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portrait of leonardo



Leonardo was born at Vinci on "Saturday April 15 at the hour of 3 in the night". A memorandum written by his paternal grandfather, Antonio Da Vinci, specifies the names of the priest from Vinci who baptised him, and of no less than five godfathers and five godmothers, all indicated by their patronymics. They are the neighbors who celebrated the birth of a "child of great love and great desire", as Leonardo was to say, and thus "of great intellect and spirited and vivacious and amiable". He was the illegitimate son of the notary Ser Piero, who in that same year married Albiera Amadori, from an only moderately well to do Florentine family, considering that she had no dowry. His mother instead was a mysterious woman named Caterina, by legend a peasant girl or tavern servant, but according to a very recent hypothesis, an Oriental slave who could boast no rights and who in the next year was to marry Antonio di Piero Buti del Vacca, known as "Achattabriga", with whom she lived in the countryside around Vinci, at San Pantaleo. Leonardo was thus welcomed into his father's home, "in the village of Vinci".
Since the 13th century, the family name of Leonardo's ancestors had been Da Vinci. The most probable origin of the place name Vinci is that of the Vincio torrent that flows through the territory. It seems to be linked to the Latin term vincus, vinci, which is also the source of the name of the willow trees with their bending branches, abounding in this countryside, which were and are still today used to make baskets and to bind grapevines to their supports. The "Vincian knots", which were to become the emblem of Leonardo and his Academy, may have derived from this practice.



Piera is born, the first of Leonardo's five siblings on his mother's side.



His grandfather Antonio declares that Leonardo lives with him, in the house opposite the Loggia of the Vinci Town Hall, together with his father Ser Piero and the latter's wife Albiera (who in reality lived in Florence), his uncle Francesco and grandmother Lucia, daughter of Ser Piero di Zoso da Bacchereto, the descendant of a family of notaries and ceramics makers. Again in 1480 a brother of Lucia, Ser Baldassarre, declares among his property in Bacchereto "a house with kiln for pottery", which was then to become the property of Ser Piero Da Vinci.



If we consider the family kiln at Bacchereto, centre of artistic ceramics in the district, and the presence in Vinci and its territory of numerous Florentine painters and sculptors, it is entirely feasible to think that Leonardo artistic training began already during these years. Early initiation has been documented for other artists of the time as well, as demonstrated by the case of Raphael (Raffaello Sanzio), a child of art, apprenticed to Perugino already at the age of eight or ten.
Leonardo's aunt, Violante, lives in Pistoia, a city of art very close to Vinci and a cultural and religious centre for all of the surrounding territory. After the death of his grandfather Antonio, his father Ser Piero continues to practice the profession of notary in Florence for the members of noble families, such as Cosimo de' Medici, whom he assisted in his dealings with Ercole Bentivoglio, the lord of Bologna.



In Florence Antonia dies a few months after her birth. She was the first of Leonardo's numerous brothers and sisters (at least 16 in all) on his father's side.



In Florence Albiera, the first of his four stepmothers, dies.



Leonardo is still declared in the Land Office report as residing with his father's family, but he is almost certainly living in Florence, where Ser Piero "stays at the Palagio del Podestà". Ser Piero was, among other things, procurator of the Monastery of San Pier Martire and lived in a house owned by the Arte dei Mercanti, the merchants' guild, situated opposite Palazzo Vecchio, in the place where the Gondi were later to build their palace. Based on the known documents, it cannot yet be established when Leonardo entered Verrocchio's shop; despite the numerous hypotheses advanced, no work of his from this period has been recognised with certainty.



Dating from this period are some studies of drapery. The "gossamer-fine cloths", such as those found in the Louvre, the Uffizi, the British Museum and the Piasecka Johnson Collection, datable to the early 1470s, are not academic exercises from a model, but rather monochrome paintings of "inhabited draperies", as if "beyond the visible".



Verrocchio places the copper sphere atop the lantern on the dome over the Florence Cathedral; Leonardo was to recall the work of welding the pieces together on a folio of studies of parabolic mirrors dating from around 1515.
In Verrocchio's shop, Leonardo works with Botticelli, Perugino, and Ghirlandaio. Here, in the first half of the 1470s, various masters collaborate to produce works in some of which the hand of Leonardo has been seen, and which have been attributed in part to him: from Tobias and the Archangel Raphael in the National Gallery of London to the Dreyfus Madonna in Washington. Noteworthy for their high quality and complexity are the Baptism of Christ and the Annunciation in the Uffizi, two masterpieces of synthesis in which Leonardo's role is evident.



In June "Lionardo di Ser Piero Da Vinci painter" is found enrolled in the Company of Painters; his name appears, in fact, in the Company's Red Book of creditors and debtors.



Leonardo is already an original and innovative artist. He demonstrates this with a superb masterpiece: the "Landscape of August 5, 1473", the representation of a spectacular view sweeping from Montalbano di Vinci toward the Valdinievole and the Padule di Fucecchio. This work constitutes a first certain reference to the chronology of Leonardo's artistic activity, which includes, based on similar analytical and conceptual studies, the landscape in Verrocchio's Baptism of Christ and perhaps that of the Virgin and Child with two Angels in the National Gallery of London, attributed by most critics to Perugino.



This is a probable date for some terracotta sculptures such as the Aglietti-Gallaudt Young Christ, by some critics dated to the 1490s. The Putto with a Dolphin and the Lady with a Bouquet of Flowers, long considered the masterpieces of Verrocchio, as well as the Angel of San Gennaro now in the Pieve of the little town of Collodi, have also been attributed to him. He paints the Portrait of Ginevra Benci (Washington, National Gallery) and perhaps collaborates on the Piazza Madonna for the Pistoia Cathedral, commissioned of Verrocchio and accomplished mainly by Lorenzo di Credi, whose predella with the Annunciation is now in the Louvre.
He designs a tapestry for the King of Portugal, which has been lost.



