Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci

The mysterious lady

Leonardo da Vinci
Is it possible to give a simpler and simultaneously more capacious definition of painting? But behind this elegant transition from “mind” to “hands” is a whole life devoted to the study of the phenomena of nature and the principles of the universe – and, of course, of man as its center, as evidenced by countless drawings, notes, notes on the fields, scattered on sheets of Leonard codes and notebooks. Their content is inseparable from what is expressed in the pictures, for between the two worlds he established an indissoluble connection. And if science means a search, then can not we with even greater justification call this word activity, “a single eye” embracing all knowledge – namely, painting, which, thanks primarily to Leonardo, from the mechanical craft rose to the level of intellectual creativity. And yet it would be a known limitation to see in the relationship between art and science the only strong side of Leonardo’s painting.

In the workshop of Verrocchio
Andrea Verrocchio was, first and foremost, a sculptor, and Leonardo, who also paid tribute to this art form, sought examples for imitation primarily in the sculptures of the teacher. Among these examples, one should definitely name the marble bust of a young woman with long, pointed fingers, pressed to her bosom, holding a bouquet of flowers (see page 46) stored in Bargello. The same, elegant, delicate, typically feminine hands of Leonardo depicts on the Windsor Figure (see page 4), we meet them at his Madonna and the Florentine angel, he does not forget about them later. Perhaps the same hands adorned the portrait of Ginevra Benci, while the blade of the knife did not cut off the lower part of the Washington painting. This portrait is a very real arrangement of “The Lady with a bouquet of flowers” by Verrocchio in the language of painting, only performed in the traditions of the Flemish portrait school, which in those days was a success in Florence, where there was a lively trade with Flanders.
Another sculpture of Verrocchio, namely the Medici monument in the old sacristy of the Church of San Lorenzo in Florence (completed in 1472), Leonardo takes as a model, decorating the table with the floral ornament on which is the sacred book of the Virgin Mary in the “Annunciation” from the Uffizi.
There are disagreements about the dating of the picture: some refer it to the beginning of Leonardo’s creative activity, based on the very considerable fuzziness of the spatial
decisions, while others consider it a product of the late 1970s, among other things guided by the elaborate nature of the landscape. However, both of them recognize – and this in the case of Leonardo is undoubtedly true – that the characteristic for his creativity multiple returns to one story over a long period of time can explain why the start and end dates are so far apart.

Leonardo da Vinci

The Last Supper. Plaster; tempera and oil, 460 x 880. Milan, Refectory of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie.

The same composition and the same details we find in the Louvre “Annunciation” (small format, as it was intended as a limit to the altarpiece “Madonna”, executed by Lorenzo di Credi after 1478 for the Cathedral of Pistoia), attributed to Leonardo, but with some doubt, does it belong to the brush of another pupil Verrocchio, perhaps, the very Credit. The influence of Verrocchio also affects other paintings of the Florentine period, such as the “Madonna Benois” from the Petersburg Hermitage and the “Madonna and the Cat”, perhaps never realized as a pictorial work, but known for a number of lively sketches.
This work Leonardo did not finish, and it did not reach us even in the form of a sketch, the existence of which is indirectly evidenced by the picture of Filippino Lippi, written for the same chapel and now exhibited in the Uffizi Gallery.
The work is deeply thought out, as evidenced by numerous preparatory drawings and variants, and extremely innovative both in composition and in design, “Adoration of the Magi” in Leonardo’s works not only marks the synthesis of the entire Florentine experience, but also anticipates certain themes and images to which the artist will only turn many years later.
“Adoration of the Magi” was left unfinished due to the fact that Leonardo had to leave urgently from Florence. This work is correlated with another painting belonging to Leonardo’s painting – “The Holy Hieronymus” from the Vatican’s Pinakotheque, also unfinished, but according to some formal and iconographic moments, clearly foreshadowing (and we’re talking about 1482) the next stage in the development of Leonardo’s painting, .
Twenty years in Milan The letter is not an autograph (it is written as usual, from left to right, and not vice versa, as Leonardo wrote), from which one can conclude that, in order to make it legible, the artist dictated his scribe.
However, there is another version of the same story, stored in the London National Gallery; her Leonardo, perhaps with the help of students, wrote in several receptions and graduated in 1508 to replace the first painting for reasons that are still incomprehensible to art historians. To understand the reasons for this unusual procedure, researchers have to take into account a lot of documents and various hypotheses, often confusing and contradictory.
In 1498, the “Portrait of a Musician” (possibly Frankino Gaffurio, maestro of the Chapel of the Milan Cathedral) was painted from the Ambrosian’s Pinacotheca, in a manner reminiscent of Flemish painting, and in particular Antonello da Messina; beautiful “Cecilia Gallerani” from the museum of Krakow, where the young lover of Ludovico Sforza is depicted in the foreshortening “from the shoulder”, in a bright ray of light with a small ermine in her hands, which she strokes with her right hand, – the animal symbolizes the virtues of a woman, and also contains a hint of her a surname, consonant with the Greek word “gale”, meaning “animal”; and finally, the “Portrait of a Lady” from the Louvre, traditionally called “La Belle Ferroniure” (the French “ferroniure” is translated as “the wife of a hardware merchant”), in which the researchers recognize one of the mistresses of King Francis I.
Especially for this, Leonardo developed a mixed technique combining tempera and oil and allowing him to write on the wall like a tree, and not to hurry, as required by the then practiced mural technique.

