Painter and Sculptor of Florence

LEONARDO DA VINCI<br>Painter and Sculptor of Florence<br>(1452-1519)

THE heavens often rain down the richest gifts on human beings, naturally, but sometimes with lavish abundance bestow upon a single individual beauty, grace and ability, so that, whatever he does, every action is so divine that he distances all other men, and clearly displays how his genius is the gift of God and not an acquirement of human art. Men saw this in Leonardo da Vinci, whose personal beauty could not be exaggerated, whose every movement was grace itself and whose abilities were so extraordinary that he could readily solve every difficulty. He possessed great personal strength, combined with dexterity, and a spirit and courage invariably royal and magnanimous, and the fame of his name so spread abroad that, not only was he valued in his own day, but his renown has greatly increased since his death.

This marvellous and divine Leonardo was the son of Piero da Vinci. He would have made great profit in learning had he not been so capricious and fickle, for he began to learn many things and then gave them up. Thus in arithmetic, during the few months that he studied it, he made such progress that he frequently confounded his master by continually raising doubts and difficulties. He devoted some time to music, and soon learned to play the lyre, and, being filled with a lofty and delicate spirit, he could sing and improvise divinely with it. Yet though he studied so many different things, he never neglected design and working in relief, those being the things which appealed to his fancy more than any other. When Ser Piero perceived this, and knowing the boy's soaring spirit, he one day took some of his drawings to Andrea del Verrocchio, who was his close friend, and asked his opinion whether Leonardo would do anything by studying design. Andrea was so amazed at these early efforts that he advised Ser Piero to have the boy taught. So it was decided that Leonardo should go to Andrea's workshop. 1 The boy was greatly delighted, and not only practised his profession, but all those in which design has a part. Possessed of a divine and marvellous intellect, and being an excellent geometrician, he not only worked in sculpture, doing some heads of women smiling, which were casts, and children's heads also, executed like a master, but also prepared many architectural plans and elevations, and he was the first, though so young, to propose to canalise the Arno from Pisa to Florence. He made designs for mills, fulling machines, and other engines to go by water, and as painting was to be his profession he studied drawing from life. He would make clay models of figures, draping them with soft rags dipped in plaster, and would then draw them patiently on thin sheets of cambric or linen, in black and white, with the point of the brush. He did these admirably, as may be seen by specimens in my book of designs. He also drew upon paper so carefully and well that no one has ever equaled him. I have a head in grisai he which is divine. The grace of God so possessed his mind, his memory and intellect formed such a mighty union, and he could so clearly express his ideas in discourse, that he was able to confound the boldest opponents. Every day he made models and designs for the removal of mountains with ease and to pierce them to pass from one place to another, and by means of levers, cranes and winches to raise and draw heavy weights; he devised a method for cleansing ports, and to raise water from great depths, schemes which his brain never ceased to evolve. Many designs for these notions are scattered about, and I have seen numbers of them. He spent much time in making a regular design of a series of knots so that the cord maybe traced from one end to the other, the whole filling a round space. There is a fine engraving of this most difficult design, and in the middle are the words: Leonardus Vinci Academia. Among these models and designs there was one which he several times showed to many able citizens who then ruled Florence, of a method of raising the church of S. Giovanni and putting steps under it without it falling down. He argued with so much eloquence that it was not until after his departure that they recognised the impossibility of such a feat.

His charming conversation won all hearts, and although he possessed nothing and worked little, he kept servants and horses of which he was very fond, and indeed he loved all animals, and trained them with great kindness and patience. Often, when passing places where birds were sold, he would let them out of their cages and pay the vendor the price asked. Nature had favoured him so greatly that in whatever his brain or mind took up he displayed unrivalled divinity, vigour, vivacity, excellence, beauty and grace. His knowledge of art, indeed, prevented him from finishing many things which he had begun, for he felt that his hand would be unable to realize the perfect creations of his imagination, as his mind formed such difficult, subtle and marvellous conceptions that his hands, skilful as they were, could never have expressed them. His interests were so numerous that his inquiries into natural phenomena led him to study the properties of herbs and to observe the movements of the heavens, the moon's orbit and the progress of the sun.