Leonardo is still working in Verrocchio's shop. He is accused of sodomy, along with other young men, among them a Tornabuoni already in the past accused of this crime, but is acquitted. This is the period of the Profile of a Warrior in the British Museum, a work to be seen in relation to some bas-reliefs attributed to Verrocchio and to the Della Robbia.



Dating from this period are the earliest folios in the Codex Atlanticus (Milan, Ambrosian Library). The name derives from the "atlas" form of this collection of miscellany: over 1700 papers and fragments, with texts and drawings datable up to 1518, most of them autograph papers of Leonardo. They consist mainly of observations of technological-scientific nature, but there are also notes on geography and mathematics, literary, inventions, notes on painting and architectural projects, anecdotes and memorandums.
Between 1580 and 1590, a collector from the past, the sculptor Pompeo Leoni, separated the folios and even went so far as to cut the drawings of "artistic" subject into fragments, as well as those containing the most important anatomical and geographical studies; they are now found mainly at Windsor (Royal Library) in another miscellaneous collection also dating from the years 1478 to 1518, as does the Codex Arundel 263 - London, British Museum.



On a folio with studies for an "Adoration of the shepherds" now in the Uffizi, Leonardo recalls two of his paintings of the Virgin begun in this year. They may be the Madonna with the Carnation now in the Alte Pinakothek at Munich, and the Benois Madonna, at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, although they seem to date from an earlier time and are very different from one another. He receives a commission for an altarpiece for a chapel in Palazzo Vecchio, which was then painted instead by Filippino Lippi: the Madonna Enthroned with Saints, now in the Uffizi. He probably collaborated on the terracotta relief sculptures for the Forteguerri Cenotaph to be executed in Pistoia, commissioned of Verrocchio, or for a Magdalene of which there remain two fragments now in the Louvre.
He was in Vinci for the mill owned by the Commune, whose management was taken over by his father Ser Piero and his uncle Francesco, with the commitment to rebuild it; Leonardo, although called a "spurious" son, is expressly named as the beneficiary.



During this period he designs the perspectograph, the roasting spit with propeller driven by hot air, the air blower and other ingenious devices comparable to the machines of Brunelleschi, Taccola, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, Bonaccorso Ghiberti and Giuliano da Sangallo. He draws from life "The Hanged Man", that notorious Bernardo Baroncelli, member of the Pazzi Conspiracy against the Medici, who was captured at Constantinople and executed in Florence on December 29.
A letter dated February 8 from Giovanni Bentivoglio, lord of Bologna, addressed to Lorenzo de' Medici, mentions a "Paulo of Leonardo de Vinci from Florence protected by the two but exiled for "evil living" and so that he "would make amends and remove himself from bad conversation …". Considering the relations of the Medici and Bentivoglio families with Leonardo and his father, it is hard to think this is merely a case of the same name, or a coincidence.



Leonardo designs a flying machine, an oil press, water-driven sawmills, a printing press, weapons and machines of war, burning mirrors and ingenious devices inspired by Archimedes. In the Codex Arundel he writes an ideal autobiography of the "cavern of knowledge" ("And drawn by my ardent desire, I came to the entrance of a great cavern, / before which / there arose in me two things: fear and desire; / fear ofthe dark, menacing cave, / desire to see / if it held any miraculous thing [...]»). He works for Lorenzo the Magnificent in the garden of San Marco. From other sources we know, instead, that "Ser Piero da Vinci [is] notary and procurator at the Palagio del Podestà of Florence".



In March Leonardo stipulates the contract with the monks of San Donato a Scopeto, for whom his father Ser Piero is notary, for an altarpiece: the Adoration of the Magi, now in the Uffizi. This work, although unfinished, is in reality an extraordinary masterpiece of painting-invention. Based on stylistic affinities, the unfinished St. Jerome in the Vatican Museums can be dated to the same year.



Leonardo has a letter written in fine handwriting to be sent to Ludovico il Moro, listing the technological marvels and works he has to offer: from military machines to an equestrian monument to Francesco Sforza. Sent by Lorenzo the Magnificent, he goes to Milan to join the Sforza court, bringing a musical instrument as a gift. He carries out graphic/dynamic studies for the Madonna with a Cat.



On April 25 Leonardo, in association with Evangelista and Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, engages to execute the polyptich for the chapel of San Francesco Grande in Milan: the Virgin of the Rocks and eight musical angels, to be inserted in the grandiose altarpiece carved by Angelo del Maino. This complicated affair was to drag out for 25 years, and Leonardo was able to sign the receipt of payment only on October 23, 1508. The first version of the altarpiece is now in the Louvre; there have survived, instead, only two of the angels angels, painted in a style that recalls Francesco Napoletano and Boltraffio, which are now in the National Gallery of London along with the second version of the Virgin of the Rocks.
Leonardo begins his studies for the Sforza Monument.



Probably in April, he is commissioned to paint an "Our Lady" for Matthias Corvinus, King of Hungary. During this period he paints the Musician of the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana while his shop produces such works of high quality as the Litta Madonna. Following an epidemic of plague that throws Milan into turmoil, he devotes himself to studies on the ideal city. He draws Vincian knots and allegories (now in Hamburg and at Oxford), weapons (catapults, crossbows, chariots armed with scythes, mortars firing explosive shot, etc.) and flying machines, including the parachute.



