The Da Vinci Notebooks at sacred-texts.com
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On Madonna pictures.[In the autumn of] 1478 I began the two Madonna [pictures].
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344:299 : Photographs of this page have been published by BRAUN, No. 439, and PHILPOT, No. 718.
1. Incominciai. We have no other information as to the two pictures of the Madonna here spoken of. As Leonardo here tells us that he had begun two Madonnas at the same time, the word 'incominciai' may be understood to mean that he had begun at the same time preparatory studies for two pictures to be painted later. If this is so, the non-existence of the pictures may be explained by supposing that they were only planned and never executed. I may here mention a few studies for pictures of the Madonna which probably belong to this early time; particularly a drawing in silver-point on bluish tinted paper at Windsor--see Pl. XL, No. 3--, a drawing of which the details have almost disappeared in the original but have been rendered quite distinct in the reproduction; secondly a slight pen and ink sketch in, the Codex VALLARDI, in the Louvre, fol. 64, No. 2316; again a silver point drawing of a Virgin and child drawn over again with the pen in the His de la Salle collection also in the Louvre, No. 101. (See Vicomte BOTH DE TAUZIA, Notice des dessins de la collection His de la Salle, exposes au Louvre. Paris 1881, pp. 80, 81.) This drawing is, it is true, traditionally ascribed to Raphael, but the author of the catalogue very justly points out its great resemblance with the sketches for Madonnas in the British Museum which are indisputably Leonardo's. Some of these have been published by Mr. HENRY WALLIS in the Art Journal, New Ser. No. 14, Feb. 1882. If the non-existence of the two pictures here alluded to justifies my hypothesis that only studies for such pictures are meant by the text, it may also be supposed that the drawings were made for some comrade in VERROCCHIO'S atelier. (See VASARI, Sansoni's ed. Florence 1880. Vol. IV, p. 564): "E perche a Lerenzo piaceva fuor di modo la maniera di Lionardo, la seppe cosi bene imitare, che niuno fu che nella pulitezza e nel finir l'opere con diligenza l'imitasse più di lui." Leonardo's notes give me no opportunity of discussing the pictures executed by him in Florence, before he moved to Milan. So the studies for the unfinished picture of the Adoration of the Magi--in the Uffizi, Florence--cannot be described here, nor would any discussion about the picture in the Louvre "La Vierge aux Rochers" be appropriate in the absence of all allusion to it in the MSS. Therefore, when I presently add a few remarks on this painting in explanation of the Master's drawings for it, it will be not merely with a view to facilitate critical researches about the picture now in the National Gallery, London, which by some critics has been pronounced to be a replica of the Louvre picture, but also because I take this opportunity of publishing several finished studies of the Master's which, even if they were not made in Florence but later in Milan, must have been prior to the painting of the Last Supper. The original picture in Paris is at present so disfigured by dust and varnish that the current reproductions in photography actually give evidence more of the injuries to which the picture has been exposed than of the original work itself. The wood-cut given on p. 344, is only intended to give a general notion of the composition. It must be understood that the outline and expression of the heads, which in the picture is obscured but not destroyed, is here altogether missed. The facsimiles which follow are from drawings which appear to me to be studies for "La Vierge aux Rochers."
1. A drawing in silver point on brown toned paper of a woman's head looking to the left. In the Royal Library at Turin, apparently a study from nature for the Angel's head (Pl. XLII).
2. A study of drapery for the left leg of the same figure, done with the brush, Indian ink on greenish paper, the lights heightened with white.
The original is at Windsor, No. 223. The reproduction Pl. XLIII is defective in the shadow on the upper part of the thigh, which is not so deep as in the original; it should also be observed that the folds of the drapery near the hips are somewhat altered in the finished work in the Louvre, while the London copy shows a greater resemblance to this study in that particular.
3. A study in red chalk for the bust of the Infant Christ--No. 3 in the Windsor collection (Pl. XLIV). The well-known silver-point drawing on pale green paper, in the Louvre, of a boy's head (No. 363 in REISET, Notice des dessins, Ecoles d'Italie) seems to me to be a slightly altered copy, either from the original picture or from this red chalk study.
4. A silver-point study on greenish paper, for the head of John the Baptist, reproduced on p. 342. This was formerly in the Codex Vallardi and is now exhibited among the drawings in the Louvre. The lights are, in the original, heightened with white; the outlines, particularly round the head and ear, are visibly restored.
There is a study of an outstretched hand--No. 288 in the Windsor collection--which was published in the Grosvenor Gallery Publication, 1878, simply under the title of: "No. 72 Study of a hand, pointing" which, on the other hand, I regard as a copy by a pupil. The action occurs in the kneeling angel of the Paris picture and not in the London copy.
These four genuine studies form, I believe, a valuable substitute in the absence of any MS. notes referring to the celebrated Paris picture.