Leonardo was placed, as I have said, with Andrea del Verrocchio in his childhood by Ser Piero, and his master happened to be painting a picture of St. John baptising Christ. 2 For this Leonardo did an angel holding some clothes, and, although quite young, he made it far better than the figures of Andrea. The latter would never afterwards touch colours, chagrined that a child should know more than he. Leonardo was next employed to draw a cartoon of the Fall for a portire in tapestry, to be made in Flanders of gold and silk, to send to the King of Portugal. Here he did a meadow in grisaille, with the lights in white lead, containing much vegetation and some animals, unsurpassable for finish and naturalness. There is a fig-tree, the leaves and branches beautifully foreshortened and executed with such care that the mind is amazed at the amount of patience displayed. There is also a palm-tree, the rotundity of the dates being executed with great and marvellous art, due to the patience and ingenuity of Leonardo. This work was not carried farther, and the cartoon is now in Florence in the fortunate house of Ottaviano de' Medici the Magnificent, to whom it was given not long ago by Leonardo's uncle.

It is said that when Ser Piero was at his country-seat he was requested by a peasant of his estate to get a round piece of wood painted for him at Florence, which he had cut from a fig-tree on his farm. Piero readily consented, as the man was ‚very skilful in catching birds and fishing, and was very useful to him in such matters. Accordingly Piero brought the wood to Florence and asked Leonardo to paint something upon it, without telling him its history. Leonardo, on taking it up to examine it one day, found it warped, badly prepared and rude, but with the help of fire he made it straight, and giving it to a turner, had it rendered soft and smooth instead of being rough and rude. Then, after preparing the surface in his own way, he began to cast about what he should paint on it, and resolved to do the Medusa head to terrify all beholders. To a room, to which he alone had access, Leonardo took lizards, newts, maggots, snakes, butterflies, locusts, bats, and other animals of the kind out of which he composed a horrible and terrible monster, of poisonous breath, issuing from a dark and broken rock, belching poison from its open throat, fire from its eyes, and smoke from its nostrils, of truly terrible and horrible aspect. He was so engrossed with the work that he did not notice the terrible stench of the dead animals, being absorbed in his love for art. His father and the peasant no longer asked for the work, and when it was finished Leonardo told his father to send for it when he pleased, as he had done his part. Accordingly Ser Piero went to his rooms one morning to fetch it. When he knocked at the door Leonardo opened it and told him to wait a little, and, returning to his room, put the round panel in the light on his easel, and having arranged the window to make the light dim, he called his father in. Ser Piero, taken unaware, started back, not thinking of the round piece of wood, or that the face which he saw was painted, and was beating a retreat when Leonardo detained him and said, "This work has served its purpose; take it away, then, as it has produced the effect intended." Ser Piero indeed thought it more than miraculous, and he warmly praised Leonardo's idea. He then quietly went and bought another round wheel with a heart transfixed by a dart painted upon it, and gave it to the peasant, who was grateful to Piero all his life. Piero took Leonardo's work secretly to Florence and sold it to some merchants for 100 ducats, and in a short time it came into the hands of the Duke of Milan, who bought it of them for 300 ducats.

Leonardo next did a very excellent Madonna, which afterwards belonged to Pope Clement VII. Among other things it contained a bowl of water with some marvellous flowers, the dew upon them seeming actually to be there, so that they looked more real than reality itself. For his good friend Antonio Segni he drew a Neptune on paper, with so much design and care that he seemed alive. The sea is troubled and his car is drawn by sea-horses, with the sprites, monsters, and south winds and other fine marine creatures. The drawing was given by Antonio's son Fabio to M. Giovanni Gaddi with this epigram:

Pinxit Virgilius Neptunum, pinxit Homerus;Dum maris undisoni per vada flectit equosMente quidem vates illum conspexit uterqueVincius ast oculus; jureque vincit eos.

