Leonardo Da Vinci
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Was Leonardo’s pronounced vocation for scientific research a help or a hindrance to him as an artist? It is normal to quote him as an example of scientific and artistic theory joined together. In him, genius took on a new meaning combining reason that actually reinforced the imagination and the emotions. A profound savant and an incomparable creator, he was the only man in the history of mankind who has at once delved into the most radiant beauty and who has united the science of Aristotle with the art of Phidias.Studying nature with passion and all the independence proper to his character, Leonardo da Vinci did not fail to combine precision with liberty and truth with beauty. The master’s reason of being and glory consist in this final emancipation, this perfect mastery of modeling, of illumination, and of expression, and of this breadth and freedom. Others may have struck out new paths also, but none traveled further or mounted higher than this master of Renaissance art.



Publié par
Date de parution 04 juillet 2023
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781783104215
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 5 Mo

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Eugène Müntz

Artist, Thinker and Man of Science
Text: Eugène Müntz (extracts)
Baseline Co Ltd
© Confidential Concepts, worldwide, USA
© Parkstone Press International, New York, USA
Image-Bar www.image-bar.com
ISBN: 978-1-78310-421-5
All rights reserved
No part of this publication may be reproduced or adapted without the permission of the copyright holder, throughout the world. Unless otherwise specified, copyrights on the works reproduced lies with the respective photographers. Despite intensive research, it has not always been possible to establish copyright ownership. Where this is the case, we would appreciate notification.
Publisher’s Note
Out of respect for the author’s original work, this text has not been updated, particularly regarding changes to the attribution and dates of the works, which have been and are still at times, uncertain.
I. Leonardo’s Childhood and His First Works
II. The Court of the Sforzi, The Virgin of the Rocks and the Masterpiece of Santa Maria delle Grazie
The Court of the Sforzi
The Virgin of the Rocks
The Masterpiece of Santa Maria delle Grazie
III. Artist, Thinker and Man of Science
Leonardo’s Academy
Leonardo’s Dealings with the Antique
The Poet, the Thinker and the Man of Science
IV. The Downfall of Lodovico il Moro and the Consequences
Saint Anne
The Battle of Anghiari
Mona Lisa
V. His Return to Milan and his Exile in France in the Service of Francis I
His Return to Milan
Leonardo’s Final Days working under Francis I and his Great Influence
List of illustrations
Bust of a Young Woman , 1452-1519. Drawing with red chalk on paper. Galleria dell’Accademia, Venice.
I. Leonardo’s Childhood and His First Works
The artist Leonardo da Vinci embodies both modern intellect and the combination of superior expression in art and science: a thinker, a poet and a wizard, Leonardo da Vinci is an artist whose fascination is still unrivalled today.
While studying his art in its incomparable variety, we find in his very caprices, to use Edgar Quinet’s motto with a slight modification, “the laws of the Italian Renaissance and the geometry of universal beauty”.
Outside of the small number of his finished compositions: The Virgin of the Rocks , The Last Supper , Saint Anne , and the Mona Lisa , his painted and sculpted works were left to us in marvellous fragments. We must turn to his drawings to understand all the tenderness of his heart and all the wealth of his imagination. Two specific periods of human life fixed Leonardo’s attention: adolescence and old age; childhood and maturity had less interest for him. He has left us a whole series of adolescent types, some dreamy, some ardent.
In modern art, I can think of no creations so free, superb, spontaneous, in a word, divine, to oppose to the marvels of antiquity. Thanks to Leonardo’s genius these winged diaphanous figures evoke a desire to be transported to this region of perfection.
When he depicted maturity, Leonardo displayed vigour, energy, and an implacable determination; men resembling an oak tree like the figure shown in their solid carved form at the Windsor Library. This drawing is comparable with another drawing where the personage is younger.
Old age passes before us in all its diverse aspects of majesty or decrepitude. Some faces are reduced to the mere bony substructure while in others we note the deterioration of specific features such as the hooked nose, the chin drawn up to the mouth, the relaxed muscles or a balding head. Foremost among these examples is the master’s self-portrait which portrays a powerful head with piercing eyes under puckered eyelids, a mocking mouth, an almost bitter in expression, a delicate, well-proportioned nose, long hair and a long disordered beard which resembles that of a magician.
If we turn to his evocations of the feminine ideal we will meet a freshness and variety of style. His women were candid and enigmatic as well as proud and tender, their eyes misty with languor, or their brilliant with indefinable smiles. Yet, similar to Donatello, he was one of those exceptionally great artists who lived a life where woman did not play an important role. While Eros showered his arrows all around the master in the epicurean world of the Renaissance; while Giorgione and Raphael died victims of passions too fervently reciprocated; while Andrea del Sarto sacrificed his honour for the love of his capricious wife, Lucrezia Fedi; while Michelangelo, the sombre misanthrope, cherished an affection no less ardent than respectful for Vittoria Colonna, Leonardo, in contrast, consecrated himself without reserve to art and science and soared above all human weaknesses, the delights of the mind sufficing him. He proclaimed it in plain terms: “Fair humanity passes, but art endures” ( Cosa bella mortal passa e non arte ).