In July the construction, to Leonardo's project, of a wooden model for the lantern on the Milan Cathedral is documented. He writes the "Letter on the giant" (Codex Atlanticus). He begins Manuscript B, whose folios, removed by Guglielmo Libri and found again in 1891, are to form Ms. B1 - Ashburnam 2037, now in the Library of the Institut de France. These are studies on nature and geometry, urban planning and architecture, prefabricated building techniques and the channeling of waterways, weapons and flying machines, home furnishings and instruments for painters, including those for a chamber of mirrors, datable up to 1490. He draws a "Foundry" and his first anatomical studies (Windsor), devices for warfare and "submarines", studies of military bridges and assault machines. Dating from this period, and in any case not later than 1490, are the Codex Trivulziano, now in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, containing lists of words interspersed with studies on military art, technology, architecture, and grotesques, as well as the second part of Ms. Forster I (London, Victoria and Albert Museum), with studies for hydraulic machines.



In January Leonardo receives more payments for the project and model of the lantern on the Milan Cathedral. He draws the Windsor rebuses. On December 21, in Naples, Isabella d'Aragona and Gian Galeazzo Sforza are married by proxy. For the occasion, at Tortona, the wedding procession is greeting by the great automaton of a horse, probably the work of Leonardo himself, reminiscent of his Sforza monument.



He continues to work systematically on his anatomical studies. On folio 19059r of the Windsor papers, he notes, "Day of April 2, 1489. Book titled concerning the human figure".
Pietro Alamanni writes in July, from Milan, to Lorenzo the Magnificent; Il Moro is requesting him to send foundrymen for the Sforza Monument commissioned of Leonardo, and seems to doubt that the work will be finished successfully.
He paints the portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, the favourite of Ludovico il Moro, in the panel now famous under the name of the Lady with an Ermine, now in the Cracow Museum.



On January 13 Leonardo creates, "with great ingenuity and art", the theatrical sets for the Paradise Festival in the Castello Sforzesco, in honour of the wedding of Isabella of Aragon and Gian Galeazzo Sforza.
He elaborates notes on hydraulics, mechanics, optics and the theory of shadows in Paris Ms. C ("On the day of April 23,1490, I began this book and resumed work on the horse"). On that same April 23 he notes in the Codex Atlanticus the name of the architect "Maestro Giovanni da Lodi".
He calls himself a "disciple of experience" and writes the argumentative notes of the "man without letters" in the Codex Atlanticus. He draws the proportions of the human body "according to Vitruvius" (Venice, Accademia), caricatures and grotesques (Ambrosian, Windsor, Chatsworth), studies of Heronian fountains and a candelabra, on hydraulics and on channeling waterways in Lombardy. He takes to live with him Giovanni Giacomo Caprotti de' Tignosi, born at Oreno di Vimercate in 1480, known as Salai, "of age 10 years". In June he is with Francesco di Giorgio Martini at Pavia, for the cathedral project.



On January 26 Leonardo finds himself "in the home of Galeazzo da Sanseverino to arrange the festival of his joist" to be held in honour of Ludovico il Moro and Beatrice. On April 2, in his shop, "Giannantonio" (Boltraffio) leaves a silver stylus lying on a drawing and Salai steals it.
In May he continues the projects for casting the Sforza Monument in the group of papers (folios 141-157) added at the end of Ms. II (8936) of the Madrid National Library. This group of papers, datable between 1491 and 1493, was to be arbitrarily added to Madrid Ms. II, whose original folios date instead from the years 1503-1505.
He compiles a list of books in the Codex Atlanticus, among which he mentions those on war machines (Roberto Valturio), on Aristotelian science and philosophy (Alberto Magno), on Arabian physics, on chiromancy, on arithmetic, works by Ovid and Petrarch, the Voyages of Mandeville, the Lives of the Philosophers of Diogenes Laertius, and the Teologia platonica of Marsilio Ficino, as well as the Natural History of Pliny the Elder, the Acerba of Cecco d'Ascoli and the Fior di virtù, a fourteenth-century operetta by the author from Bologna, from which was to derive the fantastic bestiary in Ms. H.



In the Codex Atlanticus he mentions his travels to Como, Bellagio, Ivrea, in Valtellina and in Valsassina. He composes Ms. A (Paris, Institut de France), which also included the Ashburnham Ms. 2038 (folios 81-114), with notes on painting, perspective, mechanics, physics, geometry, hydraulics, and architecture, some of which date from 1489-1490. He plans the "painter's studio" and elaborates theories on mental painting and philosophy. In Milan, he discusses the problems of casting with Giuliano da Sangallo. He accomplishes anatomical drawings, including the cross-section view of coitus in a standing position (Windsor).



Folio 1v of Madrid Ms. I bears the date "January 1, 1493"; folio 151v of Madrid Ms. II, in the added notebook, concerning the casting of the Sforza Monument, that of "December 21".
He begins the third part of Paris Ms. H, containing studies of interwoven patterns, hydraulics, mechanics, technology, architecture and Latin grammar, and the Codex Forster III now in the Victoria and Albert Museum. In the latter manuscript, which contains writings dating up 1496, are found notes on architecture, urban planning, technology and geometry, "recipes" for casting and literary passages. In Codex Forster III he notes: "on the day of July 16 Catelina came on the day of July 16, 1493" (she is almost certainly his mother, and the double date, as for the death of his father, is interesting to note) and again, "Iulio the German came to stay with me on the day of October 6".
On November 30 the clay model of the horse for the Sforza Monument was finished. On December 20 Leonardo decided to "cast the horse without a tail attached" (Madrid Ms. II), but Il Moro was later to send the already prepared bronze to Ercole d'Este, to be used to make cannons. In his Rime, Bellincioni praises a "Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani" (the Lady with an Ermine?) calling Leonardo "a Florentine Apelles". Leonardo studies the clock at Chiaravalle (Codex Atlanticus and Madrid Ms. I), hydraulic devices for perpetual motion, and flying machines; he draws up a pilot project for rearranging and enlarging Milan.