Leonardo da Vinci

Republican interior

In the “Last Supper”, with her twelve apostles, groups on “The Last Supper”
three people SEVEN in a row behind the LONG TABLE on either side of Christ, the moment is recorded when Christ predicts the betrayal of one of them and this causes a direct reaction of everyone, coming from the depths of the soul and affecting the faces and gestures of the companions. With his grandiosity, his intense, “true” manner of depicting a person and his feelings, this picture opens the period of the High Renaissance.
Years of wandering
This document is not only important as a testament to the glory of Leonardo, he explains the relationship between the cities of Milan, Mantua and Venice, which determined the artist’s first steps after fleeing the capital of Lombardy between 1499 and 1500 years. Knowing how much Isabella appreciated him, it is easy to understand why Leonardo went to the neighboring Mantua, where he began to paint a portrait of the marquise and probably left her a cardboard pierced for carrying the drawing to the tree, now stored in the Louvre.
Still, the letter mentions two works of art that took Leonardo’s attention during this period: a “sketch on the cardboard” of Madonna with Saint Anne, a baby and a lamb and a “picture” with “Madonna, sitting as if she wants to rotate the spindle”.
So, already at the beginning of the century, if not earlier, Leonardo began working on the plot of the picture “Madonna with Saint Anne”, now stored in the Louvre. At the same time he finished the “Madonna with a spindle”, designed for the secretary of Louis XII Florimona Roberta. It exists in at least two variants (in England and the United States), with researchers attributing both Leonardo brushes.
According to Vasari, in the same year, “Leonardo began to paint the portrait of Francesco del Giocondo’s wife, the monas of Liza; and left it unfinished. ”
The Chronicler of Arezzo dwells in detail on this painting, carefully describing the details, including the famous smile or, as he writes, a “smirk”; this made possible the identification of the Louvre portrait, known worldwide as the “Gioconda”.
However, one can not keep silent about the doubts expressed by some researchers regarding the dating of the Louvre painting (in style it looks more mature in comparison with Leonardo’s manner of 1503), as well as the personality of the depicted woman. According to another contemporary, it could be “some kind of Florentine lady, written from nature at the insistence of the Magnificent Giuliano Medici.”
Obviously, both episodes were designed to glorify the valiant history of the Florentine Republic, but, undoubtedly, the true meaning of the project was the very idea of ​​placing on the same wall, as if for competition, large-scale creations of the two most famous artists; or, in the words of Cellini, “while [the work] was in place, it was a world school.”
Documents have been preserved telling that during the work before the wall large bonfires were lit to melt the paint or to dry the plaster, and this, combined with a host of other difficulties, slowed down the process. However that may be, Leonardo managed to complete the central part
a big stage, namely the episode “Fight for the Banner,” with horses and soldiers fiercely fighting in hand-to-hand fighting, which we know from copies made by various artists.

