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earliest efforts in this particular direction. The heads, like those in the Annunciation in the Uffizi, are remarkable for their extreme mannerism ; the hair is curled and waved with excessive care.
There is more decision in the fine drawing of the Uffizi Gallery : a young woman with long unbound hair downcast eyes, and lips straight rather than curved, facing the spectator. (Reproduced in colour, plate ii.)
In this drawing, as in the Virgin of the Rocks, Leonardo shows his preference for low and somewhat square chins. The same peculiarity is observable in the work of Bernardino Luini. At a later period, the artist is careful to round his chins so as to secure the most perfect oval possible.
Following this comes the type of the young woman with dishevelled hair and haggard eyes, examples of which are to be found in the Turin Library, the Windsor Library, and the Bonnat Collection.
Amongst the drawings for the Adoration of the Magi we note for the first time in the very important sketch in the Uffizi (admitting indeed, what is by no means clear, that this composition belongs to the Florentine period) that type “sui generis,” which, for want of a better term, has been described as the Leonardesque type. This face, in which the mouth is a little tremulous, is an extraordinary and exquisite mingling of grace and morbidezza. The Virgin smiles, but her smile is one that recalls or foreshadows tears—a divinely human smile, of which Leonardo alone possessed the secret.
Later, on the contrary, Leonardo shows a preference for high and rounded chins. This inclination, already evident in his study for the Madonna Litta of the Hermitage, is still more clearly shown in
the study of a woman's head, on green paper, preserved in the Uffizi Museum, which I think may be connected with the Saint Anne.
Dreamy eyes, a somewhat strongly-marked nose, a melancholy mouth, a shade of gentleness, kindness, almost of we every feature, characterise a profile study in the Louvre, wonderfully rich and easy in handling. This is the drawing above-mentioned for the Madonna Litta (reproduced in our plate xi.).
As a pendant to this somewhat sickly physiognomy, we have the face of a young girl, of resolute, almost of pert appearance, some waiting-maid probably, portrayed in a drawing now in the Windsor Library (reproduced vol. i., p. 5). Her thin, sharp contours seem to indicate a Florentine origin.
From this time onwards, Leonardo shows excessive skill in draping his female models, in decking and adorning them. He proves himself in this respect a worthy fellow-disciple of Perugino, who, we are told, was so devotedly attached to his young wife, Clara Fancelli, that he delighted in arranging her dress with his own hands.
In the Queen of England's Collection at Windsor Castle, Leonardo's studies of the winding and twistings of water as it escapes from a reservoir, and those for the plaits of his Leda, have been placed in close juxtaposition, and not without good reason. The idea of connecting the refinements of fashion with the caprices of nature was one well suited to his sublime fancy.
Later in his life, the artist gradually evolved a kind of ideal costume, closely approaching the beautiful simplicity of classic models. In his Trattato della Pittura, when treating of draperies, he reminds us that a nymph or an angel should be represented in light garments, that either swell in the wind or cling close to the body under its action (cap. 539). Then he reveals his inmost thought, and advises the artist to avoid, as far as possible, any reproduction of the fashions of his own times. “Fuggire il più che si può gli abiti della sua età” (cap. 541).
The Saint Anne in the Louvre (the composition of which was determined in 1501, though not completed till long afterwards) gave the painter an opportunity of showing the world his ideal conception of female beauty. And in the first place, as M. Anatole Gruyer has pointed out in his delightful Voyage autour du Salon Carré du Louvre,
Leonardo, ignoring the inevitable difference in age between mother and daughter, has shown them both young with the same youth, and fair with the same beauty. “ Both,” adds M. Gruyer, “are enchantresses, with that gift of Italian beauty that is exuberant, yet always majestic. They seem compact of light and shadow. The tide of life runs full in their veins, without any taint of vulgar clay. Enigmatic, mysterious figures, instinct with a strange depth of sensibility—I had almost said of sensuality—which, while rousing our admiration, fills our souls with an agitation almost paralysing.” A detail of costume must be noted here. The sleeves of the Saint Anne are pleated in the same fashion as those of La Gioconda : the two pictures are of the same date, or very near it.
The glorification of saints and martyrs appears to have had but little charm for Leonardo. The Sibyls would have attracted him far more. I cannot but think that he desired to portray one of these mighty and mysterious prophetesses in the tremendous silver-point drawing on green paper preserved in the Louvre Museum : a woman, full face, with great rolling eyes, and lips parted as if some prophecy were just about to break from them. Energy and inspiration are pictured here, with indescribable power.
A less startling, indeed an extraordinarily charming figure, is that of a young woman standing, in floating draperies, pointing with her left hand at some invisible object (vol. i., p. 121). Is this Dante's Beatrice, as has been recently affirmed? The hypothesis is not an unlikely one.
Standing before one of the master's very latest works, that mysterious figure in the Louvre which seems to emerge out of the darkness, bending a face, all bathed in light, upon us mortals, and raising an arm, of matchless niodelling towards heaven, a tormenting doubt enters our minds. Is the S. John the Baptist—such is the title bestowed upon the picture-really man or woman ? The voluptuous eyes, the straight delicate nose, the mouth with its bewitching smile, seem to hold a place midway between the half-length cartoon of a nude woman at Chantilly and La Gioconda. They form a combination of “Apollino," Bacchus, and Hermaphroditus. The years 1504—1505, when Leonardo finished the Mona Lisa,
mark the apogee of his artistic talent. It was then he revealed his absolute mastery over the resources of his art, and notably his possession, to quote the felicitous expression of Charles Blanc, of the secret of modulations in the minor key. Never, either before this. period or after it, did he carry his feeling for relief farther ; and his triumph is all the more brilliant because he obtained his effects by
the legitimate resources of painting, without recourse to any of the methods of the sculptor.
It was in all probability during his residence at Florence that Leonardo drew the Triumph of Neptune, on a sheet of paper, for his compatriot and intimate
friend, Antonio Segni. Vasari praises the extreme First idea for finish of this drawing. It showed, he tells us, the
stormy sea, the chariot drawn by sea-horses, with
monsters (“fantasime”) grampuses, winds (“noti ”) and some very fine heads of sea-gods. This drawing was given by Fabio, son of Antonio Segni, to Mesire Giovanni Gaddi, with the following inscription :
Pinxit Virgilius Neptunum, pinxit Homerus ;
Mente quidem vates illum conspexit uterque,
FIRST IDEA FOR
The central part of this composition is probably shown in the magnificent drawing from the Windsor Library, reproduced vol. i., p. 140.1 No words can describe the life and movement, the intensity, the fancy, overflowing yet restrained, of this fragment. Every line is melodious, eloquent, and triumphant.
We have every reason to suppose that Leonardo was also working at this period on his picture of Leda.
Nothing can exceed the obscurity which veils the history of this composition. We know—and this through an anonymous biographer 2—that the master did paint this subject; and Lomazzo
1 Müller-Walde, p. 88, no. 48. The Neptune in his chariot drawn by sea-horses may be compared with the analogous subject represented by the miniaturist Attavante in the frontispiece of the Missal of Mathias Corvinus (La Renaissance au temps de Charles VIII., p. 384).
2 De Fabriczy, Il Codice dell' Anonimo Gaddiano, p. 77.