In the first, the second and again in the third part of Paris Ms. H are folios dated January of this year. On February 2 Leonardo is at the Sforzesca castle in Vigevano; on March 20 he observes the vineyards there. In a memorandum, one of his Spanish followers, Ferrando, is mentioned. On November 1, he recalls the work done for him by Giulio Tedesco and Maestro Tommaso, the latter almost certainly to be identified as Zoroastro da Peretola. He studies characters, passions, caricatures and "motions of the soul"; mentions the herbarium of Giuliano da Marliano. He still has debts with the Fabbrica del Duomo in Milan. During this period he paints the Belle Ferronière, probably a portrait of Lucrezia Crivelli, another favourite of Il Moro who was to give birth to a son by him, Giovan Paolo, in 1497.
This is the most probable date of the list of expenses for the "socterratura" (burial; literally, "putting underground") of Caterina (Forster II).



Leonardo appears in the list of ducal engineers, along with his friend Bramante. He studies geometry and theory of proportions in the first part of Forster II (Victoria and Albert Museum); mechanics in the second part, datable up to 1497.
He begins Paris Ms. M and the decoration of "little rooms" in the Castello Sforzesco. He designs "gold-beater" machines and punches for coins. He studies textile machines. Ludovico commissions him to paint the Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Giovanni da Montorfano paints the Crucifixion on the opposite wall; in it Leonardo was supposed to insert the portraits of Il Moro and Beatrice and their first-born son Massimiliano.
During this period he compiles Madrid Ms. I (8937), with studies of mechanics in the form of a treatise, which includes "machine elements", clocks and flying devices, up to the "elevator" and to an interpretation of the mobile theatre of Curius; in it are found dates starting from 1493 up to the one, added later, of September 28, 1497.




He designs the theatrical sets for the representation of the Danae by Baldassarre Taccone (New York, Metropolitan), in which the sculptor Gian Cristoforo Romano plays a part along with the actors. He designs polyhedrons for Luca Pacioli's De divina proportione. Problems arise in decorating the "little rooms". Il Moro states that Leonardo "has acted scandalously" and suggests that his place be taken by Perugino.
In the draft version of a letter to the Fabbrica del Duomo of Piacenza, Leonardo offers his services to make the bronze doors for the cathedral.



He compiles the first part, comprising folios 1-48, datable up to 1499, and the second, folios 49-139, of Paris Ms. I, with notes on architecture, decoration, geometry, mechanics and hydraulics.
He works on the Last Supper with pupils who practice with his drawings and collaborate on the wall painting. In the folios in the Codex Atlanticus Leonardo notes the names of some of his pupils who are working with him at this time, from Francesco Napoletano to Giampietrino.
In June the Last Supper is almost finished and he is still engaged in "making the stupendous clay Horse".
In Milan he designs Casa Guiscardi. He paints a Portrait of Lucrezia Crivelli, the new favourite of Il Moro.
He begins Paris Ms. L, with notes added up to 1502 and perhaps, as late as 1504: military art and architecture, arithmetic, hydraulics, technology, planimetry and projects for fortifications. In the Codex Atlanticus he studies the mechanisms for the automaton of a warrior.



This is the most probable dating for the emblematic engravings of the "Achademia Leonardi Vinci". Dating from the end of this first Milanese period are many of Leonardo's literary writings, including prophecies such as the one on "telecommunications" ("Men will speak with one another and reply from the most distant lands").
Pacioli recalls the "laudable scientific duel", in the Castello Sforzesco, among theologians, physicians, astrologers, jurists and the "ingenious architect and engineer and inventor Leonardo, who in sculpture, casting and painting with each accomplishment proves true his name (vince, that is, he wins)". In the dedication of the De divina proportione to Il Moro, Pacioli again praises Leonardo for the now finished Last Supper and for the "Equestrian Statue 12 braccia [high], and weighing "about 200,000 pounds", which will make "Mount Horse the envy of Phidias and Praxiteles".
In March Leonardo goes to the port of Genoa and takes notes on the ruined wharf.
Before April 21, Leonardo promises to finish the Sala delle Asse by September.
On April 26, Isabella d'Este writes from Mantua to Cecilia Gallerani asking her to send her the portrait painted by Leonardo, the Lady with an Ermine, today in the Cracow Museum, so that she can compare it with some portraits by Giovanni Bellini.
In October Leonardo receives as a gift from Il Moro a vineyard between the monasteries of San Vittore and Delle Grazie.
In Leonardo's shop new assistants arrive, including one "Arrigo Tedescho".



In the Codex Arundel, in Paris Ms. I and in the Codex Atlanticus (August 1) Leonardo studies devices for the bathroom of Duchess Isabella d'Aragona who, by now the widow of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, has been banished to the Old Court.
On September 28 he recalls the extraordinary musical performance of a nine-year-old child prodigy, Nicolò del Turco.
He takes note of Bramante's drawbridge in the Codex Atlanticus and in Ms. M.
Still in September the French troops occupy Milan; in Ms. L Leonardo bitterly observes, "The Duke has lost the state and his property and no work will be finished for him".
In October Louis XII visits the Last Supper and wishes to detach part of it from the wall to bring back to France.
Dating from this year is the "Ligny Memorandum" (Codex Atlanticus) in which Leonardo plans to return to Vinci and from there to Rome, and then to go to Naples with Louis de Ligny, Count of Luxembourg and cousin of Charles VIII, who came from the region around Salerno.



