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and had to be supported in the arms of his friends and servants, on leaving his bed to receive the most blessed Sacrament." I
may point out, parenthetically, that certain formulæ in the will, such as the commendation of the testator's soul to “ Monseigneur S. Michel," a saint who was far more popular with Frenchmen than Italians, may very well have been the work of the notary, rather than of Leonardo himself. And further we
as possible in the funeral ceremonies may not have been more a last flicker of worldly vanity than
sudden reawakening of religious sentiment.
“ The King,” Vasari goes on,
who often went to see him in the
friendly fashion, arrived at this moment ; Leonardo, out of respect, raised himself up in his bed, explained the nature and changes of his illness to him, and told him, further, how much he had offended God and men by not using his
(Windsor Library.) talent as he should have done (“non avendo operato nell' come si conveniva.") Just at this moment he was seized with a spasm, the forerunner of death; the King rose from his seat and took hold of his head to help him, and prove his favour to him, so as to comfort him in his suffering; but this divine spirit, recognising that he could never attain a greater honour, expired in the King's arms,
the age of seventy-five (sixty-seven) years, May 1519."
Modern critics agree in casting doubt on this anecdote, which sheds even
more honour on Francis I. than on Leonardo, and which has been the subject of endless pictures, besides those of Ingres, Jean Gigoux, and Robert Fleury.
In the first place, it is objected, Melzi makes no reference to the circumstance in his letter informing Leonardo's brothers of his master's death; in the second, Lomazzo asserts that it was Melzi who announced the death to Francis I., a proof that the monarch was not present ; and further, the King was not at Amboise, but at S. Germain-en-Laye, as appears from a decree given in that place May 1, 1519. This last fact is the most convincing to me. Aimé Champollion, the Marquis de Laborde, and Arsène Houssaye maintain, however, that the decree in question may very well have been sealed by the Chancellor in the King's absence; and the fact of his absence on May 3, the day after that of Leonardo's death, is apparently established.
The real moral of Vasari's story has been brought out by Anatole de Montaiglon. The King, he says, was in the habit of visiting Leonardo when he was at Amboise. Why should not this kindness to a sick man, so eminently human in its character, be a fact? It may not have been Vasari who embroidered the story and touched up the dramatic effect. That may have been the work of those through whom it reached him.?
Thus died, full of years and glory, but far from his own land, the mighty genius who had carried the art of painting to its highest perfection, and had penetrated farther into the mysteries of Nature than any mortal since the days of Epicurus and Aristotle.
The burial took place at Amboise, in the cloister of the church of the Royal Chapter of St. Florentin, as we learn from the following document, discovered by M. Harduin :—“Fut inhumé dans le cloistre de cette église, Messire Lionard de Vincy, nosble millanais,
1 Several sixteenth century authors (Dolce in-L'Aretino, Lomazzo in L’Idea del Tempio della Pittura) report this anecdote. But they evidently only quote from Vasari, whose Vite appeared for the first time in 1550, and then again in 1568.
2 Réunion des Sociétés des Beaux Arts des Départements, 1893, p. 787–788.
premier peinctre et ingénieur et architecte du Roy, meschasnischien d'estat, et anchien directeur de peincture du Duc de Millan. Ce fut faict le douce jour d'aoust, 1519.” 1
Our country, which showed the artist so much hospitality during his lifetime—our country, which was the first to bring his Trattato della Pittura to the light, and which is to this day the proud possessor of the most extraordinary and rarest collection of his pictures and his manuscripts—this country of ours, I say, has not shown the respect that was their due to Leonardo's earthly remains.
The grave in the church of S. Florentin was so soon forsaken and forgotten that we, in these days, are ignorant of its whereabouts. The century which gave such gorgeous funerals to Raphael and to Michelangelo, seems to have paid no heed to the passing of their great rival, Leonardo.
A brilliant writer of our own period, Arsène Houssaye, full of zeal in the cause of art, devoted himself to the pious duty of discovering the bones of Leonardo da Vinci. He caused excavations to be made in 1863, on the site of the ancient church which had been destroyed in 1808, and a certain number of skulls were brought to light. Among these was one he thought was Leonardo's. But the document discovered by M. Harduin declares the artist was buried not in the church, but in the cloister. Thus the discovery of the gifted author of Le quarante et unième Fauteuil falls to the ground.