Leonardo then had the fancy to paint a picture of the Medusa's head in oils with a garland of snakes about it, the most extra-ordinary idea imaginable, but as the work required time, it remained unfinished, the fate of nearly all his projects. 3 This is among the treasures in the palace of Duke Cosimo, together with the head of an angel, who is raising an arm in the air, this arm being foreshortened from the shoulder to the elbow, while the other rests on its breast. So marvellous was Leonardo's mind that, desiring to throw his things into greater relief, he endeavoured to obtain greater depths of shadow, and sought the deepest blacks in order to render the lights clearer by contrast. He succeeded so well that his scenes looked rather like representations of the night, there being no bright light, than of the brightness of day, though all was done with the idea of throwing things into greater relief and to find the end and perfection of art. Leonardo was so delighted when he saw curious heads, whether bearded or hairy, that he would follow about anyone who had thus attracted his attention for a whole day, acquiring such a clear idea of him that when he went home he would draw the head as well as if the man had been present. In this way many heads of men and women came to be drawn, and I have several such pen-and-ink drawings in my book, so often referred to. Among them is the head of Amergio Vespucci, a fine old man, drawn in carbon, and that of Scaramuccia, the gipsy captain, which afterwards belonged to M. Donato Valdambrini of Arezzo, canon of S. Lorenzo, left to him by Giambullari. He began a picture of the Adoration of the Magi, 4 containing many beautiful things, especially heads, which was in the house of Amerigo Benci, opposite the loggia of the Peruzzi, but which was left unfinished like his other things.

On the death of Giovan. Galeazzo, Duke of Milan, and the accession of Ludovico Sforza in the same year, 1493, Leonardo was invited to Milan with great ceremony by the duke to play the lyre, in which that prince greatly delighted. 5 Leonardo took his own instrument, made by himself in silver, and shaped like a horse's head, a curious and novel idea to render the harmonies more loud and sonorous, so that he surpassed all the musicians who had assembled there. Besides this he was the best reciter of improvised rhymes of his time. The duke, 6 captivated by Leonardo's conversation and genius, conceived an extraordinary affection for him. He begged him to paint an altar-picture of the Nativity, which was sent by the duke to the emperor. Leonardo then did a Last Supper for the Dominicans at S. Maria delle Grazie in Milan, 7 endowing the heads of the Apostles with such majesty and beauty that he left that of Christ unfinished, feeling that he could not give it that celestial divinity which it demanded. This work left in such a condition has always been held in the greatest veneration by the Milanese and by other foreigners, as Leonardo has seized the moment when the Apostles are anxious to discover who would betray their Master. All their faces are expressive of love, fear, wrath or grief at not being able to grasp the meaning of Christ, in contrast to the obstinacy, hatred and treason of Judas, while the whole work, down to the smallest details, displays incredible diligence, even the texture of the tablecloth being clearly visible so that actual cambric would not look more real. It is said that the prior incessantly importuned Leonardo to finish the work, thinking it strange that the artist should pass half a day at a time lost in thought. He would have desired him never to lay down the brush, as if he were digging a garden. Seeing that his importunity produced no effect, he had recourse to the duke, who felt compelled to send for Leonardo to inquire about the work, showing tactfully that he was driven to act by the importunity of the prior. Leonardo, aware of the acuteness and discretion of the duke, talked with him fully about the picture, a thing which he had never done with the prior. He spoke freely of his art, and explained how men of genius really are doing most when they work least, as they are thinking out ideas and perfecting the conceptions, which they subsequently carry out with their hands. He added that there were still two heads to be done, that of Christ, which he would not look for on the earth, and felt unable to conceive the beauty of the celestial grace that must have been incarnate in the divinity. The other head was that of Judas, which also caused him thought, as he did not think he could express the face of a man who could resolve to betray his Master, the Creator of the world, after having received so many benefits. But he was willing in this case to seek no farther, and for lack of a better he would do the head of the importunate and tactless prior. The duke was wonderfully amused, and laughingly declared that he was quite right. Then the poor prior, covered with confusion, went back to his garden and left Leonardo in peace, while the artist indeed finished his Judas, making him a veritable likeness of treason and cruelty. The head of Christ was left unfinished, as I have said. The nobility of this painting, in its composition and the care with which it was finished, induced the King of France to wish to take it home with him. Accordingly he employed architects to frame it in wood andiron, so that it might be transported in safety, without any regard for the cost, so great was his desire. But the king was thwarted by its being done on the wall, and it remained with the Milanese.