Leaving Milan accompanied by Pacioli and some of his pupils, Leonardo goes to Mantua, guest of the Gonzaga, where he draws the cartoon for the Portrait of Isabella d'Este.
He then goes to Venice for hydraulic studies and on the Isonzo to plan defensive measures against the Turkish raids.
In Milan the French soldiers vandalize his clay model of the horse for the Sforza Monument.
Presumably in April, Leonardo is in Bologna together with Boltraffio, guest of the Casio. On the 24th of the same month he is already in Florence. He offers his services as consultant for building the bell tower of San Miniato to the design of Baccio d'Agnolo, and for consolidating the church of San Salvatore a Monte. In August he sends a replica of the project for Villa Tovaglia (in the vicinity of Florence) to Francesco Gonzaga, Marchese of Mantua. Filippino Lippi assigns him the commission for an altarpiece in Santissima Annunziata. Leonardo begins his studies for the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, which, in April of the following years will arouse the greatest admiration.



On March 20 he notes in the Codex Atlanticus, "To old Tivoli", that is, to the ruins of Hadrian's Villa near Tivoli, where Leonardo goes to study antiquity. Dating from this year is the Weimar folio (now in the Getty Museum at Malibu) with studies for the Child with a Lamb and for a rolling mill, as well as a transcription of the incipit to a codex in geometry by the Arab Savasorda. In March Isabella d'Este asks him for a replica of her portrait. In April Leonardo paints the Madonna and Child with a Yarn Winder for Robertet, Secretary to King Louis XII; "most impatient of the brush" and deeply engaged in scientific and mathematical studies, he intervenes in these paintings that two assistants continue for him. The most important versions are the Buccleuch and the ex-Reford of Montreal-Canada, now in New York, but there exist many others, with variations, including the domestic scene of the walker for the Child, accomplished also by Spanish and Flemish followers.
In September Ercole I d'Este asks the French governor of Milan to send him the moulds for the Sforza Monument prepared for casting.



In May Isabella d'Este asks Leonardo's opinion of some ancient vases that had once belonged to Lorenzo the Magnificent. On August 18, Cesare Borgia issues him in Pavia a "letter of patent" as "our most expert and beloved Family Architect and General Engineer". Leonardo can experiment with building an emergency bridge "without iron bars or ropes". He studies military architecture and field defence, the cartography of Tuscany and Umbria, the map of Imola and the project for a bridge at Constantinople, which, on July 3, 1503 will be sent from Genoa to Sultan Bajazet II. Evidently, he was cultivating his dream of a voyage to the Orient, on which he had already written pages of imaginative literature (Codex Atlanticus).
He takes notes on Urbino, Piombino, Pesaro, Cesena, Rimini, Cesenatico, and Siena.



In January and February Leonardo is still with Cesare Borgia, who goes to Rome to stay with his father, Pope Alexander VI.
In March and April Leonardo in Florence. Presumably, he is now planning the Lady on a Balcony, with an iconography to which he will return around 1514 in the Louvre's Mona Lisa and which will influence the young Raphael, constituting one of the nodal points in the history of art.
In July Leonardo is in the field with the Florentine army besieging Pisa, planning the deviation of the Arno to deprive the enemy city of its river. He conducts studies on the Verruca and the Pisan territory as well as the Florentine hills; designs systems of artillery and fortifications, resumes his projects for channeling the Arno from Florence through Prato and Pistoia. He designs the "circumfolgore" (a war machine consisting of a revolving platform with twelve radial mortars designed to increase the firing speed in naval battles), musical instruments, excavating machines, mill-wheels, the mill of Doccia and the sluice gate for the Vinci lake. In October he receives the commission to paint the Battle of Anghiari in the Great Council Hall of Palazzo Vecchio, along with the Battle of Cascina commissioned of Michelangelo: together, they are to form the "School of the world". He is assigned the Pope's Hall in Santa Maria Novella as his studio for making the cartoon for the wall painting.
In Madrid Ms. II he notes the content of a case he brings with him "to the munistero" (monastery): it contains 48 notebooks and codices of large format and 14 books. He also lists 102 texts, of widely varying subject matter, which he leaves "locked up" in another case: they constitute a third of what has been reconstructed as "Leonardo 's Ideal Library".



On January 25 he expresses his opinion as to the collocation of Michelangelo's David.
Dating from February 28 is his memorandum on the purchase of 18 "notebooks". In February and March he receives payments for the Battle of Anghiari.
This is the time of the first and second part (folios 1-48 and 49-80) of Paris Ms. K, in which are also found notes from 1503-1505: on geometry, optics, hydraulics, and the flight of birds.
Isabella d'Este requests of Leonardo a painting representing The Young Christ.
On July 9 Leonardo takes note (Codex Arundel and Codex Atlanticus) of the death of his father, from whom he inherits nothing. In August his uncle Francesco makes out his will in favour of Leonardo.
Work on deviating the Arno near Pisa begins, and is then suspended in October, in a failure that will give rise to heavy criticism. In November Leonardo goes to Piombino to design its new fortifications. In Madrid Ms. II he writes notes on painting, reprises theories and figures from the texts of Francesco di Giorgio Martini and notes on geometry with versions from Euclid. On the night of November 30 he writes that he has come to "the end" of the problem of squaring the circle. Leonardo's notes in the margin to a codex by Francesco di Giorgio (Florence, Laurentian Library) are highly interesting.
He makes studies for a Kneeling Leda (Windsor, Chatsworth, Rotterdam...) and for the Neptune, a drawing of which he gives to his friend Antonio Segni, who is moving to Rome to direct the Papal Mint.
In two memorandums in the Codex Atlanticus and the Codex Arundel he notes instead a highly revealing series of contacts, work in progress, sources and texts of various kinds, as well as the places fundamentally important for his studies: the library of Santo Spirito and, above all, that of San Marco.



