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In arranging these notes on sculpture I have given the precedence to those which treat of the casting of the monument, not merely because they are the fullest, but more especially with a view to reconstructing the monument, an achievement which really almost lies within our reach by combining and comparing the whole of the materials now brought to light, alike in notes and in sketches.
A good deal of the first two passages, Nos. 710 and 711, which refer to this subject seems obscure and incomprehensible; still, they supplement each other and one contributes in no small degree to the comprehension of the other. A very interesting and instructive commentary on these passages may be found in the fourth chapter of Vasari's
[paragraph continues] Introduzione della Scultura under the title "Come si fanno i modelli per fare di bronzo le figure grandi e picciole, e come le forme per buttarle; come si armino di ferri, e come si gettino di metallo," &c Among the drawings of models of the moulds for casting we find only one which seems to represent the horse in the act of galloping--No. 713. All the other designs show the horse as pacing quietly and as these studies of the horse are accompanied by copious notes as to the method of casting, the question as to the position of the horse in the model finally selected, seems to be decided by preponderating evidence. "Il cavallo dello Sforza"--C. Boito remarks very appositely in the Saggio on page 26, "doveva sembrare fratello al cavallo del Colleoni. E si direbbe che questo fosse figlio del cavallo del Gattamelata, il quale pare figlio di uno dei quattro cavalli che stavano forse sull' Arco di Nerone in Roma" (now at Venice). The publication of the Saggio also contains the reproduction of a drawing in red chalk, representing a horse walking to the left and supported by a scaffolding, given here on Pl. LXXVI, No. 1. It must remain uncertain whether this represents the model as it stood during the preparations for casting it, or whether--as seems to me highly improbable--this sketch shows the model as it was exhibited in 1493 on the Piazza del Castello in Milan under a triumphal arch, on the occasion of the marriage of the Emperor Maximilian to Bianca Maria Sforza. The only important point here is to prove that strong evidence seems to show that, of the numerous studies for the equestrian statue, only those which represent the horse pacing agree with the schemes of the final plans.
The second group of preparatory sketches, representing the horse as galloping, must therefore be considered separately, a distinction which, in recapitulating the history of the origin of the monument seems justified by the note given under No. 720.
Galeazza Maria Sforza was assassinated in 1476 before his scheme for erecting a monument to his father Francesco Sforza could be carried into effect. In the following year Ludovico il Moro the young aspirant to the throne was exiled to Pisa, and only returned to Milan in 1479 when he was Lord (Governatore) of the State of Milan, in 1480 after the minister Cecco Simonetta had been murdered. It may have been soon after this that Ludovico il Moro announced a competition for an equestrian statue, and it is tolerably certain that Antonio del Pollajuolo took part in it, from this passage in Vasari's Life of this artist: "E si trovò, dopo la morte sua, il disegno e modello che a Lodovico Sforza egli aveva fatto per la statua a cavallo di Francesco Sforza, duca di Milano; il quale disegno è nel nostro Libro, in due modi: in uno egli ha sotto Verona; nell'altro, egli tutto armato, e sopra un basamento pieno di battaglie, fa saltare il cavallo addosso a un armato; ma la cagione perche non mettesse questi disegni in opera, non ho gia potuto sapere." One of Pollajuolo's drawings, as here described, has lately been discovered by Senatore Giovanni Morelli in the Munich Pinacothek. Here the profile of the horseman is a portrait of Francesco Duke of Milan, and under the horse, who is galloping to the left, we see a warrior thrown and lying on the ground; precisely the same idea as we find
in some of Leonardo's designs for the monument, as on Pl. LXVI, LXVII, LXVIII, LXIX and LXXII No. 1; and, as it is impossible to explain this remarkable coincidence by supposing that either artist borrowed it from the other, we can only conclude that in the terms of the competition the subject proposed was the Duke on a horse in full gallop, with a fallen foe under its hoofs.