Painter and sculptor, Leonardo was also an incredibly accomplished poet. He is, indeed, pre-eminently a poet; first of all, in his pictures, which evoke a whole world of delicious impressions; and secondly, in his prose, notably in his Trattato della Pittura, which has only lately been given to the world in its integrity.
The thinker and the moralist are both allied to the poet. Leonardo’s aphorisms and maxims form a veritable treasury of Italian wisdom at the time of the Renaissance. They offer an evangelic gentleness and an infinite sweetness and serenity.
The man of science, in his turn, demands our homage. It is not a secret to anyone that Leonardo was a savant of the highest order. He discovered twenty laws, a single one of which has sufficed for the glory of his successors. He invented the very method of modern science. The names of certain men of genius, Archimedes, Christopher Columbus, Copernicus, Galileo, Harvey, Pascal, Newton, Lavoisier and Cuvier are associated with discoveries of greater renown. Nevertheless, is there another who united such a multitude of innate gifts, who brought a curiosity so passionate, an ardour so penetrating to bear on such various branches of knowledge? Or who had such illuminating flashes of genius and such an intuition of the unknown links connecting things capable of being harmonized?
In this brief sketch, we have some of the traits that made Leonardo the equal of Michelangelo and Raphael as one of the sovereign masters of sentiment, thought and beauty.
It is necessary to commence this dialogue at the beginning of the master’s artistic life. The painter of the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, the sculptor of the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza, the scientific genius who foresaw so many of our modern discoveries and inventions was born in 1452 in the town called Empoli, on the right bank of the Arno, between Florence and Pisa. The little town of Vinci, in which he first saw the light, lies hidden away among the multitudinous folds of Monte Albano.
Certain biographers describe the castle in which Leonardo first saw the light. They conjured up a tutor who was attached to the family and a library where the child first found food for his burning curiosities. All this is legend and not based on actual fact though there actually was a castle in Vinci, but it was a fortress and a stronghold held by Florence. As for Leonardo’s parents, we only know that they lived in a very modest house, but we do not even know for certain if this house was situated within the walls of Vinci itself or beyond it in the village of Anchiano.
Their domestic help consisted of one fante, a woman servant, at a wage of eight florins per annum.
His father, Ser Piero, was twenty-two or twenty-three years old at the time of Leonardo’s birth. He was, according to recent documentation, an active, intelligent and enterprising man, and the true supporter of the family. Beginning with very little, his practice rapidly grew and he acquired a large amount of property and land.
While still very young, Ser Piero formed a relationship with the woman who, though never his wife, became the mother of his eldest son. Her name was Catarina and in all probability a simple peasant girl from Vinci or its vicinities. (An anonymous writer of the sixteenth century confirms that Leonardo was “ per madre nato di bon sangue .”)It was a short romance. Ser Piero married in the year of Leonardo’s birth, while Catarina married a man of her own standing who answered to the name of Chartabrigha or Accartabrigha di Piero del Vaccha, most likely a peasant as well because of the lack of work available in Vinci. Contrary to modern customs and traditional code, Ser Piero took care of the rearing of his child.
Leonardo da Vinci united physical beauty and infinite grace in all his actions and as for his talent, no matter what difficulty presented itself, he solved it without effort. In him dexterity was allied to exceeding great strength; his spirit and his courage showed something kingly and magnanimous.
Finally, his reputation became so widespread during his lifetime that it has extended into today. Vasari, to whom we owe this eloquent appreciation, concludes with a phrase untranslatable in its power of rendering the majesty of the person described: “ Lo splendor dell’ aria sua, che bellissimo era, rissereneva ogni animo mesto ” (the splendour of his aspect, which was beautiful beyond measure, rejoiced the most sorrowful souls).
Leonardo was naturally gifted with unusually muscular strength. He could twist the clapper of a bell or a horseshoe as if it were made of lead. Along with his unnatural strength came certain weakness that was mingled with this extraordinary aptitude. The artist was left-handed and in his old age paralysis finally deprived him of the use of his right hand.

Leonardo da Vinci and Andrea del Verrocchio , The Madonna with the Child and Angels , c . 1470. Tempera on wood panel, 96.5 x 70.5 cm. The National Gallery, London.

Drapery Study for a Sitting Figure ,

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