In March he conducts studies on flight at Fiesole. The "Codex on the flight of birds" in the Turin Royal Library contains his prophecy on human flight from Monte Ceceri as well as the "air bag" for flying men, with other notes on anatomy, botany, architecture, mechanics and hydraulics.
The Duke of Ferrara expresses the desire to purchase a Bacchus by Leonardo from Anton Maria Pallavicini, who had previously promised it to the Cardinal of Rouen. In late April Leonardo receives "a bundle of his clothes sent from Rome". Up to August there follow payments for the Battle of Anghiari made to him and his assistants, that is, the Spaniard "Ferrando", who "paints with Leonardo", and another painter, Raffaello d'Antonio di Biagio, while Tommaso, alias Zoroastro, the natural son of Bernardo Rucellai who was to become famous in the Rome of Leo X and Clement VII as a magician and alchemist, "grinds colours".
In the first folio of Madrid Ms. II appears a paradigmatic recollection of this wall painting: "On the day of June 6, 1505, a Friday, precisely at the 13th hour, I began to colour in the palace ...", followed by an obscure premonition. He compiles the first part of Forster Ms. I (folios 1-40) now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, including studies on geometry-stereometry; he draws studies of nature (Windsor) and for a Leda and the Swan in the standing position (c. 1505-1515).
He writes on the "body of the earth" and the "soul of the bird" in the Codex Atlanticus and on the "being of nothingness" in the Codex Arundel.



Leonardo annotates and rearranges, up to 1509, his studies on water, cosmology and astronomy in the Codex Hammer (formerly Leicester, now in the Bill Gates collection at Seattle, USA) and other studies on geometry, anatomy, the flight of birds, channeling, optics and architecture in the third part of Paris Ms. K, which includes folios 81-128 with notes datable at least up to 1508.
On April 27, in Milan, Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis reaches an agreement, also on behalf of Leonardo, with the Brotherhood of the Conception in regard to the second version of the Virgin of the Rocks.
In May there is correspondence between Alessandro Amadori, brother of Ser Piero's first wife, and Isabella d'Este, concerning "those figures we had requested of Leonardo".
On May 30, before leaving for Milan, Leonardo is obliged to commit himself by contract to returning to Florence within three months' time, to finish the Battle of Anghiari.
On August 18 the Marshall of France asks the Florentine Signoria for an extension of time that will allow Leonardo to finish a number of works he has started in Milan. In October the Signoria protests, On December 16, Charles d'Amboise, praising the "egregious works", insists on keeping Leonardo in Milan. Leonardo devotes himself to the funerary monument to Marshall Trivulzio, with a marble arch and bronze horse, and to designing the sets for Poliziano's Orpheus with the ingenious invention of the "mountain that opens".



On January 12 the Florentine ambassador to the court of France, at Blois, informs the Signoria that Louis XII intends "to make use" of Leonardo, called "our dear and cherished painter and trusted engineer".
In March Leonardo is in Florence with Salai. He conducts studies in anatomy in Santa Maria Nuova, draws the "Etruscan mausoleum" (Paris, Louvre) and musical instruments (Codex Arundel), in addition to taking note of Fra Giocondo's hydraulic system at Blois (Ms. K III).
In Lombardy Leonardo meets his new pupil, Francesco Melzi.
He studies the course of the Adda and the surroundings of the villa of Charles d'Amboise; in Milan he carries out a project for a "garden of wonders" at San Babila. In April he is given back his rights to the vineyard at San Vittore.
On July 26 Robertet, in the name of the King of France, urges the Florentine Signoria to intervene in favour of Leonardo, in his dispute with his brothers over his uncle Francesco's heredity. On September 7 Leonardo also requests the intervention of Cardinal Ippolito d'Este.
Leonardo goes to Florence and Charles d'Amboise writes to the Signoria asking them to allow the artist to return to Milan to finish a panel painting "most dear" to the King.
The very young Pontormo, having been left an orphan, goes to Florence and spends a brief period in Leonardo's shop.



Leonardo notes in the Codex Arundel, on folio 79r: "Begun in Florence at the home of Piero di Braccio Martelli [where he lives with the sculptor Rustici] on the day of March 22, 1508. This is a collection without order of many papers that I have copied here, intending to put them in order later..."
He then moves to Milan, where he lives in the parish of San Babila outside of Porta Orientale, the east gate. He draws a bird's-eye view of the city with a schematic map; elaborates projects for a church with central plan, conducts studies in comparative anatomy and compiles a treatise, now lost, on the anatomy of the horse.
His notes on painting from the lost Book A were later included by Francesco Melzi in the Codex Urbinate of the Book on Painting (Vatican Library). He designs water clocks and an automaton that marks the hours; compiles Ms. F: "Begun in Milan on the day of September 12, 1508" including writings on astronomy, geology, hydraulics, the flight of birds, optics, theory of shadows, studies for producing "mixtures" resembling some plastic material, with references to Alberti and Vitruvius. Dating from the same period is Ms. D with notes on optics and the physiology of the eye, also datable to 1509, which is related to Ms. K3, Ms. F and the folios of Windsor and the Codex Atlanticus. Both manuscripts are now in the Library of the Institut de France.
He paints two Our Ladies for Louis XII, for which he receives 300 scudi and 200 francs as salary, from July 1508 to April 1509.
This is the most probable dating for the Scapiliata (The Girl with the Tousled Hair) in the Pinacoteca of Parma.
On August 18 he delegates De Predis to issue a receipt of payment for the Virgin of the Rocks, on condition that it will be possible to copy the painting, removing it from the altar during the week.



