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nothing, for he begins to think about the finishing of his picture before he gives a thought to the commencement!” (Vasari.)
One of the Pope's favourites, his Datarius, Baldassare Turini of Pescia, the close friend of Raphael, was better treated. For him Leonardo painted, with an infinity of taste and care, a little picture representing the Virgin holding the Infant Jesus in her Arms. But, either through the fault of the assistant who prepared the canvas or the panel, or on account of the numerous and fantastic combinations of pigments and varnishes in which Leonardo took such delight, the picture was already in a very bad state in the time of Vasari. The biographer saw it at Pescia, in the hands of
Giulio Turini, who had inherited it from Baldassare. It had for companion another little picture, also by da Vinci, which contained " infant of enchanting grace
(The Louvre, no. 384. See vol. i., p. 2.) These two pictures have disappeared and left no
Some annotators of Vasari have thought the second was to be identified with a picture in the Düsseldorf gallery, but that is a delusion.
Never before had Leonardo made worse use of his great gifts than now, never before had he failed so completely to concentrate his powers. In saying this I mean simply to state a fact, not to make a reproach. Who, indeed, has the right to call a master desultory and slow, whose
smallest production implies a mental energy twenty times greater and a hundred times more fertile than the whole life-production of the great majority of his colleagues and rivals ?
In Rome, the chemist and physicist completely eclipsed the painter. At one time we find Leonardo writing a paper on the striking of coins for the Pope's mint, at another he is trying experiments in what may be called the comic side of physics. He gave
up, says Vasari, to innumerable follies of the latter kind, trifling with mirrors, and making all sorts of strange experiments, in the desire to find oils for painting and varnishes with which to preserve pictures.
Vasari speaks of mirrors, and in a letter published by Dr. Richter our hero returns more than once to the same subject.
Is he not referring to those burning mirrors in which at one time he took so keen an interest, and may we not refer to his stay in Rome the execution of the numerous drawings in which experiments of this class are recorded
These researches into the properties of mirrors and into questions of mechanics, brought Leonardo into conflict with two Germans, the one a mechanic and locksmith, the other a looking-glass maker. The former, whom we find at one time making files, screws, and winders for silk, at another cleaning muskets, had been taken into the service of Giuliano de' Medici at the same time as Leonardo, but at about one half the latter's salary. In a long letter, addressed, apparently, to Giuliano, of which more than one rough draft still exists, Leonardo pours out bitter complaints against this person, whom he qualifies as a swindling German—"ingannatore Tedesco."
ingannatore Tedesco.” He accuses him of having invited him, Leonardo, to share his board and lodging in order that he might spy upon him continually. The “Tedesco”—cunning fellow that he was !-was taking lessons in Italian, which cost him little or nothing; in that direction he had everything to learn, for in the beginning he could only talk to Leonardo with the help of an interpreter. Not a very serious crime, one would think! Leonardo must have been rather short in the temper to waste time over such complaints. The absurdity of his reproaches is proved by the fact that immediately afterwards he accuses his fellow-lodger of preferring
1 Richter, vol. ii., p. 17-18.
to dine at the table of the Pope's Swiss Guards, and to go birdcatching among the ruins of ancient Rome (“ per queste anticaglie ”). But the Tedesco's misdeeds did not stop there. Is he not accused of wishing to turn away from the door such of Leonardo's intimate friends as tried to penetrate to his studio ? Does he not demand that wooden models of the instruments he has to make in iron should be provided for him, models which he no doubt intends to carry off into his own country?
The other German, a certain Giovanni, or Hans, maker of mirrors, also made himself obnoxious to Leonardo by his curiosity. He wandered incessantly into his studio, trying to see what he was about, so that he might criticise him out of doors. Moreover, he corrupted his fellow-countryman, the mechanic, partly to revenge himself upon Leonardo, who had—so he said-caused him to lose the favour of Giuliano, partly because he coveted the mechanic's room as a workshop for himself.
In another letter, and one very difficult to construe, Leonardo seems to make allusions to this same Giovanni Tedesco. He says that a certain person—"questro altro”—had interfered with his anatomical studies by finding fault with his dissections, in the Pope's presence and at the hospital. (That the Papal Court should have scruples on such a subject is intelligible enough.) But this was only the beginning of the misdeeds of this particular persecutor.
Had he not filled the Belvedere with workshops for mirror-makers ? Had he not taken possession of Maestro Giorgio's room for the same purpose
? Had he not declared that eight ducats “per mensem” had been promised to him, and that payments should have begun from the day when he set out for Rome, or at least from the day on which his conversation with the addressee of Leonardo's epistle (Giuliano de' Medici) had taken place ? At last we reach the capital offence of all : the ill-doer in question showed himself but rarely in his workshop! As he is a needy man, Leonardo proposes that he should be held to his work by giving up payment by time—by the month--for payments by the piece. One of the most tantalising questions—and how many there are the
Richter, vol. ii., p. 437-410.
reader already knows-suggested by the work of Leonardo, is that of the origin and date of the wonderful mural picture in the Roman convent of Sant'Onofrio, on the Janiculum. Until quite recently connoisseurs were united in ascribing this free and vivacious performance to the master himself, and that in spite of a certain want of suavity in the conception. During the last few years, however, it
has been claimed for one or another of his pupils, most frequently for Boltraffio.
Let us look fairly at the data. It is incontestable that the Sant' Onofrio fresco approaches closely to the Milanese manner of Leonardo when the Florentine master first came in contact with the old Milanese painters, Foppa and Zenale. I may
be met with the objection that Leonardo visited Rome for the first time in 1504
or 1505, so that he could not have been the author of a work which dates from some twenty years before. Such criticism is both petty and false !
Because we “As for the Sant' Onofrio picture of the Virgin and Child with a donor, admirable as it is, it shows a certain hardness and dryness in the drawing of the Infant's arms, and I cannot think it was painted at this time, and so should be disposed to believe that Leonardo had paid a visit to Rome in his youth.” (Mündler, Essai d'une Analyse critique de la Notice des Tableaux italiens au Louvre, 1850, p. 113.)
Under the portico of the basilica of S. Ambrose, at Milan, a bas-relief is let into the left-hand wall which seems to me to be connected with the Sant Onofrio picture. It is dated " ,
24 Martii, 1477.” It contains three figures, a kneeling donor, the Virgin in a free though rather affected pose (her type, on the other hand, is poor and hard) and the Child, whose attitude is also well understood and free. The whole shows striking analogies with Leonardo's composition.
(Poldi Pezzoli Collection, Milan.)