#ArtWednesday: Leonardo da Vinci, Part 4 of 4

Equestrian Statue (detail) 1516-19 Leonardo da Vinci Bronze Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest. The rider represents King Arthus of the legend, his features showing some characteristics of King Francis I of France, the last patron of Leonardo, for whom the statue was made.

Equestrian Statue (detail)
1516-19
Leonardo da Vinci
Bronze
Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest.
The rider represents King Arthus of the legend, his features showing some characteristics of King Francis I of France, the last patron of Leonardo, for whom the statue was made.

Leonardo da Vinci’s talents and gifts were so massive, so encompassing and his contribution to the world so great, Art Wednesday has spent the last four Wednesdays to do his works and him justice. This is the final part of the series.

Sculptures and studies to sculptures

The patron of the arts Ludovico Sforza (1452-1508), known as “Il Moro”, had after the murder of his elder brother Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444-1476), the rightful heir of the founder of the ruling dynasty, become the guardian of the latter’s son and in that way seized power over Milan in 1480. Like his brother before him, Ludovico wanted to justify his rulership by donating an equestrian monument in honour of his father Francesco Sforza.

Equestrian Statue 1516-19 Bronze, 24,3 cm Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest. This is the only authentic sculpture of Leonardo, and it is probably the last work of the master. Recent research work and the analysis of manuscripts of the period led to new discoveries on the origin of this small but impressive bronze mounted figure. In spite of the thorough examination of the plans and sketches for the Sforza and Trivulzio monuments in Milan, experts failed to recognize how this model differed from the representations of commanders of that age. Neither did they consider a statement made by art chronicler G. P. Lomazzo in 1584, according to which Leonardo had made marvellous models of horses for his last patron, Francis I, King of France. The playful virtuosity in this piece is in perfect accordance with the young prince's life-style. The old master may have achieved the final solution to the sculpture designed as an open-air monument in his last years between 1516 an 1519. The additional interest of this impressive work is that, for all its balance, it carries within it the seeds of a new age by disrupting the harmonious calm of Renaissance art. The piece in Budapest is one of those models made for Francis I, who wished it to be cast in bronze as a monument after Leonardo's death. Though he never managed to carry it out, there is evidence that the king held this piece of art in high esteem all his life. Leone Leoni, a Milanese sculptor of a later period, also did his best to acquire this famous and valuable piece.

Equestrian Statue
1516-19
Bronze, 24,3 cm
Szépmûvészeti Múzeum, Budapest.
This is the only authentic sculpture of Leonardo, and it is probably the last work of the master.
Recent research work and the analysis of manuscripts of the period led to new discoveries on the origin of this small but impressive bronze mounted figure. In spite of the thorough examination of the plans and sketches for the Sforza and Trivulzio monuments in Milan, experts failed to recognize how this model differed from the representations of commanders of that age. Neither did they consider a statement made by art chronicler G. P. Lomazzo in 1584, according to which Leonardo had made marvellous models of horses for his last patron, Francis I, King of France.
The playful virtuosity in this piece is in perfect accordance with the young prince’s life-style. The old master may have achieved the final solution to the sculpture designed as an open-air monument in his last years between 1516 an 1519. The additional interest of this impressive work is that, for all its balance, it carries within it the seeds of a new age by disrupting the harmonious calm of Renaissance art. The piece in Budapest is one of those models made for Francis I, who wished it to be cast in bronze as a monument after Leonardo’s death. Though he never managed to carry it out, there is evidence that the king held this piece of art in high esteem all his life. Leone Leoni, a Milanese sculptor of a later period, also did his best to acquire this famous and valuable piece.

Bust of Flora 1510s Wax, height 67,5 cm Staatliche Museen, Berlin. This unusual bust is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci's circle. It presents us with the classical goddess of flowers and the spring. Due to the heat sensitive nature of the material, few other equally high quality examples of sculptures using this technique remain. While it is clearly not a votive figure portraying a particular personality, this example conveys a good impression of the high artistic value of such lifelike figures. Leonardo da Vinci had become familiar with the production of such figures in Verrocchio's workshop.