Leonardo may have been in the competition there and then, but the means for executing the monument do not seem to have been at once forthcoming. It was not perhaps until some years later that Leonardo in a letter to the Duke (No. 719) reminded him of the project for the monument. Then, after he had obeyed a summons to Milan, the plan seems to have been so far modified, perhaps in consequence of a remonstrance on the part of the artist, that a pacing horse was substituted for one galloping, and it may have been at the same time that the colossal dimensions of the statue were first decided on. The designs given on Pl. LXX, LXXI, LXXII, 2 and 3, LXXIII and LXXIV and on pp. 4 and 24, as well as three sketches on Pl. LXIX may be studied with reference to the project in its new form, though it is hardly possible to believe that in either of these we see the design as it was actually carried out. It is probable that in Milan Leonardo worked less on drawings, than in making small models of wax and clay as preparatory to his larger model. Among the drawings enumerated above, one in black chalk, Pl. LXXIII--the upper sketch on the right hand side, reminds us strongly of the antique statue of Marcus Aurelius. If, as it would seem, Leonardo had not until then visited Rome, he might easily have known this statue from drawings by his former master and friend Verrocchio, for Verrocchio had been in Rome for a long time between 1470 and 1480. In 1473 Pope Sixtus IV had this antique equestrian statue restored and placed on a new pedestal in front of the church of San Giovanni in Luterano. Leonardo, although he was painting independently as early as in 1472 is still spoken of as working in Verrocchio's studio in 1477. Two years later the Venetian senate decided on erecting an equestrian statue to Colleoni; and as Verrocchio, to whom the work was entrusted, did not at once move from Florence to Venice--where he died in 1488 before the casting was completed--but on the contrary remained in Florence for some years, perhaps even till 1485, Leonardo probably had the opportunity of seeing all his designs for the equestrian statue at Venice and the red chalk drawing on Pl. LXXIV may be a reminiscence of it.
The pen and ink drawing on Pl. LXXII, No. 3, reminds us of Donatello's statue of Gattamelata at Padua. However it does not appear that Leonardo was ever at Padua before 1499, but we may conclude that he took a special interest in this early bronze statue and the reports he could procure of it, form an incidental remark which is to be found in C. A. 145a; 432a, and which will be given in Vol. II under Ricordi or Memoranda.
[paragraph continues] Among the studies--in the widest sense of the word--made in preparation statue we may include the Anatomy of the Horse which Lomazzo and Vas mention; the most important parts of this work still exist in the Queen's Library at
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If we may trust the account given by Paulus Jovius--about l527-- Leonardo's horse was represented as "vehementer incitatus et anhelatus". Jovius had probably seen the model exhibited at Milan; but, need we, in fact, infer from this description that the horse was galloping? Compare Vasari's description of the Gattamelata monument at Padua: "Egli [Donatello] vi ando ben volentieri, e fece il cavallo di bronzo, che e in sulla piazza di Sant Antonio, nel quale si dimostra lo sbuffamento ed il fremito del cavallo, ed il grande animo e la fierezza vivacissimamente espressa dall'arte nella figura che lo cavalca".
These descriptions, it seems to me, would only serve to mark the difference between the work of the middle ages and that of the renaissance.
We learn from a statement of Sabba da Castiglione that, when Milan was taken by the French in 1499, the model sustained some injury; and this informant, who, however is not invariably trustworthy, adds that Leonardo had devoted fully sixteen years to this work (la forma del cavallo, intorno a cui Leonardo avea sedici anni continui consumati). This often-quoted passage has given ground for an assumption, which has no other evidence to support it, that Leonardo had lived in Milan ever since 1483. But I believe it is nearer the truth to suppose that this author's statement alludes to the fact that about sixteen years must have past since the competition in which Leonardo had taken part.
I must in these remarks confine myself strictly to the task in hand and give no more of the history of the Sforza monument than is needed to explain the texts and drawings I have been able to reproduce. In the first place, with regard to the drawings, I may observe that they are all, with the following two exceptions, in the Queen's Library at Windsor Castle; the red chalk drawing on Pl. LXXVI No. 1 is in the MS. C. A. (see No. 7l2) and the fragmentary pen and ink drawing on page 4 is in the Ambrosian Library. The drawings from Windsor on Pl. LXVI have undergone a trifling reduction from the size of the originals.
There can no longer be the slightest doubt that the well-known engraving of several horsemen (Passavant, Le Peintre-Graveur, Vol. V, p. 181, No. 3) is only a copy after original drawings by Leonardo, executed by some unknown engraver; we have only to compare the engraving with the facsimiles of drawings on Pl. LXV, No. 2, Pl. LXVII, LXVIII and LXIX which, it is quite evident, have served as models for the engraver.
On Pl. LXV No. 1, in the larger sketch to the right hand, only the base is distinctly visible, the figure of the horseman is effaced. Leonardo evidently found it unsatisfactory and therefore rubbed it out.
