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Shaken though I am in my original conviction, I hesitate to finally erase this admirable creation from the catalogue of Leonardo's works. I hesitate still more to place it in the year 1515, instead of about 1485. It shows, in fact, undeniable traces of archaism, to which no doubt it owes some of its charm.
One might, moreover, turn against the partisans of Boltraffio the weapon they have directed against Leonardo. Where are we to lay our hands on a document to prove that his gifted but unequal disciple visited Rome in or about 1515, and worked at the convent of Sant' Onofrio?
However this may be, the picture is so penetrating in its charm, its grace and freedom are so exquisite, that its conception can only be due to Leonardo. If he himself did not paint it--which remains to be proved—it must have been to his immediate supervision, or rather to the presence of a cartoon elaborated by his own hand, that the convent of Sant' Onofrio owed the surpassing beauty of its Madonna.
Leonardo's stay in Rome seems to have been interrupted by several excursions. On the 25th of September, 1514, we find hini at Parma ;1 but he was soon back on the Tiber, as we gather from a letter addressed to his brother Giuliano by his sister-in-law Lesandra (Alessandra) on the 14th of December. Writing from Florence to Rome, Lesandra charges her husband to recall her to the recollection of Leonardo, an unique and most excellent man“Mi rachomnandiate a votro fratello Leonardo, uomo excellentissimo e singhularissimo.” 2
Leonardo did not wait for the departure of his patron Giuliano before quitting the Eternal City. Giuliano, as we know from Leonardo himself,3 left Rome on the 9th of January, 1515; on the same daythe painter adds—the King of France died.
On the 9th of December, 1515, at the latest, Leonardo again found himself in Milan, for on that day he wrote to his bailiff
1 Richter, vol. ii., p. 247.
2 Uzielli, ist ed., vol. i, p. 198-199. Uzielli throws some doubt on the authenticity of this letter.
3 “The Magnifico Giuliano de' Medici left Rome on the 9th of January, 1515, just at daybreak, to take a wife in Savoy” (Richter, vol. ii., p. 417).
(“castaldo”) Zanobi Boni, to point out, for the benefit of the Fiesolan vineyards, certain improvements in the making of wine.
Did Leonardo take part in the competition set afoot by Leo X. for the façade of San Lorenzo, at Florence ? Nothing is more unlikely. Not only did he never do anything to recommend himself as an architect to the Pope ; he had even quitted Rome and Florence for the north before 1516, when the competition began.
This was the last time he ever set foot in his native city.
LEONARDO TAKES SERVICE WITH FRANCIS 1.—HE TRAVELS TO FRANCE
LEONARDO'S DEATH-HIS PORTRAITS—HIS PUPILS --HIS INFLUENCE.
EANWHILE, on September 13
and 14, 1515, Francis 1. had
won the victory of Marignano, and on the 16th of the following October 1 he made his triumphal entry into Milan. This time again Leonardo stood in the forefront of those who had assembled to greet the rising sun.
A true precursor of Vaucanson, he constructed, at Pavia, a lion, which made several steps forward, and then the creature's breast opened, to
display a wealth of lilies—an ingenious allusion, which shows how skilfully our artist could put on the courtier when necessary.
From Milan Francis I. proceeded to Bologna, where Pope
1 Beltrami, Il Castello di Milano, p. 227.
2 Vasari tells the story in connection with Louis XII. ; Lomazzo in connection with Francis I. (Trattato, vol. ii., chap. i.)
Leo X. awaited him. Leonardo probably followed close the King's heels. (He can hardly have been at Bologna on the uth or 12th of December, the date of the French King's arrival in the city, for we know him to have been at Milan on the 9th.)
One thing is certain, that at some moment the “maestro" painted the portrait of “Messire Artus, master of the king's chamber -a bald and beardless old man, with a hooked nose and projecting chin.1 The inscription on this picture, later by several lustres than the work itself, is worthy of quotation.?
To the same period, if I mistake not, belong those heads of strange-looking old men, of which Leonardo has left us such a large variety. Their resemblance to the portrait of Messire Artus warrants this assertion.
On December 22 Leo X. was back at Florence, and Francis I. was journeying to his own dominions. From that time onward Leonardo does not seem to have ever left the victor of Marignano. Giuliano de' Medici was still alive indeed (he died at Florence on March 17, 1516), but the artist had quitted his service some considerable time before.
The idea of youth is so closely connected with the radiant genius of Leonardo, that it seems to affect every part of his long career. While no master ever suffered less from the uncertainties and disappointments of his earlier days, none assuredly ever knew less of the weakness and failure of old age. The freshness of his impressions, the vivacity of his style, the eternal smile which he wore till the very last, would make us fancy he was never more than twenty,
1 Amoretti, p. 109. Georli, pl. xxxii. (formerly pl. xii.).
2 “Ritratto di M. Artus, maestro di camera del Re Francesco I. nella giunta con Pp. L. X., il quale, negandogli l'unione con le sue arme che aveva impegnate col Re di Napoli per molti anni, lo compiacque di fargli subito il fratello Cardinale."
3 This head of Artus (turned slightly to the right in the drawing in the Ambrosian Library) re-appears almost line for line in a drawing in the Royal Library at Turin (pl. xv.), but this time full face. Another drawing at Turin (pl. xvi.) of a beardless old man, in profile, seated, seems to me to be connected with the second profile drawing in the Ambrosiana (Gerli, pl. xxxiii.), except that the chin is less determined. The same old re-appears
in the Windsor Library Collection.