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A whole family of portraits evidently springs more or less directly from this sketch. Such are the pictures of the Giovio collection, of the Uffizi Gallery (a profile), Vasari's fresco in the Palazzo Vecchio at Florence, and possibly also the engraving in his Vite.
None of Leonardo's biographers have devoted any serious attention to, or even mentioned, the first of these portraits—that which Paolo Giovio, the celebrated historian, caused to be painted for his museum at Como, and which he hung beside those of Michelangelo, Andrea del Sarto, and Valerio Vicentino. In this picture, Leonardo was represented with his long beard (“con quel suo volto barbato "), and consequently in mature manhood. The portrait remained at Como, in the possession of the Giovio family, until the close of the last century. It may, indeed, be there still. The litigation now in progress in the family renders any verification of the fact somewhat difficult.
It matters little, after all, whether this point is cleared up or not. I am able to point to a faithful reproduction of the effigy in the “ Musæum Jovianum.” Here, again, we are struck by the carelessness of the “ Leonardists." Not one of them has bestowed so much as a glance on the portrait in profile in the Uffizi Gallery, a painting on canvas, of very mediocre quality it must be confessed. Yet a mere examination of the size of the canvas, its external characteristics, and the inscription upon it, involves its recognition as one of the numerous copies of pictures in the Giovio Museum executed during and after 1552, by the Florentine painter, Cristofano dell'Altissimo, at the command of Cosimo de' Medici I. All these copies bear an unmistakable family likeness to each other.
But we have something better than this. The portrait in the Giovio collection, as we know it through the Uffizi copy, was used as the basis of another, which has likewise been overlooked until the present moment :—that which figures in the fresco in which Vasari has represented the Court of Leo X. (Sala di Leone X., Palazzo Vecchio, Florence). In this Leonardo is shown bare-headed, in profile to the left, beside his patron Giuliano de' Medici (not Lorenzo, as Vasari has incorrectly printed it.)? The relations known to have existed between Vasari and Paolo Giovio sufficiently account for the use made by the painter of the evidences, pictorial or documentary, collected by his friend.
passed into the Louvre from the Modena Gallery during the Revolution, and was returned on Sept. 28, 1815 to Herr Rosa, the commissioner appointed by Austria to receive back the spoils of our conquests? This drawing has since disappeared. It may have been a replica of the Windsor portrait. (Rigollot, Catalogue, p. 104.)
These portraits, blurred and darkened as they are, are clearly related to that in the Windsor Library, for the authentication of which they would suffice, if that precious original needed any such demonstration.
The profile portrait engraved in Vasari's Vite (1568) seems to be derived from the same source. It represents an old man, with long hair and beard, the head covered by a sort of cap, which leaves the forehead bare, and comes down over the ears. The artist seems to have taken more pains to inveni a striking fancy head, than to reproduce any special physiognomy.
Vasari's engraving, in its turn, inspired a medal, of the early seventeenth century, reproduced by Mazzuchelli, which nobody has been able to discover. On the face was a profile of Leonardo, looking to the left, with the inscription, “ Leonardus Vincius Florentinus ;” on the reverse, “Scribit quam suscitat artem”; with a pen and brush in saltire below a crown.
This same engraving of Vasari's, so strange and so incorrect, seems to have influenced the painter of a portrait in oils on panel (in profile to the left, exactly like the engraving of 1568), which passed, in 1855, from the Guiducci gallery at Florence, into the hands of the painter and picture-dealer Gagliardi, and from his into those of Orazio Buggiani, a Florentine merchant established in London.
But let us come back to Leonardo's own portraits of himself. A second, full face, preserved in the King's Library at Turin, shows us the changes wrought by age in the illustrious artist.2
1 Here is Vasari's own declaration : “Quel vecchio con quella zazzera inanellata e canuta, Leonardo da Vinci, grandissimo maestro di pittura e scultura, che parla col Duca Lorenzo che gli è allato," vol. viii., p. 159.
? A red chalk copy of the Turin portrait is preserved in the Accademia delle belle Arti at Venice (Braun, no. 44). This copy is harder and poorer than the original. Vasari's annotators have blundered (vol. iv., p. 36) in cataloguing the Turin drawing and that at Venice as two distinct portraits. One is a copy of the other. The catalogue of the King of Holland's collection (1850) mentions (no. 263) a portrait of the artist, and a head of a warrior in profile, drawn in Italian chalk and with the pen. “These fine studies," it adds, "are very remarkable.” According to a manuscript note on a copy of this catalogue, these two drawings seem to have been purchased by Mr. Woodburn. I do not know what has become of them. Arsène Houssaye tells us (p. 439) that the portrait formerly belonging to the King of the Netherlands was a black chalk copy of the Turin portrait.
This portrait, later by a dozen years than that in the Windsor Library, is, like it, in red chalk. It is distinguished by the utmost boldness and freedom of execution. Age, during these intervening years, has produced its effect, we might almost say, has wrought its havoc. The hair has worn away from the broad high forehead, on which deep lines are furrowed, the brows are contracted, the eyelids wrinkled, the admirably modelled nose seems to have grown more aquiline, the mouth has put on a bitter and sarcastic expression, the hair and beard, longer even than in the profile portrait, hang in disorder, almost unkempt. The artist, we clearly see, has long since left personal vanity behind him.