The base of the monument--the pedestal for the equestrian statue--is repeatedly sketched on a magnificent plan. In the sketch just mentioned it has the character of a shrine or aedicula to contain a sarcophagus. Captives in chains are here represented on the entablature with their backs turned to that portion of the monument which more
strictly constitutes the pedestal of the horse. The lower portion of the aedicula is surrounded by columns. In the pen and ink drawing Pl. LXVI--the lower drawing on the right hand side--the sarcophagus is shown between the columns, and above the entablature is a plinth on which the horse stands. But this arrangement perhaps seemed to Leonardo to lack solidity, and in the little sketch on the left hand, below, the sarcophagus is shown as lying under an arched canopy. In this the trophies and the captive warriors are detached from the angles. In the first of these two sketches the place for the trophies is merely indicated by a few strokes; in the third sketch on the left the base is altogether broader, buttresses and pinnacles having been added so as to form three niches. The black chalk drawing on Pl. LXVIII shows a base in which the angles are formed by niches with pilasters. In the little sketch to the extreme left on Pl. LXV, No. 1, the equestrian statue serves to crown a circular temple somewhat resembling Bramante's tempietto of San Pietro in Montario at Rome, while the sketch above to the right displays an arrangement faintly reminding us of the tomb of the Scaligers in Verona. The base is thus constructed of two platforms or slabs, the upper one considerably smaller than the lower one which is supported on flying buttresses with pinnacles.
On looking over the numerous studies in which the horse is not galloping but merely walking forward, we find only one drawing for the pedestal, and this, to accord with the altered character of the statue, is quieter and simpler in style (Pl. LXXIV). It rises almost vertically from the ground and is exactly as long as the pacing horse. The whole base is here arranged either as an independent baldaquin or else as a projecting canopy over a recess in which the figure of the deceased Duke is seen lying on his sarcophagus; in the latter case it was probably intended as a tomb inside a church. Here, too, it was intended to fill the angles with trophies or captive warriors. Probably only No. 724 in the text refers to the work for the base of the monument.
If we compare the last mentioned sketch with the description of a plan for an equestrian monument to Gian Giacomo Trivulzio (No. 725) it seems by no means impossible that this drawing is a preparatory study for the very monument concerning which the manuscript gives us detailed information. We have no historical record regarding this sketch nor do the archives in the Trivulzio Palace give us any information. The simple monument to the great general in San Nazaro Maggiore in Milan consists merely of a sarcophagus placed in recess high on the wall of an octagonal chapel. The figure of the warrior is lying on the sarcophagus, on which his name is inscribed; a piece of sculpture which is certainly not Leonardo's work. Gian Giacomo Trivulzio died at Chartres in 1518, only five months before Leonardo, and it seems to me highly improbable that this should have been the date of this sketch; under these circumstances it would have been done under the auspices of Francis I, but the Italian general was certainly not in favour with the French monarch at the time. Gian Giacomo Trivulzio was a sworn foe to Ludovico il Moro, whom he strove for years to overthrow. On the 6th September 1499 he marched victorious into Milan at the head
of a French army. In a short time, however, he was forced to quit Milan again when Ludovico il Moro bore down upon the city with a force of Swiss troops. On the 15th of April following, after defeating Lodovico at Novara, Trivulzio once more entered Milan as a Conqueror, but his hopes of becoming Governatore of the place were soon wrecked by intrigue. This victory and triumph, historians tell us, were signalised by acts of vengeance against the dethroned Sforza, and it might have been particularly flattering to him that the casting and construction of the Sforza monument were suspended for the time.
It must have been at this moment--as it seems to me--that he commissioned the artist to prepare designs for his own monument, which he probably intended should find a place in the Cathedral or in some other church. He, the husband of Margherita di Nicolino Colleoni, would have thought that he had a claim to the same distinction and public homage as his less illustrious connection had received at the hands of the Venetian republic. It was at this very time that Trivulzio had a medal struck with a bust portrait of himself and the following remarkable inscription on the reverse: DEO FAVENTE • 1499 • DICTVS • IO • IA • EXPVLIT • LVDOVICV • SF • (Sfortiam) DVC• (ducem) MLI (Mediolani)•NOIE (nomine)• REGIS • FRANCORVM • EODEM • ANN •;(anno) RED'T (redit)• LVS (Ludovicus •SVPERATVS ET CAPTVS • EST • AB • EO. In the Library of the Palazzo Trivulzio there is a MS. of Callimachus Siculus written at the end of the XVth or beginning of the XVIth century. At the beginning of this MS. there is an exquisite illuminated miniature of an equestrian statue with the name of the general on the base; it is however very doubtful whether this has any connection with Leonardo's design.
Nos. 731-740, which treat of casting bronze, have probably a very indirect bearing on the arrangements made for casting the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza. Some portions evidently relate to the casting of cannon. Still, in our researches about Leonardo's work on the monument, we may refer to them as giving us some clue to the process of bronze casting at that period.