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that retrospective investigations are not inconsistent with originality, and that it is easy to be just to forerunners, even while opening up new paths for science. This, in fact, is one of the most fertile lessons given to us by the illustrious historian of alchemy.
The indifference of the scientific world—with a few exceptions, such as that to which I have just alluded—is comprehensible, if not excusable. The discoveries of former times were nothing less than the first courses of the building to which the present generation believes it has affixed the capstone. How much happier are poets and artists than discoverers! Their masterpieces shine with eternal youth, and we think ourselves fortunate if now and then we contrive to rise to their level. The completest and most suggestive genius we can point to on the threshold of the modern era is an instance in point; the world has exalted the artist to the skies, and left the man of science in the cold shade of obscurity.
And yet the glory of Leonardo has this peculiarity, that no savant of our own time can take umbrage at it. If the study of his manuscripts enables us to antedate by two, or, occasionally, by three or four centuries, many capital discoveries, the rights of his successors remain none the less intact. This requires explanation. Leonardo's manuscripts remained unpublished until within the last few years, so that the laws he established or at least divined had all to be independently discovered.
The paths of great poets and great artists have seldom been strewn with roses, but great discoverers have almost invariably met the fate of martyrs. The names of Roger Bacon and Raimondo Lulli, of Ramus, of Michel Servet and Bernard Palissy, of Galileo and Denis Papin, to say nothing of Archimedes, Christopher Columbus, and many others, recall to our minds the violence of the executioner and the sufferings of his victims. And as if the rage of man were not enough, the elements have more than once conspired against them.
1 It is scarcely necessary to again draw attention to the works of Dr. Richter, Charles Ravaisson-Mollien, Beltrami, Sabachnikoff, Piumati, Rouveyre, and Mathias Duval, and to that edition of the Codex Atlanticus, which has been in course of publication since 1894 under the auspices of the Roman Academy of the “Lincei"; we should remind our readers, too, of those who first embarked on the study of Leonardo's scientific remains, namely, Venturi, Libri, and Govi.
Da Vinci did not escape the common lot, but, having kept his secrets to himself, he suffered less than others, his expiation being exile in his old age; a gilded exile, it is true, but penance none the less.
Yet Leonardo had no right to complain. Justice presides over matters of science more surely, even, than over those of ordinary life. It was but fair and natural that his contemporaries should have failed to show their gratitude to a man who kept so many secrets and important discoveries to himself. Leonardo worked for his own personal satisfaction; he could expect nothing but indifference at the hands of those he disdained It is left for posterity to liquidate the debt contracted by the cause of pure science. And, indeed, it is impossible to acquit Leonardo of blame in this connection. Did he think himself immortal ? At the age of sixty, he had taken no measures for the publication of his works. He paid dearly for his negligence. It is evident that his strength of character was not equal to his loftiness of intellect. We need not be surprised to find that it has been left to the nineteenth century to do tardy justice to the man of genius who divined a whole world of fundamental truth.
An alliance between art and science was no new thing in Italy. Minds trained in the incomparable gymnasium of classic education could attack the most various tasks without danger of a check. In such an enterprise the painter of the Last Supper and the sculptor of the Sforza statue could justify himself by the example of many a famous Italian. Brunellesco had been an ardent student of mathematics ; Piero della Francesco of geometryl; L. B. Alberti had composed the Ludi Matematici and invented a way of measuring the depth of the sea in places where the lead could not be used; he had also busied himself—“de motibus ponderis ”—on the movements of weights. So, too, among the contemporaries of Leonardo, Andrea
Leonardo alludes on one occasion to a “Maestro Piero del Borgo,” evidently Piero della Francesca (Richter, vol. ii. p. 437).