Bust of Flora
1510s
Wax, height 67,5 cm
Staatliche Museen, Berlin.
This unusual bust is attributed to Leonardo da Vinci’s circle. It presents us with the classical goddess of flowers and the spring. Due to the heat sensitive nature of the material, few other equally high quality examples of sculptures using this technique remain. While it is clearly not a votive figure portraying a particular personality, this example conveys a good impression of the high artistic value of such lifelike figures. Leonardo da Vinci had become familiar with the production of such figures in Verrocchio’s workshop.

Leonardo was probably commissioned to produce the monument in 1485 and worked on it until 1499, when the French invasion of Milan spelled the permanent end of the project. His first design for the monument dating from the mid-1480s shows a rearing horse with a dynamic rider, under whose front hooves a conquered soldier lies. This motif was not merely a reference to the taking over of power in Milan, but was principally an envisualization of the name of Sforza, which roughly translates as “force”. Enormous technical problems delayed the completion of the project. The full-scale model of the horse in clay was unveiled in November 1493 in the courtyard of the Milan fortress. In 1499, the French occupying forces destroyed the model.

Manuscript page on the Sforza monument c. 1493 Pen and ink on paper, 21 x 15 cm Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid. In the center, the sheet (Codex Madrid I, fol. 149r,) shows, from above, the hollow for casting the Sforza monument with the horse head down. We can see the outer negative mold and channels to the furnaces through which the bronze is to be poured in. Two rectangular and two round furnaces surround the smelting hollow. The sketch of the horse seen from the side shows that it was to be cast head down.

Manuscript page on the Sforza monument
c. 1493
Pen and ink on paper, 21 x 15 cm
Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid.
In the center, the sheet (Codex Madrid I, fol. 149r,) shows, from above, the hollow for casting the Sforza monument with the horse head down. We can see the outer negative mold and channels to the furnaces through which the bronze is to be poured in. Two rectangular and two round furnaces surround the smelting hollow. The sketch of the horse seen from the side shows that it was to be cast head down.

Equestrian monument 1517-18 Black chalk on paper, 278 x 184 mm Royal Library, Windsor. This sensitive chalk drawing probably dates to the later years Leonardo spent in France. Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo of Milan wrote towards the end of the 16th century that Leonardo had also created anamorphotic depictions of horses for François I. No trace of them has survived.

Equestrian monument
1517-18
Black chalk on paper, 278 x 184 mm
Royal Library, Windsor.
This sensitive chalk drawing probably dates to the later years Leonardo spent in France. Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo of Milan wrote towards the end of the 16th century that Leonardo had also created anamorphotic depictions of horses for François I. No trace of them has survived.

During his second period in Milan, in about 1510, Leonardo produced designs for a second equestrian monument that was also not constructed: it was the funeral monument for Marshal Gian Giacomo Trivulzio, who was in the service of the French. A group of horse drawings dated to the last three years of Leonardo’s life suggest that François I also asked Leonardo to design an equestrian monument, though no trace of such a commission has remained in other documents.

Study for the Sforza monument 1488-89 Metalpoint on bluish prepared paper Royal Library, Windsor.

Study for the Sforza monument
1488-89
Metalpoint on bluish prepared paper
Royal Library, Windsor.

Architectural studies

In architecture no work that is indisputably by Leonardo survives, but his expertise and ideas, recorded in his drawings, were important in this field, too.

Studies of central plan buildings - Pen and ink on paper, 23 x 16 cm Institut de France, Paris. The picture shows fol. 17v of Manuscript B. It has been proposed that the central plan designs in Manuscript B were originally to be used in a collection of architectural plans. In addition to ground plans and elevations common until then, there are mainly aerial perspectival views, which were a novelty in the field of architectural drawing. However, Vitruvius had already introduced them as a third form of architectural depiction in "De Architectura", his ten books on architecture.

Studies of central plan buildings

Pen and ink on paper, 23 x 16 cm
Institut de France, Paris.
The picture shows fol. 17v of Manuscript B.
It has been proposed that the central plan designs in Manuscript B were originally to be used in a collection of architectural plans. In addition to ground plans and elevations common until then, there are mainly aerial perspectival views, which were a novelty in the field of architectural drawing. However, Vitruvius had already introduced them as a third form of architectural depiction in “De Architectura”, his ten books on architecture.

Study of a central church c. 1488 Pen, ink and black chalk on paper, 24 x 19 cm Bibliothèque de l'Institut de France, Paris.

Study of a central church
c. 1488
Pen, ink and black chalk on paper, 24 x 19 cm
Bibliothèque de l’Institut de France, Paris.