He conducts hydrographic and geological studies in the valleys of Lombardy and around the lake of Iseo. He directs the festivities in honour of Louis XII, goes to Savoy, draws lunules and, in late April, notes (RLW 19145) that he has solved on of the problems in geometry (the "falcates") on which he has been working for a long time. He continues to experiment with "plastic", unbreakable materials.



He continues his studies for navigation on the Adda as well as in anatomy, also with Marcantonio della Torre, at the University of Pavia. His drawings of the human body become increasingly analytical and knowledgeable. Some personal notes on the folios of anatomy show that Leonardo has had sexual relations with women, while the homosexual relations reported in his legendary biography have not yet been documented.
He begins Ms. G: notes on painting (plants and landscape), perspective, geometry, mechanics, technology, anatomy, and hydrology, datable also to 1511 and summarised in his Roman period. On the inside of the cover, he recalls that "On the day of September 26 Antonio (Boltraffio) broke his leg". On October 21 he is summoned as consultant for the choir stalls of the Milan Cathedral. He designs water clocks and automatons.



On January 2 he finds himself in a marble quarry "above Saluzzo".
Both Charles d'Amboise and Marcantonio della Torre die. Leonardo goes to Vaprio d'Adda, a guest at Villa Melzi. He still receives an annual stipend as painter from King Louis XII.
He draws landscapes in red pencil on red prepared paper (Windsor). Bramantino is appointed to study the setting for Leonardo's equestrian monument to Trivulzio.
On December 10 and 18 he recalls the fires set at Desio by the Swiss army allied with Massimiliano Sforza, the son of Il Moro, who is to recapture the Duchy the following year.



Leonardo draws nature studies as well as the rivers and canals of Lombardy.
This is presumably the period in which he devotes himself to works requiring long planning, such as the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne in the Louvre, a masterpiece that he will bring to France and that will remain unfinished in the drapery; the Saint John in the Desert, as results from the drawing purloined from the Sacro Monte di Varese and from the painting in the Louvre that was transformed in the 17th century into a Bacchus, and the Salvator Mundi, of which thee remain his assistants' versions and his autograph drawings of some of the details.



In January he is at Vaprio and at Trezzo d'Adda.
He draws anatomical studies on blue paper, fountains and Heronian hydraulic devices, as well as projects for enlarging Villa Melzi at Vaprio.
On March 25 Leonardo is recorded in the register of the Fabbrica del Duomo di Milan: "habitans cum magnifico domino Prevostino Viola".
In Ms. E, containing notes on painting, perspective, geometry, anatomy, physics, the flight of birds, hydrology, mechanics, "shadow and light", datable also to 1514, on folio 1r can be read: "I departed from Milan for Rome on the day of September 24, 1513 with Giovan Francesco de' Melzi, Salai, Lorenzo and Fanfoia". He moves, in fact, to Rome at the invitation of his friend and patron Giuliano de' Medici, brother of the new Pope Leo X, thanks to whom he obtains a studio in the Vatican Belvedere in December. Vasari, in his Life of Pontormo, writes that "Ser Piero da Vinci, father of Lionardo", a man of "splendid ingenuity", collaborated on the costumes ("the garments of the figures") for the festivities celebrating the election of the pope. This information, however, is unreliable, because Ser Piero had died in 1504; more probably it was Leonardo's brother, Giuliano Da Vinci.



On a folio with the "left hand" and curves, Leonardo draws the Arianna of the Vatican Belvedere (Codex Atlanticus); he also draws and describes the Deluge series, with the annotation, "Waves in the sea at Piombino" in RL 12665r. He continues his notes for the Book on Painting. Among the memories in the Codex Atlanticus, on a folio of geometrical studies, can be read, "On the day of July 7 at the 23 rd hour at Belvedere in the studio given me by the Magnificent", that is, by Giuliano de' Medici; in Ms. E he recalls the dates of a journey through Emilia: "At Parma on September 25", "On the banks of the Po on September 27".
He plans, with aesthetic "design", turbines and rope-winding machines.
At Civitavecchia he conducts archaeological studies and studies on the port. He produces an extraordinary series of maps for his project for draining the swamplands of the Paludi Pontine.
In Rome, on October 8, he is accepted as novice by the Brotherhood of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini, from which he is later to resign.