While engaged upon the Last Supper, Leonardo painted the portrait of Duke Ludovico, with Maximilian, his eldest son, at the top of this same refectory, where there is a Passion in the old style. At the other end he did the Duchess Beatrice with Francesco, her other son, both of whom afterwards became Dukes of Milan, the portraits being marvellous. While thus employed, Leonardo suggested that the duke should set up a bronze horse of colossal size with the duke upon it in memory of himself. But he began it on such a scale that it could never be done. Such is the malice of man when stirred by envy that there are some who believe that Leonardo, as with so many of his things, began this with no intention of completing it, because its size was so great that extraordinary difficulties might be foreseen in having it install in one piece. And it is probable that many have formed this opinion from the result, since so many of his things have been left unfinished. However, we can readily believe that his great and extraordinary talents suffered a check from being too venturesome, and that the real cause was his endeavour to go on from excellence to excellence and from perfection to perfection. Talche l'Operafusseritardata dal desio," 8 as our Petrarca says in truth, those who have seen Leonardo's large clay model aver that they never beheld anything finer or more superb. It was preserved until the French came to Milan with King Louis of France, and broke it all to pieces. Thus a small wax model, considered perfect, was lost, as well as a book of the anatomy of horses, done by him. He afterwards devoted even greater care to the study of the anatomy of men, aiding and being aided by M. Marcantonio della Torre, a profound philosopher, who then professed at Padua and wrote upon the subject. I have heard it said that he was one of the first who began to illustrate the science of medicine, by the learning of Galen, and to throw true light upon anatomy, up to that time involved in the thick darkness of ignorance. In this he was marvellously served by the genius, work and hands of Leonardo, who made a book about it with red crayon drawings 9 outlined with the pen, in which he foreshortened and portrayed with the utmost diligence. He did the skeleton, adding all the nerves and muscles, the first attached to the bone, the others keeping it firm and the third moving, and in the various parts he wrote notes in curious characters, using his left hand, and writing from right to left, so that it cannot be read without practice, and only at a mirror. A great part of the sheets of this anatomy is in the hands of M. Francesco de Melzo, a nobleman of Milan, who was a lovely child in Leonardo's time, who was very fond of him, and being now a handsome and courteous old man, he treasures up these drawings with a portrait of Leonardo. Whoever succeeds in reading these notes of Leonardo will be amazed to find how well that divine spirit has reasoned of the arts, the muscles, the nerves and veins, with the greatest diligence in all things. N. N., a painter of Milan, also possesses some writings of Leonardo, written in the same way, which treat of painting and of the methods of design and colour. 10 Not long ago he came to Florence to see me, wishing to have the work printed. He afterwards went to Rome to put it in hand, but I do not know with what result.

To return to Leonardo's works. When Lionardo was at Milan the King of France came there and desired him to do something curious; accordingly he made a lion whose chest opened after he had walked a few steps, discovering himself to be full of lilies. At Milan Leonardo took Salai 11 of that city as his pupil. This was a graceful and beautiful youth with fine curly hair, in which Leonardo greatly delighted. He taught him many things in art, and some works which are attributed in Milan to Salai were retouched by Leonardo. He returned to Florence, where he found that the Servite friars had allotted to Filippino the picture of the high altar of the Nunziata. At this Leonardo declared that he should like to have done a similar thing. Filippino heard this, and being very courteous, he withdrew. The friars, wishing Leonardo to paint it, brought him to their house, paying all his expenses and those of his household. He kept them like this for a long time, but never began anything. At length he drew a cartoon of the Virgin and St. Anne with a Christ, which not only filled every artist with wonder, but, when it was finished and set up in the room, men and women, young and old, flocked to see it for two days, as if it had been a festival, and they marvelled exceedingly. The face of the Virgin displays all the simplicity and beauty which can shed grace on the Mother of God, showing the modesty and humility of a Virgin contentedly happy, in seeing the beauty of her Son, whom she tenderly holds in her lap. As she regards it the little St. John at her feet is caressing a lamb, while St. Anne smiles in her great joy at seeing her earthly progeny become divine, a conception worthy of the great intellect and genius of Leonardo. This cartoon, as will be said below, afterwards went to France. He drew Ginevra, the wife of Amerigo Benci, a beautiful portrait, and then abandoned the work of the friars, who recalled Filippino, though he was prevented from finishing it by death.

