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LEONARDO TAKES SERVICE WITH FRANCIS 1.-HE TRAVELS TO FRANCE
LEONARDO'S DEATH—HIS PORTRAITS—HIS PUPILS --HIS INFLUENCE.
A EANWHILE, on September 13 1 and 14, 1515, Francis I. had
won the victory of Marignano, and on the 16th of the following October 1 he made his triumphal entry into Milan. This time again Leonardo stood in the forefront of those who had assembled to greet the rising sun. A true precursor of Vaucanson, he constructed, at Pavia, a lion, which made several steps forward, and then the creature's breast opened, to
display a wealth of lilies 2-an ingenious allusion, which shows how skilfully our artist could put on the courtier when necessary.
From Milan Francis I. proceeded to Bologna, where Pope Leo X. awaited him. Leonardo probably followed close on the King's heels. (He can hardly have been at Bologna on the ith or 12th of December, the date of the French King's arrival in the city, for we know him to have been at Milan on the 9th.)
i Beltrami, Il Castello di Milano, p. 227.
2 Vasari tells the story in connection with Louis XII. ; Lomazzo in connection with Francis I. (Trattato, vol. ii., chap. i.)
One thing is certain, that at some moment the “maestro " painted the portrait of “Messire Artus, master of the king's chamber” —a bald and beardless old man, with a hooked nose and projecting chin. The inscription on this picture, later by several lustres than the work itself, is worthy of quotation.
To the same period, if I mistake not, belong those heads of strange-looking old men, of which Leonardo has left us such a large variety. Their resemblance to the portrait of Messire Artus warrants this assertion.3
On December 22 Leo X. was back at Florence, and Francis I. was journeying to his own dominions. From that time onward Leonardo does not seem to have ever left the victor of Marignano. Giuliano de' Medici was still alive indeed (he died at Florence on March 17, 1516), but the artist had quitted his service some considerable time before.
The idea of youth is so closely connected with the radiant genius of Leonardo, that it seems to affect every part of his long career. While no master ever suffered less from the uncertainties and disappointments of his earlier days, none assuredly ever knew less of the weakness and failure of old age. The freshness of his impressions, the vivacity of his style, the eternal smile which he wore till the very last, would make us fancy he was never more than twenty,
1 Amoretti, p. 109. Georli, pl. xxxii. (formerly pl. xii.).
2 “Ritratto di M. Artus, maestro di camera del Re Francesco I. nella giunta con Pp. L. X., il quale, negandogli l'unione con le sue arme che aveva impegnate col Re di Napoli per molti anni, lo compiacque di fargli subito il fratello Cardinale.”
3 This head of Artus (turned slightly to the right in the drawing in the Ambrosian Library) re-appears almost line for line in a drawing in the Royal Library at Turin (pl. xv.), but this time full face. Another drawing at Turin (pl. xvi.) of a beardless old man, in profile, seated, seems to me to be connected with the second profile drawing in the Ambrosiana (Gerli, pl. xxxiii.), except that the chin is less determined. The same old man re-appears in the Windsor Library Collection.
just as his rival and enemy, Michelangelo, seems always to have been sixty. It is as hard to imagine Leonardo aged, gloomy, and infirm, as to conceive Michelangelo young and gay. When more than sixty years have passed over his head, he resolves with a cheerful heart to cross the Alps, convinced he will be able to satisfy all the fancies of the young and eager king. But a few days before his death we see him still collecting notes, with all the eagerness of youth. What for, ye gods ? unless it were to act upon them in the next world!
May we not take Leonardo as the incarnation of the Renaissance, with all its generous aspirations, the personification of that springtide of human intelligence, crushed in the blossom by religious struggles, even as Michelangelo personifies the spirit of revolt, the melancholy and the pain of belief, threatened by science, and of morality, sacrificed by artists and scholars, who paid an all too complaisant court to tyranny ?
