.