For Francesco del Giocondo Leonardo undertook the portrait of Mona Lisa, his wife, and left it incomplete after working at it for four years. 12 This work is now in the possession of Francis, King of France, at Fontainebleau. This head is an extraordinary example of how art can imitate Nature, because here we have all the details painted with great subtlety. The eyes possess that moist lustre which is constantly seen in life, and about them are those livid reds and hair which cannot be rendered without the utmost delicacy. The lids could not be more natural, for the way in which the hairs issue from the skin, here thick and there scanty, and following the pores of the skin. The nose possesses the fine delicate reddish apertures seen in life. The opening of the mouth, with its red ends, and the scarlet cheeks seem not colour but living flesh. To look closely at her throat you might imagine that the pulse was beating. Indeed, we may say that this was painted in a manner to cause the boldest artists to despair. Mona Lisa was very beautiful, and while Leonardo was drawing her portrait he engaged people to play and sing, and jesters to keep her merry, and remove that melancholy which painting usually gives to portraits. This figure of Leonardo's has such a pleasant smile that it seemed rather divine than human, and was considered marvellous, an exact copy of Nature.

The fame of this divine artist grew to such a pitch by the excellence of his works that all who delighted in the arts and the whole city wished him to leave some memorial, and they endeavoured to think of some noteworthy decorative work through which the state might be adorned and honoured by the genius, grace and judgment characteristic of his work. The great hall of the council was being rebuilt under the direction of Giuliano da S. Gallo, Simone Pollajuolo called Cronaca, Miclielagnolo Buonarroti and Bacciod'Agnolo, by the judgment and advice of the gonfaloniere and leading citizens, as will be related at greater length in another place, and being finished with great speed, it was ordained by public decree that Leonardo should be employed to paint some fine work. Thus the hall was allotted to him 13 by Piero Soderini, then gonfaloniere of justice. Leonardo began by drawing a cartoon at the hall of the Pope, a place in S. Maria Novella, containing the story of Niccolo Piccinino, captain of Duke Filippo of Milan. 14 Here he designed a group of horsemen fighting for a standard, a masterly work on account of his treatment of the fight, displaying the wrath, anger and vindictiveness of men and horses; two of the latter, with their front legs involved, are waging war with their teeth no less fiercely than their riders are fighting for the standard. One soldier, putting his horse to the gallop, has turned round and, grasping the staff of the standard, is endeavouring by main force to wrench it from the hands of four others, while two are defending it, trying to cut the staff with their swords; an old soldier in a red cap has a hand on the staff, as he cries out, and holds a scimetar in the other and threatens to cut off both hands of the two, who are grinding their teeth and making every effort to defend their banner. On the ground, between the legs of the horses, are two foreshortened figures who are fighting together, while a soldier lying prone has another over him who is raising his arm as high as he can to run his dagger with his utmost strength into his adversary's throat; the latter, whose legs and arms are helpless, does what he can to escape death. The manifold designs Leonardo made for the costumes of his soldiers defy description, not to speak of the scimetars and other ornaments, and his incredible mastery of form and line in dealing with horses, which he made better than any other master, with their powerful muscles and graceful beauty. It is said that for designing the cartoon he made an ingenious scaffolding which rose higher when pressed together and broadened out when lowered. Thinking that he could paint on the wall in oils, he made a composition so thick for laying on the wall that when he continued his painting it began to run and spoil what had been begun, so that in a short time he was forced to abandon it.

Leonardo had a high spirit and was most generous in every action. It is said that when he went to the bank for the monthly provision that he used to receive from Piero Soderini, the cashier wanted to give him some rolls of farthings, but he would not take them, saying that he was not a painter for farthings. Learning that Piero Soderini accused him of deceiving him and that murmurs rose against him, Leonardo with the help of his friends collected the money and took it back, but Piero would not accept it. He went to Rome with Duke Giuliano de'Medici on the election of Leo X., 15 who studied philosophy and especially alchemy. On the way he made a paste with wax and constructed hollow animals which flew in the air when blown up, but fell when the wind ceased. On a curious lizard found by the vine-dresser of Belvedere he fastened scales taken from other lizards, dipped in quicksilver, which trembled as it moved, and after giving it eyes, a horn and a beard, he tamed it and kept it in a box. All the friends to whom he showed it ran away terrified. He would often dry and purge the guts of a wether and make them so small that they might be held in the palm of the hand. In another room he kept a pair of smith's bellows, and with these he would blow out one of the guts until it filled the room, which was a large one, forcing anyone thereto take refuge in a corner. The fact that it had occupied such a little space at first only added to the wonder. He perpetrated many such follies, studied mirrors and made curious experiments to find oil for painting and varnish to preserve the work done. At this time he did a small picture for M. Baldassare Turini of Pescia, the datary of Leo, of the Virgin and Child, with infinite diligence and art. But today it is much spoiled either by neglect or because of his numerous fanciful mixtures and the colouring. In another picture he represented a little child, marvellously beautiful and graceful, both works being now at Pescia in the possession of M. Giulio Turini. It is said that, on being commissioned by the Pope to do a work, he straightway began to distil oil and herbs to make the varnish, which induced Pope Leo to say: "This man will never do anything, for he begins to think of the end before the beginning.”