Francis I. showed his desire to honour the greatness of the master by bestowing a princely revenue upon him—700 crowns, about £1,400. This fact is attested by Benvenuto Cellini, who boasted, at a later date, that he had been granted a like sum. But let us leave the great goldsmith and writer to speak for himself. After relating that he has acquired a copy of Leonardo's treatise on the three great arts, he adds that, “as that great man's genius was as vast as it was varied, and as he had a certain acquaintance with Greek and Latin literature, King Francis, who was violently enamoured of his great talents, took so great a delight in hearing him argue, that he only parted from him for a few days in the year, thus preventing him from putting the splendid studies, which he had carried on with so much discipline, to actual use. I must not fail to repeat the words concerning him which I heard from the king's own lips, when he spoke to me, in the presence of the Cardinal of Ferrara, the Cardinal of Lorraine, and the King of Navarre. He affirmed that never any man had come into the world who knew so much as Leonardo; and that not only in matters of sculpture, painting, and architecture, for in addition, he was a great philosopher.”
A few words concerning Francesco Melzi, Leonardo's faithful companion, the only one of his pupils who followed him abroad, will not be inappropriate here.
Melzi belonged to a noble family of Milan, where he was born (we believe) in 1498. (He was therefore only twenty years of age when his master died.) He cultivated painting as an amateur, rather than as a professional. Lomazzo speaks with special praise of his talent for miniature painting. After Leonardo's death he returned to his own country, where he lived many years (he died after 1568), but
without producing any artistic work 4. 4 am
—as if the loss of his beloved master Jhapainab Sogn salaopnad
had broken all his powers. Possibly his leisure was employed in the arrangement of the manuscripts bequeathed to him by Leonardo. His name appears, at all events, on the copy of the Trattato della Pittura, in the Vatican Library. (See vol. 1 p. 231.)
Till quite lately critics have ascribed the Vertumnus and Pomona, 2
in the Berlin Museum, to Melzi's MAYO? Portor okam
brush. But Herr Bode has traversed
this attribution, and attributes the (Library of the Institut de France, MS. I.)
picture to some obscure artist. 3 Authentic works by Melzi having almost disappeared, I will confine myself to pointing out the fact that the heroine in this picture (a young woman seated under a tree, with a basket of flowers and fruit) is of the most pronounced Leonardesque type. Standing close beside her, touching her shoulder, is an old woman (Vertumnus), leaning on a stick. In the background is a range
i Rime, fol. 112, Milan, 1587. See also L'Arte del Minio nel Ducato di Milano, by the Marchese d'Adda ; Milan, 1886, p. 65-67.
2 There is a study for Pomona's foot in the Windsor collection, from which Waagen inferred that this picture might be ascribed to the master himself. (Treasures of Art in Great Britain, vol. i. p. 442.)
8 Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1889, vol. i. p. 498-500.
of curious jagged mountains. The Pomona is very elegant, and has Leonardo's characteristic smile. The bare shoulders, arms, and feet are modelled with infinite care. The work is soft and effeminate, but it has a certain charm.
The only really authentic work by Melzi now in existence is a small portrait, in red chalk, in the Ambrosian Library. It represents an old man, beardless and bald, in profile to the right. The ear is too small, and set much too high, and there is a certain timidity in the handling. The inscription : "1520 Adi 14 Augusto på cavata de relevo. Io Francescho da Melzo di anni 17," and in the same hand, lower down, (“anni 19, Fr. Melzo,") puts us in a serious difficulty. For if Melzi was really born in 1498, he would have been twenty-two, and not eighteen, in 1520.1
Rosini has published, as Leonardo's work, a portrait of Melzi—a bust, in profile to the right, with bare neck and long hair curled and waved, bound with a wreath of oak leaves ; the edge of a tunic and the guard of a sword just appear.2 Needless to say, the picture in question has nothing to do with the master.
The residence assigned to Leonardo was the good town of Amboise, the cradle of the first colony of artists summoned to France by Charles VIII., and the favourite dwelling-place of the young reigning monarch. There a great part of his youth had been spent ; there, in the first year of his reign, he had celebrated the betrothal of Renée de Montpensier with the Duke of Lorraine ; there, between 1515 and 1517, three of his own children had been born.3
(Library of the Institut de France, MS. I.)
1 Ch. Ravaisson-Mollien. Bulletin de la Société des Antiquaires de France, 1887, p. 125, reproduced (reversed) by Gerli (pl. xiv.), photographed by Braun (no. 54).
2 Storia della Pittura, vol. iv., p. 257.
3 La Touraine historique et monumentale, Amboise, p. 410-429. Tours, 1897. The little chapel attached to the manor house of Cloux contains several pictures which have VOL. II,