The faithful Melzi announced the sad event to Leonardo's family in words of deep feeling. His letter proves him to have possessed a noble heart :
SER JIULIANO AND HIS MOST HONOURABLE BROTHERS,
"I think you are apprised of the death of Master Leonardo, your brother, and to me even as the best of fathers. I could never express the sorrow it has caused me; and as long as my limbs hang together, I shall suffer from it perpetually, and very justly so, because
1 Piot's Le Cabinet de l’Amateur, 1863, no. 26. Arsène Houssaye and Uzielli have erred in contesting the authenticity of this document (Ricerche, ist ed., vol. i., p. 99-100). The interval between the two dates (Leonardo's death, on May 2, and the burial, on August 12) is easily explained by the fact that there was first of all a temporary burial, followed on August 12 by the final ceremony.
he daily showed me a most devoted and most warm affection. All men have deplored the loss of such a man as this who is now no longer in life. May the all-powerful God give him eternal peace! He left this present life on the second day of May, with all the Sacraments of our Holy Mother the Church, and well prepared.
“ As he held letters from the Most Christian King, which gave him power to leave and bequeath his possessions to whomsoever he chose, and this without “eredes supplicantis sint regnicolæ,” and as without these letters he could not have made a legal will, and everything would have been lost, according to the custom here, at least as regards what is owned in this country: the said Master Leonardo made a will, which I would have sent you, if I had possessed a trusty messenger. I expect the arrival here of an uncle of my own, who will afterwards return to Milan. I will give it to him; he will be a good intermediary; and, besides, I have no other.
" As to what concerns you in the said will (if there be no other), the said Master Leonardo possesses, at Santa Maria Novella, in the hands of the Camerlingo, who has signed and numbered the receipts, 400 crowns, which are bearing interest at 5 per cent. On October 16 next there will be six years' interest due. There is also mention of a property at Fiesole, which he desires shall be divided amongst you. The will does not contain anything else which affects
* Nec plura,' except that I offer you all I possess and all my powers, placing all my zeal and all my desires at the discretion of your will, and, with them, the continuance of my compliments. " Written at Amboise, this first day of June, 1519.
Send me a reply by the Gondi. (?) Tanquam Fratri vestro, FRANCISCUS MELTIUS."
It might have been concluded that after Leonardo's death, the little Italian colony which had clustered round him would have scattered forth with. But nothing of the kind occurred. The faithful Melzi continued to live at Amboise for some time, probably while he was putting his master's affairs in order. Battista di Villanis, Leonardo's former servant, and now his, kept the young man company. Almost four months after the great artist's death, on August 29, 1519, Battista, described as “al presente servitore del nobil uomo Messire Francesco da Melzi," sent authority from
Amboise to Hieronimo Melzi, to proceed as to the division of the vineyard, one half of which his master had bequeathed to him.
No critical account of the portraits of Leonardo da Vinci has as yet been undertaken : Dr. Rigollot,Arsène Houssaye,3 Mrs. Heaton, 4 and, more recently, Signor Uzielli, to whom we owe so many valuable discoveries, have been content to give us a list of half a score of portraits, without discussing the authenticity of any one of them.
In the absence of any drawing or picture of the creator of the Last Supper and La Gioconda, the sketches penned by contemporary writers might suffice to give us a tolerable idea of that pre-eminently brilliant and imposing countenance.
of these authors, Vasari, extols his beauty beyond all praise (“la bellezza
lodata mai abbastanza ") and his air of splendour (“lo splendor dell' aria sua, che bellissima era"). Another, Lomazzo, speaks of the extreme length of his hair and beard and eyelashes, “he is the type,” he avers, “of the true nobility of study, as were in former days the Druid Hermes, and the Prometheus of the ancients.” “A third, an anonymous writer, tells us he wore, instead of the gowns then in vogue, a short, rose
1 Amoretti, Memorie.