There was no love lost between him and Michelagnolo Buonarroti, so that the latter left Florence owing to their rivalry, Duke Giuliano excusing him by saying that he was summoned by the Pope to do the facade of S. Lorenzo. When Leonardo heard this, he left for France, where the king had heard of his works and wanted him to do the cartoon of St. Ane in colours. But Leonardo, as was his wont, gave him nothing but words for a long time. At length, having become old, he lay sick for many months, and seeing himself near death, he desired to occupy himself with the truths of the Catholic Faith and the holy Christian religion. Then, having confessed and shown his penitence with much lamentation, he devoutly took the Sacrament out of his bed, supported by his friends and servants, as he could not stand. The king arriving, for he would often pay him friendly visits, he sat up in bed from respect, and related the circumstances of his sickness, showing how greatly he had offended God and man in not having worked in his art as he ought. He was then seized with a paroxysm, the harbinger of death, so that the king rose and took his head to assist him and show him favour as well as to alleviate the pain. Leonardo's divine spirit, then recognising that he could not enjoy a greater honour, expired in the king's arms, at the age of seventy-five. The loss of Leonardo caused exception all grief to those who had known him, because there never was a man who did so much honour to painting. By the splendour of his magnificent mien he comforted every sad soul, and his eloquence could turn men to either side of a question. His personal strength was prodigious, and with his right hand he could bend the clapper of a knocker or a horseshoe as if they had been of lead. His liberality warmed the hearts of all his friends, both rich and poor, if they possessed talent and ability. His presence adorned and honoured the most wrethchied and bare apartment. Thus Florence received a great gift in the birth of Leonardo, and its loss in his death was immeasurable. To the art of painting he added a type of darkness to the style of colouring in oils whereby the moderns have imparted great vigour and relief to their figures. He proved his powers in statuary in three figures in bronze over the door of S. Giovanni on the north side. They were executed by Gio. Francesco Rustici, but under Leonardo's direction, and are the finest casts for design and general perfection that have as yet been seen. To Leonardo we owe a greater perfection in the anatomy of horses and men. Thus, by his many surpassing gifts, even though he talked much more about his in armour, a remarkable work, unequalled for its beauty, and that the general took it away with him. Giorgione did many other fine portraits which are scattered throughout Italy, as may be seen by that of Leonardo Loredano, done when he was doge, seen by me on exhibition one Ascension Day, so that I seemed to see that most serene prince alive. There is yet another at Faenza, in the house of Giovannni di Castel Polognese, 16 an excellent carver of cameos and crystals, done for his father-in-law. This is indeed a divine work for the soft blending of the colours, and it seems in relief rather than painted. Giorgione was very fond of painting in fresco, and among many things did all one side of Ca Soranzo on the piazza of S. Paolo, where, in addition to many pictures, scenes and other fancies, there is one done in oils upon lime, which has preserved it from the rain, sun and wind, so that it still exists. There is a Spring, which I think one of the loveliest works in fresco, and it is a great pity that time has injured it so cruelly. Personally I know of nothing that injures fresco so much as the scirocco, especially near the sea, where it always brings some saltness with it.