2 Mancini, Vita di Leon Battista Alberti, pp. 317 et seq. ; Florence, 1882. Leonardo quotes Alberti in connection with his system for calculating the rapidity of ships under sail (MS. F, fol. 2 ; G, fol. 54). He possessed, moreover, a manuscript which has passed from Lord Ashburnham to the Laurenziana at Florence, which treats of fortresses, of
Sansovino was a student of cosmography, Peruzzi of astrology and mathematics. Nor was the idea of compiling and publishing treatises on the arts a
Alberti's work on Architecture had appeared in 1485, Gaurico's on Sculpture in 1504, Pacioli's on Proportion in 1509, and Fra Giocondo's edition of Vitruvius
Was Leonardo's pronounced vocation for scientific research a help or a hindrance to him as an artist? It is usual to quote him as an example of the possibilities of art and science allied. In him, it is affirmed, active genius received a new impetus from the analytic faculty ; reason reinforced the imagination and the emotions. But was this the case? Harassed by his perpetual desire to investigate, Leonardo's inspiration was disturbed at every moment. No artist hesitated more; none has left more unfinished masterpieces. And even among these, how many are there, with the exception of the Last Supper, which express a complete idea, strong, generous, and concrete, as do Raphael's creations ? He has left us portraits (busts only), Holy Families, fragments of landscape, all admirable, and all showing clearly that, if scientific application had finally developed in hiin the most exquisite worship of form, it had on the other hand, robbed him of the power of synthetic vision, of creating works at once pictorial and literary, and presenting them to the admiration of the public in all the vivid warmth of instant inspiration. It was his scientific prepossession, too, which made him seek the solution of the laws of chiaroscuro, and brown tonalities, to the detriment of that splendour of colour revealed by the Venetians.
Before describing Leonardo's method of work and a few of his discoveries—to enumerate them all would be impossible—it is advisable to inquire how he set about his work, and how he contrived to master, in so remarkable a degree, the boundless domain of mathematical, physical, and natural science.
All evidence is unanimous in showing that as a child he had
rivers, of proportions, of geometry, of mills, of waters, of metals, of the military art, of religious architecture, etc. On this manuscript-falsely attributed first to Francesco di Giorgio Martini and afterwards to Da Vinci himself—Leonardo has written a few notes.
is really a compilation from the works of L. B. Alberti (Mancini, di un Codice . . . con alcuni Ricordi autografi di Leonardo da Vinci, Firenze, 1885).
confirmed these tastes, which, in him, were combined with an irresistible vocation for art. We know that Verrocchio was a passionate
student of geometry and perspective, but whatever he may have done for his pupil, we know the latter was above all things the son of his works. It is not even certain that, at this time, Verrocchio had seriously embarked on scientific experiments. Florentine culture, so pre-eminent in matters of art and literature, had not yet reached a like superiority in the domain of science. Attached to the doctrines of Plato, of which the Medici were adherents, and to which their protégé, Marsilio Ficino, had given new life, the Florentine looked for beauty rather than for truth; and even when he made the latter his aim, his preference was given to absolute laws, such as those of mathematics, rather than to those relative solutions on which natural science reposes.
It was by arithmetic, perspective, and astronomy that not only Verrocchio, but Leone Battista Alberti, Piero della Francesca, and Toscanelli, who prepared the way for Columbus, were moved to enthusiasm.
Alberti is the representative "par excellence” of all these tendencies. He excels in the exact sciences; he invents the most ingenious machines for his own diversion ; but when it comes to natural science, he suffers eclipse.
Here I may be met by a reminder of the important developments made by anatomical studies at Florence ; but I answer that their experts were not savants, but sculptors and painters, and that scientific exegesis had little enough to do with their dissections. We must not forget, either, that the first anatomical handbooks, A. Benedetti's manual (Pavia, 1478), and the Fasciculus Medicina of Ketham (Venice) appeared in Northern Italy.
At this period, as both before and since, Florence triumphed by virtue of her untiring spirit of criticism (which degenerated too often into raillery and scepticism), and her methodical and strenuous work. She lacked the candour, the audacity, and the illusions—I might almost say the hallucinations-of youth. She placed sentiment and imagination in the second rank. Now, whatever may be said, it is quite certain that without a slight touch, at least, of the feverish and the morbid, even men of science will never arrive at those inspirations and intuitions which so often distance reason and clear centuries at a