In such a form as this we can best conjure up this enigmatic figure, this mighty sceptic, who has lost so many illlusions, and who goes his way mocking at the ignorance of other men.
(Windsor Library.) The interest of this Turin portrait is considerably enhanced by the fact that it was evidently executed in France. I have said that a comparison with the Windsor portrait convinces us that an interval of at least twelve years separates the two pictures. If, then, Leonardo was fifty, at the youngest, when he executed the first, the second must have
been produced when he was at least sixty-two, and possibly sixty-four.
At that period of his life he was settled in France. I may therefore assert, without any fear of contradiction, that the wonderful red chalk drawing in the Turin Library came into existence at Amboise. The old man's hand-his left hand, for the right was paralysed—had lost nothing of its power. With an absolute sureness of touch and inexorable precision, it has traced the lineaments of the Faust of Italy. There can be no possible doubt that the picture in the Uffizi, which bears every sign of being a fancy portrait, is derived from this source.
If I am not mistaken, Leonardo's features are also recognisable in a drawing of an aged man, with a kind of helmet on his head, in the Windsor Library. There is the same aquiline nose, the same wavy hair falling on the shoulders, the same sarcastic expression. The beard, indeed seems thicker than in the Turin portrait.1
The likeness between the portrait in the Turin Library and that in the Windsor Library, representing an old man seated and looking at the waves (p. 229), is less striking 2
Another portrait in the Windsor Library, that of an old man in profile, looking to the right, offers a certain resemblance to the portrait of Leonardo in the same collection. Yet the nose is much longer and more regular, and the expression still more sarcastic; the beard is long and wavy, and the hair in plaits (p. 225).
Monsieur Charles Ravaisson-Mollien considers an exceedingly hasty sketch on the reverse side of sheet 136, MS. 1. to be a portrait of the artist. It is the head of an aged man, with a hooked nose and long beard (the upper part of the face is missing), which seems to have been scrawled, as it were, across the written text. In any case, it bears a strong resemblance to the authenticated portraits of Leonardo.
1 According to Herr Müller-Walde, this is a picture of King Christian of Denmark, who was at Florence in 1474. On what grounds does Herr Müller-Walde make this assertion ? He does not inform us. I imagine it to be on the fact that the person represented wears a beard, and that no fifteenth-century Italian ever appeared with that appendage. Nobody but an inhabitant of the north would have dared to wear one. But if the portrait may be dated 1515, instead of 1475, this argument falls to the ground.
2 Richter, vol. i., pl. xxv., p. 200.- De Geymüller, Les derniers Trai'aux sur Léonard de Vinci, p. 23.
Following on Leonardo's portraits of himself come those drawn or painted by his contemporaries.
The most famous of these is the oil picture in the Uffizi Gallery; this is Leonardo arranged, conventionalised, emasculated. The canvas is not only by some other hand; it does not seem to have been painted during his lifetime. It is now supposed to be the work of Schidone, of Sisto Baldalocchio, or possibly of some imitator of Correggio (p. 233).
The figure of an old man, introduced by the most sympathetic of all the master's imitators, Bernardino Luini, in his Marriage of the Virgin, a fresco painted in the church of Saronno, is also believed to be a portrait of Leonardo.1
This represents a man with long white hair and beard with a sort of biretta on his head. He appears once in the foreground, and once again standing against a door, in the background of the composition. In any case the portrait, if such it be, is a fancy picture, without any of the exactness of a study from nature.2
Let us endeavour to point the moral of this study. A mere consideration of dates, and appeal to merciless chronology, forces a most distressing conviction upon our minds: the splendid specimen of manhood, the inspired poet, the radiant Apollo of his generation, whose gifts cast dazzling rays across the darkest shadows of the profoundest sciences, aged before his time! The golden beard, and the curling rings of hair, which were the admiration of his century, were silvered over before he had attained his fiftieth year! He had worked so hard ! He had grappled with every
i This theory was first put forward, if I mistake not, by M. Séailles in his recent work Léonard de Vinci, l'Artiste et le Savant. For the portrait of Leonardo, which appears in the Adoration of the Magi, lately hung in the Uffizi Gallery, and described as a Botticelli, see Signor Ridolfi in Le Galerie nationali italiane, vol. iii., and the Gazette des Beaux Arts, 1898, vol. ii., p. 184.
2 Amoretti asserts that a Treatise on Music, the MS. of which is preserved in the Trivulzio Library, bears on its frontispiece a miniature of Leonardo, holding a cither (Memorie, p. 25, cf. Vasari, Milanesi's ed., vol. iv., p. 28). But in Conte Porro's catalogue of this collection, he affirms that the figure referred to bears no resemblance to the artist (Catalogo dei Codici manoscritti della Trivulziana, p. 158, Turin, 1884). If Viardot is to be believed, the Esterhazy Gallery, now located at Pesth, contains an absolutely authentic portrait of Leonardo (Les Musées d'Allemagne, p. 241). But this portrait (no. 357), a half-length figure, which, in former days, was believed to be a portrait of Leonardo by his own hand, is considered by Herr Frimmel to be the work of some French or Brabantine painter (Kleine Galerie Studien, vol. ii., p. 150-151).