On January 9 he notes in Ms. G the departure from Rome of the Magnificent Giuliano, who goes to Savoy to marry, in a state wedding, the aunt of the future king Francis I. Probably Leonardo is still working for him on the portrait of his favourite, the Mona Lisa, a work he was then unable to consign to him.
In an account of voyages, addressed from as far away as India to Giuliano de' Medici, Andrea Corsali describes the habits of the "Guzaratti", who "do not eat anything that contains blood, and do not allow anyone among them to harm any living thing, like our Leonardo da Vinci. They live on rice, milk and other inanimate foods …", an annotation that has given rise to Leonardo's fame as a "vegetarian" and "animalist". However, in Leonardo's manuscripts, we find a project for a roasting spit and his lists of expenses frequently include the purchase of meat.
Leonardo has problems with a German assistant, a "fabricator of mirrors" and complains of this in a letter to the Magnificent Giuliano.
He paints, although their present location is unknown, an "Our Lady" and a "Young Boy" for a man coming from the region where he was born: Baldassare Turini from Pescia, the pope's datary.
He is deeply interested in mechanics and anatomy, so much so as to be banished from the Hospital of Santo Spirito with the accusation of practicing sorcery. He decides to search for fossil seashells on Monte Mario.
He designs the "Stalls of the Magnificent" for Lorenzo di Piero de' Medici and a new Palazzo Medici in Florence; re-elaborates his "mechanical lion" for the procession for the coronation of Francis I at Lyon on July 12. He devotes himself to geometric games; draws compasses, figures dressed in theatrical costume, the allegory of a wolf-dog at the helm of a boat with the compass oriented by a golden eagle (Windsor).
On November 30 he goes to Florence with Pope Leo X and then to Bologna. He delineates his itinerary through Emilia and a schematic, idealised map of Florence, with a list of the gates of Milan added by Melzi.
While Raphael inserts the Medicean diamond ring in several studies of composition and decoration, Leonardo reinvents it with the octagonal pyramid laterata vacua recalling his figures for Pacioli's De divina proportione.
On December 9 he is in Milan and writes a letter (now lost?) to his farm manager at Fiesole on the quality of the wine, not excellent, with instructions for improving it.



On March 13 Leonardo is in Rome, studying solutions to geometric problems.
Giuliano de' Medici dies on March 17. Leonardo bitterly reflects, "The Medici created and destroyed me".
In August he transcribes the measurements of St. Paul's Outside the Walls. In the Codex Arundel he mentions a book by his precursor, Roger Bacon, "in print".
He leaves for France, accompanied by Melzi and Salai.
During these years, between Rome and Amboise, he draws more of the Deluge series, now in Windsor, the Dancers, now in the Gallery of the Academy, Venice, and probably the Self-portrait in the Turin Royal Library.



Leonardo, proclaimed "First painter, engineer, and architect to the King", is the guest of Francis I in the Chateau of Cloux (Clos-Lucé), near the court in the Castle of Amboise.
On September 30-October 1, his "mechanical lion" is the sensation of the decorative sets designed for the King's entrance into Argentan, accompanied by his aunt, Duchess Filiberta, the widow of Giuliano de' Medici.
With Francis I, Leonardo goes to Romorantin, for the project for a new ideal city that will include the King's palace and a basin for mock naval battles (Windsor, Codex Atlanticus and Codex Arundel).
Leonardo then dedicates himself to "geometric games", draws cats and horses, St. George and the dragon, the Pointing Lady (Windsor) and studies for the unfinished drapery of the Virgin in the Louvre's Virgin and Child with Saint Anne.
On October 10, at Clou, he receives the visit of Cardinal d'Aragona, whose secretary De Beats records three paintings: the St. John, the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and the portrait of a "certain Florentine woman done from life at the request of the Magnificent Giuliano de' Medici" (the Mona Lisa). De Beatis also praises the value of the studies on anatomy and machines, and those on the nature of water, collected in an "infinity of volumes". He also observes that Leonardo suffers from paralysis of the right hand, so that he has difficulty in painting although he can still draw and teach others, among them a "Milanese boy who works very well", to be identified as Francesco Melzi. The annual stipend of "Master Leonardo da Vinci, painter", is 1000 scudi soleil; the "gentleman" Melzi receives 400 scudi; the "servant" Salai, only 50.



Until January 16, Leonardo is at Romorantin for the project for the Royal Palace, whose construction will begin, but will be interrupted due to an epidemic. An echo of this project can be seen in the Chateau of Chambord, built later.
Leonardo conducts topographic investigations in the valley, studies on channeling the water between the Loire and the Saône and for a royal fountain "without water" at Amboise. He collaborates in the royal festivities of May 3 and 15 at Amboise and June 10 at Cloux, for the birth of the son of Francis I and for the wedding of his niece, Magdalene de la Tour d'Auvergne, to Lorenzo de' Medici.
Among his last drawings are more studies in geometry, perspective and architecture.
"Messer Salai painter" receives 6,250 Imperial lire "for some panel paintings he has sold to the king". Considering the amount, these were undoubtedly original works by Leonardo.



Leonardo's will bears the date of April 23. Melzi is the executor and the main heir; to him are left all of the manuscripts, the instruments and the "painter's works".
Salai is also mentioned in the will, although he is no longer with Leonardo. Returning to Milan bringing with him many of his own paintings and probably some by Leonardo's assistants, he becomes very rich, marries and is killed by gunshot.
In the will appear again the names of the servant Battista de Villanis - who shares the "garden" in Milan with Salai, who had built a house there - Leonardo half-brothers on his father's side - who receive "400 scudi di sole and the farm in Fiesole" - the churches of Saint Florentin and San Dionisio and the poor in the Hospital of God and St. Lazarus at Amboise.
Leonardo dies on May 2 at Cloux, the present-day chateau-museum of Clos Lucé. Perhaps Francis I is far away; nonetheless, Vasari and legend declare that the painter died in the arms of the King of France.
He was buried in the cloister of the church of Saint Florentin, but his tomb is forgotten amid the ruins of the building and symbolically reconstructed in the second half of the 19th century in the Chapel of Saint Hubert in the Chateau of Amboise.


Texts by Alessandro Vezzosi, in collaboration with Agnese Sabato

English translation by Catherine Frost

Last update 21/feb/2008