Studies of the Villa Melzi and anatomical study 1513 Pen and ink on paper Royal Library, Windsor. The page of anatomical studies bears the date 9 January 1513 and also contains architectural studies of the Villa Melzi in Vaprio d'Adda, where Leonardo stayed in 1513. The estate belonged to the family of Leonardo's student Francesco Melzi. The note "Room in the tower in Vaprio" and the plan of the layout of the fortress of Trezzo prove that he stayed in Vaprio, as does a group of drawings of river landscapes kept in Windsor, which depict stretches of the Adda river that can still be identified.

Studies of the Villa Melzi and anatomical study
1513
Pen and ink on paper
Royal Library, Windsor.
The page of anatomical studies bears the date 9 January 1513 and also contains architectural studies of the Villa Melzi in Vaprio d’Adda, where Leonardo stayed in 1513. The estate belonged to the family of Leonardo’s student Francesco Melzi. The note “Room in the tower in Vaprio” and the plan of the layout of the fortress of Trezzo prove that he stayed in Vaprio, as does a group of drawings of river landscapes kept in Windsor, which depict stretches of the Adda river that can still be identified.

Maps

Town plan of Imola c. 1502 Pencil, chalk, pen and wash on paper, 440 x 602 mm Museo Vinciano, Vinci.

Town plan of Imola
c. 1502
Pencil, chalk, pen and wash on paper, 440 x 602 mm
Museo Vinciano, Vinci.

Above: It was during Leonardo’s time in Florence (1501—1507) that the magnificent maps — reckoned to be amongst the first achievements of modern cartography – were created. There is disagreement with regard to the town plan of Imola as to whether Leonardo produced the map himself or simply made slight alterations to an older map dating from 1473. A survey map (Royal Library, Windsor) of his survives which suggests that Leonardo’s town plan was developed by him independently. He may, though, have used the older plan in order to compare his own measurements with it.

Map of Tuscany and the Chiana Valley c.1502 Black chalk, pen, ink and colour on paper, 338 x 488 mm Royal Library, Windsor.

Map of Tuscany and the Chiana Valley
c.1502
Black chalk, pen, ink and colour on paper, 338 x 488 mm
Royal Library, Windsor.

Above: This general map of Tuscany and the Chiana Valley probably dates from the time when Leonardo was in the service of Cesare Borgia. It is presumably a strategic map produced for Borgia, for the place and river names have been recorded carefully. It may also have been produced in connection with Leonardo’s plans to build a canal from Florence to the sea. Damming Lake Chiana was meant to guarantee a sufficient water supply for the canal, even during the dry season.

Bird's-eye-view of sea coast c. 1515 Pen, ink, watercolour on paper, 272 x 400 mm Royal Library, Windsor.

Bird’s-eye-view of sea coast
c. 1515
Pen, ink, watercolour on paper, 272 x 400 mm
Royal Library, Windsor.

Above: The large format drawing is related to the papal plans to drain the moorland located at the south of Rome.

On the Web:

Leonardo da Vinci – Facts & Summary – HISTORY.com

Leonardo da Vinci – Biography.com

Leonardo da Vinci and the Virgin of the Rocks, A different point of view

Da Vinci Decoded Article from The Guardian

Works by or about Leonardo da Vinci

References for the Art Wednesday 4-part series:

My personal notes and papers when I was working at the Louvre, Paris completing my Master of Arts and my international art master’s degree.

Frank Zollner (2003). Leonardo da Vinci: The Complete Paintings and Drawings. Taschen.

Martin Kemp (2004). Leonardo. Oxford University Press.

Theophilus (1963). On Divers Arts. U.S.: University of Chicago Press.

Angela Ottino della Chiesa (1967). The Complete Paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. Penguin Classics of World Art series.

Fritjof Capra (2007). The Science of Leonardo. U.S.: Doubleday.

Müntz, Eugène (1898). Leonardo da Vinci. Artist, Thinker, and Man of Science. Volume 1. London: William Heinemann.

Müntz, Eugène (1898). Leonardo da Vinci. Artist, Thinker, and Man of Science. Volume 2. London: William Heinemann.

Leonardo da Vinci: anatomical drawings from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1983.

Fred Bérence (1965). Léonard de Vinci, L’homme et son oeuvre. Somogy. Dépot légal 4° trimestre 1965.

Crash

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