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nothing, for he begins to think about the finishing of his picture before he gives a thought to the commencement!” (Vasari.)
One of the Pope's favourites, his Datarius, Baldassare Turini of Pescia, the close friend of Raphael, was better treated. For him Leonardo painted, with an infinity of taste and care, a little picture representing the Virgin holding the Infant Jesus in her Arms. But, either through the fault of the assistant who prepared the canvas or the panel, or on account of the numerous and fantastic combinations of pigments and varnishes in which Leonardo took such delight, the picture was already in a very bad state in the time of Vasari. The biographer saw it at Pescia, in the hands of one Giulio Turini, who had inherited it from Baldassare. It had for companion another little picture, also by da Vinci, which contained an “infant of enchanting grace and beauty."
(The Louvre, no. 384. See vol. i., p. 2.) These two pictures have disappeared and left no trace. Some annotators of Vasari have thought the second was to be identified with a picture in the Düsseldorf gallery, but that is a delusion.
Never before had Leonardo made worse use of his great gifts than now, never before had he failed so completely to concentrate his powers. In saying this I mean simply to state a fact, not to make a reproach. Who, indeed, has the right to call a master desultory and slow, whose
smallest production implies a mental energy twenty times greater and a hundred times more fertile than the whole life-production of the great majority of his colleagues and rivals ?
In Rome, the chemist and physicist completely eclipsed the painter. At one time we find Leonardo writing a paper on the striking of coins for the Pope's mint, at another he is trying experiments in what may be called the comic side of physics. He gave himself up, says Vasari, to innumerable follies of the latter kind, trifling with mirrors, and making all sorts of strange experiments, in the desire to find oils for painting and varnishes with which to preserve pictures.
Vasari speaks of mirrors, and in a letter published by Dr. Richter our hero returns more than once to the same subject. Is he not referring to those burning mirrors in which at one time he took so keen an interest, and may we not refer to his stay in Rome the execution of the numerous drawings in which experiments of this class are recorded
These researches into the properties of mirrors and into questions of mechanics, brought Leonardo into conflict with two Germans, the one a mechanic and locksmith, the other a looking-glass maker. The former, whom we find at one time making files, screws, and winders for silk, at another cleaning nuuskets, had been taken into the service of Giuliano de' Medici at the same time as Leonardo, but at about one half the latter's salary. In a long letter, addressed, apparently, to Giuliano, of which more than one rough draft still exists, Leonardo pours out bitter complaints against this person, whom he qualifies as a swindling German—"ingannatore Tedesco.” He accuses him of having invited him, Leonardo, to share his board and lodging in order that he might spy upon him continually. The“ Tedesco”—cunning fellow that he was !—was taking lessons in Italian, which cost him little or nothing; in that direction he had everything to learn, for in the beginning he could only talk to Leonardo with the help of an interpreter. Not a very serious crime, one would think! Leonardo must have been rather short in the temper to waste time over such complaints. The absurdity of his reproaches is proved by the fact that immediately afterwards he accuses his fellow-lodger of preferring
1 Richter, vol. ii., p. 17-18.