In the year 1504 there was a terrible fire 17 at Venice, in the Fondaco de' Tedeschi at the Rialto bridge, which consumed all the merchandise, inflicting great loss upon the merchants. The Signoria of Venice directed that it should be rebuilt, and it was speedily finished, with more convenient dwelling-rooms, greater magnificence, decoration and beauty than before. The fame of Giorgione being now considerable, those in charge of the building decided that he should paint it in fresco, colouring it according to his fancy, in order to display his ability in producing an excellent work, the site being the finest and the best position in all the city. Accordingly Giorgione set to work, 18 but with no other purpose than to make figures at fancy to display his art, for I cannot discover what they mean, whether they represent some ancient or modern story, and no one has been able to tell me. Here is a lady and there a man, in various attitudes, one has a lion's head hard-by, another an angel in the guise of a cupid, and I cannot tell what it means. There is certainly a woman over the principal door towards the Merzeria seated, with the head of a dead giant beneath, almost like a Judith. She is raising the head with a sword and speaking to a German below. I cannot explain this in any way unless he wished her to represent Germania. However, we see his figures well grouped and that he was always improving. There are heads and parts of figures which are excellently done and brilliantly coloured. Giorgione was careful in all that he did there to copy straight from living things, and not to imitate any one style. This building is celebrated and famous in Venice no less for these paintings than for its convenience for commerce and utility to the public. He did a picture of Christ bearing the Cross and a Jew dragging him along, which, after a time, was placed in the church of S. Rocco, 19 and now works miracles, as we see, through the devotion of the multitudes who visit it. He worked at various places, such as Castelfranco in the Trevisano, and did several portraits for various Italian princes, while many of his works were sent out of Italy as things of distinction, to show that if Tuscany overflowed with artists in all ages, Heaven had not entirely forgotten or passed over the district near the mountains.

Giorgione is said to have once engaged in an argument with some sculptors at the time when Andrea Verrocchio was making his bronze horse. They maintained that sculpture was superior to painting, because it presented so many various aspects, whereas painting only showed one side of a figure. Giorgione was of opinion that a painting could show at a single glance, without it being necessary to walkabout, all the aspects that a man can present in a number of gestures, while sculpture can only do so if one walks about it. He offered in a single view to show the front and back and the two sides of a figure in painting, a matter which greatly excited their curiosity. He accomplished this in the following way. He painted a nude figure turning its back; at its feet was a limpid fount of water, the reflection from which showed the front. On one side was a burnished corselet which had been taken off, and gave a side view, because tile shining metal reflected everything. On the other side was looking-glass, showing the other side of the figure, a beautiful and ingenious work to prove that painting demands more skill and pains, and shows to a single view more than sculpture does. This work was greatly admired and praised for its ingenuity and beauty. Giorgione also drew a portrait of Catherine, (Queen of Cyprus; which I have seen in the hands of the most excellent M. Giovan. Cornaro. In our book there is a head coloured in oils of a German of the house of Fugger, then one of the foremost merchants of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. This marvellous work is accompanied by other pen-and-ink sketches and designs of his.

Whilst Giorgione was doing honour to his country and to himself, he went frequently into society to entertain his numerous friends with music, and fell in love with a lady, so that they became greatly enamoured of each other. However, in 1511, she caught the plague, and Giorgione, being ignorant of this, associated with her as usual, took the infection, and died soon after at the age of thirty-four, to the infinite grief of his numerous friends, who loved him for his talents, and damage to the world which lost him. They were the better able to support the loss because he left behind two excellent pupils, Sebastiano of Venice, afterwards friar vi the Piombo at Rome, and Titian of Cadore, who not only equalled but far excelled his master. I shall have occasion to speak of these hereafter, and of the honour and benefit which they have conferred upon art.

  • 1 About 1468.
  • 2 About 1470.
  • 3 The picture answering to this in the Uffizi is a work of the later sixteenth century, painted from Vasari's description.
  • 4 Now in the Uffizi, supposed to be the high-altar picture for S. Donato in Scopeto which he was commissioned to paint in 1481.
  • 5 Leonardo was at Milan from 1483.
  • 6 Ludovico il Moro became duke in 1494, but he had been the real ruler of the state some time before.
  • 7 Between 1495 and 1498.
  • 8 The full quotation runs:
    "Tu sai lesser mioE l'amor di saper che m'ha si accesoChe l'opra e ritardata dal desio."(Trionfo d'Amore, cap. 3. II. 7-9.)
  • 9 Now in the British Museum.
  • 10 Trattato della Pittura, published in 1651.
  • 11 Andrea Salaino.
  • 12 1503-06.
  • 13 In 1503.
  • 14 The Battle of Anghari, in which the Florentines routed the army of the Duke of Milan on 29 June, 1440.
  • 15 This was in 1513, but Leonardo did not go till 1515.
  • 16 Giovanni Bernardi.
  • 17 On 28 January, 1505, new style.
  • 18 In 1507.
  • 19 Modern critics accept this as a work of the master, but in the Life of Titian, Vasari ascribes it to that artist.

  • Index of Artists