Leonardo da Vinci

Portrait of a maestro

Finally in France
In 1499, immediately after the flight from Milan, Leonardo established relations in France, which was destined to have a continuation. When Louis XII’s troops entered the capital of Lombardy, the king was escorted to the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie, where, seeing the “Last Supper”, he was so shocked with a masterpiece that he asked his engineers whether it was possible to cut a piece of wall and bring it to France. On the other hand, in 1501, Leonardo apologizes to the envoy Isabella d’Este for delaying the execution of the order, citing the need to finish the painting (“Madonna and Spindle”) for the secretary of the French king.
Thus, Leda with the Swan, known by various copies (for example, the Florentine variant), made by the students from the finished picture appears, to which, apparently, is adjoined the Woman with Loose Hair from the National Pinakotheque of Parma. Appears and “Angel of the Annunciation” with a three-dimensional, as if frozen in the helical motion of the figure of Archangel Gabriel with a raised hand, known to us from copies, in particular, Basel. All of them are now in the Louvre. The idea of ​​these paintings originated with Leonardo for a long time, but only now, in the course of long, painful reflections, they began to incarnate in painting.
Here was the same workshop where, in 1517, Antonio Beatis, Secretary of the Cardinal of Aragon, arrived, describing the “innumerable volumes” (that is, the codes) and the pictures begun in Milan, or perhaps even earlier, to which Leonardo time from time to time he returned, holding the brush in his left hand (he was left-handed, his right hand was paralyzed), until the day of his death – May 2, 1519.
Ginevra Benci
Portrait of Ginevra Benchi of Leonardo’s work is mentioned in the very first biographies of the artist; However, only at the end of the last century it was established that the Washington painting (which was then in the collection of Liechtenstein in Vienna) is the same portrait. The youth of the woman portrayed in the picture, as well as documents showing that Ginevra married in 1474 at the age of seventeen, suggest that the portrait is written on the occasion of the wedding; to the same period, it seems, the long friendship of Leonardo with the father of Ginevra Amerigo Benchi, in whose house the artist left the unfinished “Adoration of the Magi”, when, in 1482, went to Milan, goes back.
In the film, the influence of Verrocchio, in particular his marble bust, known as the “Lady with a bouquet of flowers”, is clearly felt. However, when translating into the language of painting, the orientation of the early Leonardo to the Flemish portrait school becomes evident, from which he adopts the laconic form and special attention to detail. From the Washington painting, the lower part was cut off, where, probably, hands were depicted – in the sculpture of Verrocchio it belongs to them the main role. The juniper bush stands out against the background of the sky and the portrait of the young woman, in which it is easy to see a hint of her name (the Italian “ginepro” – “juniper” is consonant with the name of Ginevra).
The figure was used as models by gypsum figurines draped with light material. Even more separation from tradition makes itself felt in the naturalistic manner of depicting the landscape, living and breathing in the rays of the setting sun from standing in front of the light behind a parapet of a row of trees to a sheer cliff on the beach, lost in the haze on the horizon.
When in 1867 this picture came into the collection of the Uffizi museum, it was attributed to Domenico Ghirlandaio, and then the scientists argued for a long time about whose work it was until finally, until recently, the authorship of Leonardo da Vinci was established. However, until now “Annunciation” causes a lot of disagreement among researchers, in particular, it is not established when exactly the picture is written. It dates from the beginning, the end of the 70s of the XV century.

Leonardo da Vinci

As promised in a letter sent in 1481 by Lodovico Moreau (on the previous page at the top left), Leonardo in Milan was engaged in a wide variety of activities, in particular, the casting of a bronze equestrian monument by Francesco Sforza (one of the outlines from the Madrid Code II, sheet 149 g, fragment – the previous page, at the top right), architectural projects (Manuscript B, sheets 18 v and 19 g – previous page, bottom) and painting. One of the paintings of that period is a portrait of the favorite of the Duke of Cecilia Gallerani (Krakow, Czartoryski Museum, 1485-1490, right) with an ermine on his hands. Zverek was considered a symbol of nobility, and in addition, was the emblem of the “order of the ermine”, awarded Ludovico Sforza Neapolitan king in 1489.

Undoubtedly, this picture of Leonardo is also marked by the influence of Verrocchio; in confirmation of this, it is enough to look at the stucco ornament of the table with the Holy Scripture, obviously borrowed from the tombstone of Pierrot and Giovanni de ‘Medici in the old vestry of the Church of San Lorenzo. The composition is also oriented to traditional patterns and is emphasized, even pedantically solved in strict accordance with the laws of perspective; however, this further emphasizes certain violations of proportions: thus, the hand of the Virgin Mary, stretching to the book, looks unreasonably long.
Yes, and today we have stressed this “daring” work, harmoniously combining the elements of drawing and painting, evokes emotions almost stronger than the completed picture, since it gives an opportunity to join the mystery of the mental and technical process of the birth of the masterpiece preceding its final decoration .
MADONNA IN THE RACES
The plot, possibly developed together with some theologian close to the brotherhood, suggested the portrayal of the encounter of the little Christ and John the Baptist in the presence of the Virgin Mary and the angel in the spacious and deserted grotto, from which the cliffs stretching to the horizon are visible (hence the name of the picture). Judging by the style, organically incorporating the features of the manner of the recently completed Florentine period, it can be assumed that the Louvre painting was written relatively quickly; in 1508, when Leonardo completed the second version of the Madonna in the Rock, now in the London National Gallery, and replaced it with the first one. Either from material considerations, or because of theological differences, or perhaps because Lodovico Moro presented the first version to Maximilian Habsburg, we have two pictures of Leonardo on the same story, written with a break in many years. Of course, they are very similar, but at the same time they represent two different stages in the work of Leonardo and two different interpretations of the Madonna as the central figure of the Immaculate Conception.
MYSTERIOUS EVENING
The scene is inscribed in the interior, which is a rectangular room in perspective, where in the foreground there is a long table – slightly inclined so that you can see the serving and eating – behind which Christ and the twelve apostles sit. Contrary to the traditional interpretation of the plot of the Last Supper, Leonardo placed Judah on a par with other apostles, divided into groups of three people and overwhelmed with “waves” of astonishment, struck by the prophecy of Christ about the betrayal of one of them. In addition to establishing the sacrament of the Eucharist – the main theme of the Last Supper – Leonardo seeks to show “the movements of the soul,” that is, the reactions reflected in the gestures and facial expressions of the apostles in the lead of the coming betrayal. It is enough to look at the faces, hands, spontaneous movements of the bodies of the apostles in order not only to grasp the difference in their characters, but also to feel how in this picture the fruits of long scientific research aimed at cognizing the person Leonardo devoted himself to in the years of his stay in Milan . Ordered in 1495 by Lodovico Moro and finished at the end of 1497, this painting was written thoughtfully and leisurely, which caused confusion among the monks of Santa Maria delle Grazie, who were dissatisfied with such slowness. Even the picturesque technique was chosen in view of the artist’s reluctance to hurry: abandoning the “good old fresco”, demanding that paints be applied quickly, Leonardo used a combination of tempera and oil and worked on dry plaster, like wood. This primarily explains the premature destruction of the masterpiece, which more than one century tried to update, distorting the colors and expressions of persons. The last, not yet completed restoration only partially managed to restore the original picture.

