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premier peinctre et ingenieur et architecte du Roy, meschasnischien d'estat, et anchien directeur de peincture du Duc de Millan. Ce fut faict le douce jour d'aoust, i5I9."1
Our country, which showed the artist so much hospitality during his lifetime—our country, which was the first to bring his Trattato del/a Pittura to the light, and which is to this day the proud possessor of the most extraordinary and rarest collection of his pictures and his manuscripts—this country of ours, I say, has not shown the respect that was their due to Leonardo's earthly remains.
The grave in the church of S. Florentin was so soon forsaken and forgotten that we, in these days, are ignorant of its whereabouts. The century which gave such gorgeous funerals to Raphael and to Michelangelo, seems to have paid no heed to the passing of their great rival, Leonardo.
A brilliant writer of our own period, Arsene Houssaye, full of zeal in the cause of art, devoted himself to the pious duty of discovering the bones of Leonardo da Vinci. He caused excavations to be made in 1863, on the site of the ancient church which had been destroyed in 1808, and a certain number of skulls were brought to light. Among these was one he thought was Leonardo's. But the document discovered by M. Harduin declares the artist was buried not in the church, but in the cloister. Thus the discovery of the gifted author of Le quarante et unieme Fauteuil falls to the ground.
The faithful Melzi announced the sad event to Leonardo's family in words of deep feeling. His letter proves him to have possessed a noble heart:—
"SER JlULIANO AND HIS MOST HONOURABLE BROTHERS,—
"I think you are apprised of the death of Master Leonardo, your brother, and to me even as the best of fathers. I could never express the sorrow it has caused me; and as long as my limbs hang together, I shall suffer from it perpetually, and very justly so, because he daily showed me a most devoted and most warm affection. All men have deplored the loss of such a man as this who is now no longer in life; May the all-powerful God give him eternal peace! He left this present life on the second day of May, with all the Sacraments of our Holy Mother the Church, and well prepared.
1 Plot's Le Cabinet de FAmateur, 1863, no. 26. Arsene Houssaye and Uzielli have erred in contesting the authenticity of this document (Ricerche, ist ed., vol. i., p. 99-100). The interval between the two dates (Leonardo's death, on May 2, and the burial, on August 12) is easily explained by the fact that there was first of all a temporary burial, followed on August 12 by the final ceremony.
"As he held letters from the Most Christian King, which gave him power to leave and bequeath his possessions to whomsoever he chose, and this without "eredes supplicantis sint regnicolae," and as without these letters he could not have made a legal will, and everything would have been lost, according to the custom here, at least as regards what is owned in this country: the said Master Leonardo made a will, which I would have sent you, if I had possessed a trusty messenger. I expect the arrival here of an uncle of my own, who will afterwards return to Milan. I will give it to him; he will be a good intermediary; and, besides, I have no other.
"As to what concerns you in the said will (if there be no other), the said Master Leonardo possesses, at Santa Maria Novella, in the hands of the Camerlingo, who has signed and numbered the receipts, 400 crowns, which are bearing interest at 5 per cent. On October 16 next there will be six years' interest due. There is also mention of a property at Fiesole, which he desires shall be divided amongst you. The will does not contain anything else which affects you. 'Nec plura,' except that I offer you all I possess and all my powers, placing all my zeal and all my desires at the discretion of your will, and, with them, the continuance of my compliments.
"Written at Amboise, this first day of June, 1519. Send me a reply by the Gondi. (?) Tanquam Fratri vestro, Franciscus Meltius."
It might have been concluded that after Leonardo's death, the little Italian colony which had clustered round him would have scattered forthwith. But nothing of the kind occurred. The faithful Melzi continued to live at Amboise for some time, probably while he was putting his master's affairs in order. Battista di Villanis, Leonardo's former servant, and now his, kept the young man company. Almost four months after the great artist's death, on August 29, 1519, Battista, described as "al presente servitore del nobil uomo Messire Francesco da Melzi," sent authority from Amboise to Hieronimo Melzi, to proceed as to the division of the vineyard, one half of which his master had bequeathed to him.1
No critical account of the portraits of Leonardo da Vinci has as yet been undertaken : Dr. Rigollot,'2 Arsene Houssaye,3 Mrs. Heaton,4 and, more recently, Signor Uzielli/' to whom we owe so many valuable discoveries, have been content to give us a list of half a score of portraits, without discussing the authenticity of any one of them.
In the absence of any drawing or picture of the creator of the Last Supper and La Gioconda, the sketches penned by contemporary writers might suffice to give us a tolerable idea of that pre-eminently brilliant and imposing countenance. One of these authors. Vasari, extols his beauty beyond all praise ("la bellezza del corpo non lodata mai abbastanza ") and his air of splendour ("lo splendor dell' aria sua, die bellissima era").
Another, Lomazzo, speaks of the extreme length of his hair and beard and eyelashes, "he is the type," he avers, "of the true nobility of study, as were in former days the Druid Hermes, and the Prometheus of the ancients." "A third, an anonymous writer, tells us he wore, instead of the gowns then in vogue, a short, rose
1 Amoretti, Memorie.
2 Catalogue de. FCEuvre de Leonardo da Vinci, p. 84-85.
4 Leonardo da Vinci.
5 Ricerche, ist ed., vol. ii., p. 463-466.
coloured mantle, which fell to his knees, and that his carefully kept hair hung in long curls upon his shoulders." l
Thanks to the exactness of these notes, we can imagine the appearance of the man who created so many masterpieces. His moral character is equally well known to us.
Let us conjure up the figure of a youth, grave and fascinating at once, a good talker, a celebrated improvisatore, a little fond, perhaps, of mystifying his audience, but eager, whenever he found himself alone, in his inquiries into the most knotty problems. Modesty was not exactly his strong point. The programme he laid before Lodovico il Moro proves that clearly. An extreme gentleness, an exquisite kindliness, fortunately tempered his legitimate confidence in his own powers. His patience with his pupils, one of whom, an ill-conditioned fellow, caused him endless trouble, was almost angelic. He showed tenderness even to unreasoning creatures, and would buy caged birds for the sake of the pleasure of setting them free.
Is there any picture of Leonardo as a young man? I would fain believe it. And yet I have sought in vain for any which might seem likely to be his portrait. Let us, while hoping some other inquirer may be more fortunate, content ourselves with the studies by the master's own hand, which represent him in his riper manhood and old age.
The earliest of these, a red chalk drawing in the Windsor Collection, is a bust in profile.
We see a man of fifty, or thereabouts, with regular, but singularly cold features, an observer rather than a poet. The nose, and the forehead, on which the hair is a little scant, are straight, the moustache is clipped short, giving the face rather a hard and severe look, the hair and beard are carefully waved. This portrait is believed to be that mentioned by Vasari as belonging to Leonardo's favourite pupil, Fr. Melzi. 2
1 "Era di bclla petsona, proportionata, gratiata, e bello aspetto. Portava un pitoccho rosato, corto sino al ginocchio, che allora s'usavano i vestiri lunghi ; aveva sino al mezzo in petto una bclla capcllaia, ed inanellata, e ben composta "(Milanesi.—Fabriczy, // Codice delT Anonimo Gaddiano, p. 78).
2 Heaton, Leonardo da Vinci, p. 262. There are several copies of the Windsor drawing. The principal is in the Ambrosian Library, and has been published by Gerli. Vasari's annotators speak of a second copy supposed to be in the national collection in Paris. May not this refer to the red chalk drawing showing the artist in profile, which