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PAGE S. GEORGE KILLING THE DRAGON. (Windsor Library.) .............. 185 STUDY OF A PANTHER. (Windsor Library.) .................... STUDY FOR THE “MADONNA DEL GATTO.” (Bonnat Collection, Paris.) ........ THE VAPRIO MADONNA. (School of Leonardo.) ................... SUPPOSED PORTRAIT OF GIULIANO LENO. (Ambrosiana, Milan.) .......... STUDY OF A HEAD IMITATED FROM THE ANTIQUE. (The Louvre, No. 384. See vol.
i., p. 2). .................................. 197 MADONNA AND CHILD, BY BOTTRAFFIO. (Poldi Pezzoli Collection, Milan.) ..... TYPE OF THE VIRGIN IN THE SCHOOL OF LEONARDO. (Bonnat Collection, Paris.) . . 201 HEAD OF AN OLD MAN. (Windsor Library.) .......
204 STUDY OF PLANTS. (Windsor Library.). .................... HEAD OF AN OLD MAN. (Windsor Library.) .............. SKETCH OF A KNIGHT. (Library of the Institut de France, MS. I.) . . SKETCH OF A KNIGHT. (Library of the Institut de France, MS. I.) . .. THE MANOR HOUSE OF CLOUX, AMBOISE ...,
213 COPY OF A PORTRAIT OF LEONARDO FROM THE EXAMPLE IN PAOLO Giovio's
COLLECTION. (The Uffizi, Florence.) ...................... SUPPOSED PORTRAIT OF LEONARDO. (Windsor Library.) ............. 221 IDEALISED PORTRAIT OF LEONARDO. (Windsor Library.) .......... SUPPOSED PORTRAIT OF LEONARDO. (Windsor Library.) ............ PORTRAIT OF LEONARDO BY AN UNKNOWN PAINTER. (The Uffizi, Florence.) ... MARRIAGE OF THE VIRGIN, BY BERNARDINO LUINI. (Church at Saronno.) ... STUDY FOR THE EQUESTRIAN STATUE OF FR. SFORZA. (Windsor Library.) ....
HE initial stage of Leonardo's
career coincides with the last
supreme encounter between the ancient tradition (the tradition of the Middle Ages), and the new spirit of the times. Down to about the third quarter of the fifteenth century, painting, if we except the painting of the school of Padua, had sought inspiration from Roman models for details of costume or ornament only. But now, taking
example by the sister arts of architecture and sculpture, it strove to assimilate the actual principles, the very essence, of classic art. Botticelli, Ghirlandajo, and above all, Filippino Lippi, exerted themselves unceasingly to build up their frescoes or pictures on the teachings offered them by that army of
statues, some specimen of which came to light each day under the pickaxe of the excavator. These efforts, rudimentary enough at first, culminated some years later in the triumph of classicism under the banner of Raphael and his disciples.
How did Leonardo understand, and how did he turn to account, this factor, which it became more and more difficult to neglect, this factor which spread itself over the intellectual life of the “quattrocentisti” by so many ramifications ? This is the problem I propose to deal with in the present chapter.
At the first blush, one is rather inclined to deny that Leonardo ever felt the influence of classic models. “He alone,” says Eugène Piot,“ was the true “faultless painter.' The study of nature, untrammelled by absorption in classic ideals, a constant and unremitting study, carried on always and everywhere, with a perseverance and tenacity peculiar to himself, had revealed to him all the secrets of power in art, all the mysteries of grandeur and physical beauty.” 1
Another critic, my lamented friend, Anton Springer, is no less positive : “ Leonardo's axiom, that nature is the artist's true domain, that the study of nature should be inculcated, not only as the best, but as the only real discipline, determined his attitude towards the antique, and dominated his judgment of the historic development of art. It has often been remarked how extraordinarily slight was the influence exercised over him by the wonders of antiquity. In his pictures, indeed, it plays a very insignificant part, while in his writings, it never manifests itself at all. In his youth, he drew inspiration once or twice from classic sources, as when he painted a Medusa's head entwined with serpents, and drew a Neptune for his friend, Antonio Segni. The sea-god was represented on a car drawn by sea-horses on swelling waves, and surrounded by all sorts of marine beasts. As the drawing has not come down to us, it is impossible to form any opinion as to the measure in which Leonardo here utilised classic forms. The pictures of Bacchus and of Leda belong to an earlier period. Whether the Bacchus in Paris, and the various versions of the Leda, may lay claim to authenticity, is a question on which critics have not yet been able
1 Le Cabinet de l’Amateur, 1861–1862, p. 50.
to agree. But be this as it may, the heads in all these pictures are of the individual type created by Leonardo, and show no trace of classic influences.” 1
Given Leonardo's independent spirit and his critical tendencies, it is evident that he was never of those who accept stereotyped formulæ and ready-made principles, either in his maturity or in his youth. Nothing would have been more opposed to his aspirations, either as an artist or a man of science, than such acceptance. Did he not lay down the following rule in the Trattato della Pittura ? _“A painter should
ever attach himself servilely to another master's manner, for his aim should be, not to reproduce the works of man, but those of Nature, who, indeed, is so grand and prolific, that we should turn to her rather than to painters, who are only her disciples, and who always show her under aspects less beautiful, less vivid, and less varied than she herself presents when she reveals herself to us.”
Although Leonardo left the question he once propounded to himself unanswered—Is it better to study drawing from nature, or from the antique ?-he was more categorical in another passage of the Trattato, a passage missing both in the original manuscripts and in the Vatican codex. It is only to be found in the Barberini MS., and runs thus : “ It is a common fault with Italian painters to introduce into their pictures whole-length figures of emperors imitated from various antique statues, or at least to give to their heads an air which we find in the antique" (cap. 98, to be taken in conjunction with cap. 186 of Ludwig's edition.)
Leonardo, in fact, had too fine a taste to allow him to introduce into the art of painting effects proper to sculpture, as the great Andrea Mantegna was doing at this very time. For this reason he did not believe that painters would profit much by the imitation of antique statues. But, as a fact, these opinions are all more or less superficial. A careful study of Da Vinci's work leads us to the inevitable conclusion that whatever he may have said of the antique, and however completely he may have avoided dependence upon it, he was well acquainted with it in practice, and had assimilated its spirit. We may oppose, for instance, to the declarations of faith we have just been i Bilder aus der neueren Kunstgeschichte, vol. i., p. 316.