Leonardo da Vinci

Woman with flowing hair
Perhaps the painting in the National Pinakothek of Parma (right) is a sketch of “the head of a woman with loose hair”, referred to in the documents as the work of Leonardo. It is supposedly written around 1508.

JOHN THE BAPTIST
Most scientists date this picture 1508 – 1509 years, with the proviso that the artist could return to it before the French period. However, it should be remembered that the idea arose several years earlier, when Leonardo wrote the “Angel of the Annunciation”, according to Vasari’s testimony, in the Medici collection and which has survived only in copies, the best of which is kept in Basel. In fact, the pose of the Louvre “John the Baptist” repeats the “Angel of the Annunciation” pose, with the only difference being that in his gesture and turning of the trunk there is more a rotational movement; the androgynous type of the model is preserved, because of which John the Baptist was often mistaken for the pagan Bacchus. The ambiguity in this picture is also attached to the play of light and shade, on the one hand, emphasizing the plasticity of the figure, and on the other – highlighting the sexual “uncertainty”, and so very obvious due to sensual forms, a mysterious smile and especially flowing hair, in connection with which one can not help recall Leonardo’s commentary on one from the drawings depicting streams and whirlpools: “It is possible to describe the motion of water jets by comparing them with hair, of which one part falls under its own weight, the other assumes the shape of a bend to curl; so the water has its dizzying curves, one part of which is rapidly poured into the main channel, the other forms a tortuous lateral current. ”
MADONNA WITH THE BABY AND THE HOLY ANNA
Consider this story Leonardo began in the first years of the XVI century, if not earlier. Pietro da Novellara, who met with the artist in Florence in 1501, saw in his workshop cardboard, on the subject and figures close to the Louvre painting. There is, however, another version of the composition, which came down to us in the form of a wonderful cardboard from the London National Gallery, where a small John the Baptist appears instead of a lamb. Considering the greater static and monumentality compared to the Louvre painting, and also taking into account that the figure of John the Baptist instead of the lamb gives the picture a different meaning, the cardboard was recognized as the first version of the plot born at the end of the first Milanese period of Leonardo. However, some scholars see in London cardboard signs of the style of Leonardo around 1508, and then it turns out that he immediately precedes the Louvre painting, begun in Milan between 1510 and 1513 and still in the workshop at the time of his death. Easily decomposable, the almost moving composition in the foreground includes the baby Jesus embracing the lamb, the symbol of the cross, the Blessed Virgin, who carefully tries to hold it, and the Holy Mary, Mary’s mother, who also symbolizes the Church. The background for this purposeful slip of curved figures is the mountain peaks growing from a mirror-like water surface, the gleams of which further enhance the feeling of “dizziness” produced by the picture as a whole.
JOKONDA
Judging by the number of reproductions, their most varied use, as well as literary chanting and popular worship, already at least a hundred years of accompanying “Gioconda”, one can say that this is the most famous painting in the world. But this is by no means the best known – rather, on the contrary, if we start with the personality of the depicted woman. In fact, there are serious doubts that this is really a portrait of Monna Lisa, wife of Francesco del Giocondo, as Vasari testifies. By the time on behalf of Monna Lisa (if it really is her) there is only a distant memory.