Leonardo da Vinci Society Newsletter

editor:  Francis Ames-Lewis


Issue 6,  May 1995

Recent and forthcoming events

Leonardo da Vinci Society and the Society for Renaissance Studies joint symposium on ‘Art and Science in the Italian Renaissance: Light’.


Professor John Steer writes:  The fifth symposium in the ‘Art and Science in the Italian Renaissance’ series  took place in its customary venue, the lecture room of the Warburg Institute on January 27th. Its theme was ‘Light’, and six papers pursued this subject from the 13th to the 17th century. Dante’s conception of light was a unifying factor in the first two papers, beginning with a detailed analysis by Simon Gilson of its role in the Paradiso, including a discussion of the change from a ‘natural’ to a metaphysical imagery of light as Dante ascended. The speaker also made the point that, even at its most spiritual, light could only be described by images of a naturalistic kind. There was some controversy about whether Dante’s views could be accounted for within the general climate of Aristotelian thinking, as the speaker believed, or required - as several members of the audience had previously thought - a special knowledge of medieval optical theory.

                  In the following paper, Martin Kemp took up the theme of natural versus spiritual light and posed the question of how the latter could be visually represented in a context in which observed effects of natural light were being no less systematically explored than those of space. He demonstrated how three artists, Piero della Francesca, Raphael and Michelangelo did this, convincingly discriminating the different types of light in a number of major works. The third paper by George Molland shifted the discussion to a wider consideration of medieval natural philosophy, and in particular to Roger Bacon, the similarity of whose approach to Leonardo’s naturally leads to a search for connections. There was much discussion of the note ‘Roger Bacon done into print’ which appears on one of Leonardo’s  manuscripts,  and Martin Kemp suggested that it was probably an indication of something Leonardo would have liked to have seen done, rather than something that had actually happened.

                  After lunch the focus shifted to the 17th century, beginning with an account by John Gage of a hitherto unknown treatise on colour and light, De Coloribus by V. Scarmilionius, published in 1601. Although little known even in its own day, it nonetheless contains original views on the distinction between real and apparent colour and on the triangular primaries, the latter of which led on to a consideration of the triangular prism, the history of which remains to be written. Thomas Frangenberg then discussed the form and iconography of two rooms and a corridor in the so-called ‘Palazzo della Meridiana’, commissioned by Ferdinando de’Medici in the Palazzo Pitti and executed by A.D. Gabbiani in 1696, probably on a programme by Viviani. One of the ceilings had a hole which permitted the entrance of a ray of light projected on a meridian line across the room (hence the name of the ‘palace’) and the presence of a fictive bust of Galileo and a relief of Amerigo Vespucci attests to the scientific basis of the iconography.

                   The final paper was by Pauline Maguire from the Centre for Advanced Studies in Washington D.C. Beginning with an analysis of Poussin’s The Israelites Gathering the Manna in the Louvre, as a brilliant combination of Raphael’s School of Athens and Transfiguration skewed on an angle in space, she then considered the maturation in this painting of Poussin’s approach to colour, citing Leonardo’s remarks about true colour being present in nature in the most highly illuminated areas as a possible source for Poussin’s liberation of colour from chiaroscuro. Cassiano dal Pozzo was at about this time striving to add Leonardo’s notes on Light and Shade to his compilation of Leonardo’s writings, and an engraving by Testa, the so-called Liceo, in which ‘Disegno’ has his arm affectionately round ‘Colour’ also suggests the general concern for a new union between the two, which Poussin in his painting actually achieved.

1995 Annual Lecture

Regrettably, the Society’s 1995 Annual Lecture has had to be postponed, owing to difficulties in arranging a mutually convenient date with our prospective speaker. The AGM and Annual Lecture will be held in Autumn, and members will be circulated with the details in due course.


1995 Lettura Vinciana


The thirty-fifth Lettura Vinciana, on ‘Leonardo e Pavia’, was delivered by Professor Gianni Carli Sciolla, at the Biblioteca Leonardiana, Vinci, on 29 April 1995.


An International Leonardo da Vinci Conference at Essen, March 1995


Dr Pietro Marani (Milan, Pinacoteca di Brera) reports: An international conference on ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Kunst, Wissenschaft und Technik in der Natur’ was held from 2 to 5 March 1995 at the Kulturwissenschaftliches Institut der Wissenschafts-zentrum Nordrhein-Westfalen in Essen. This conference came within the ambit of current research at the Institut on ‘Kulturgeschichte der Natur’, coordinated by Frank Fehrenbach in collaboration with Gottfried Böhm. Its outcome will be a thorough and rich volume to be edited by these two scholars. In this book, due out next year, the papers presented over the two days of the conference will be published, along with a series of other studies focused on Leonardo and his relations with science, philosophy and the visual arts, including his personal vision of art and nature.

            During the two densely-packed conference days many interesting papers were presented. Not all of these were fully focused on the theme suggested by the conference title, but it may be hoped that these will be modified and made more pertinent for publication in the proceedings. Profound and thought-provoking was the introduction by Cesare Vasoli (Universitą di Firenze and Director of the Istituto Nazionale del Rinascimento), who spoke on ‘Leonardo e la formazione dell’artista come swcienziato e technico’, as were the papers of Martin Kemp (St Andrews) on ‘Reading the signs: Graphic means for the representation of Movement in Leonardo’s manuscripts’, of Frank Fehrenbach (Essen) on ‘Licht und Wasser: Uberlegungen zur Einheit von Kunst, Wissenschaft und Aesthetik bei Leonardo’, of Johannes Nathan (Zurich) on ‘Kunst und Naturbetrachtung: Funktionale Bildformein im Werk Leonardos’, of Frank Zöllner (Hamburg), on ‘Leonardos Studium der Körper und Ausdrucksbewegungen. Zur Historizitat von kunstlerischer Theorie und wissenschaftliche Anspruch’, of Domenico Laurenza (Rome), on ‘La forza dell’anima: patognomia e fisiognomia di Leonardo’ and, finally, of Pietro C. Marani, on ‘Dalla natura al simbolo: osservazione della natura, imitazione dell’antico e vizualizzazione del moto nell’opera di Leonardo’. A debt is owed to Frank Fehrenbach, who organised the conference admirably, by all the participants in whose often lively discussion on every single presentation in a babel of tongues German predominated. This was a measure of the extent in this area of current interest in Leonardo’s contribution to the history of philosophy and of the study of nature.


Leonardesque News


A new book about Leonardo’s work on physiognomy


Michael Kwakkelstein’s book on Leonardo da Vinci as physiognomist: Theory and drawing practice was published late last year by Primavera Pers, Leiden. Professor Patricia Trutty-Coohill (Western Kentucky University) writes: Michael Kewakkelstein provides a valuable comtribution to Leonardo scholarship with his study of Leonardo’s grotesque heads. We have been introduced to some of his ideas in articles he has recently published,* and it is a pleasure to see them within the framework of his entire thesis.

            Kwakkelstein contends that before 1499 Leonardo had completed a book of moti mentali that contained his writings on dramatic expression. This book would have been known to 16th-century writers such as Cellini, Clinthio, Vasari, and Lomazzo. Since Leonardo linked the operations of the soul and body, Kwakkelstein argues that he would have expressed character in keeping with contemporaneous medical theories of the humours and the complexions. He suggests (p.51) that Leonardo’s criticism ‘I will not enlarge upon false physiognomy and chiromancy, because there is no truth in them, and this is made clear because such chimeras have no scientific foundation’ might not be from the book on moti mentali, but a reaction to Pomponius Gauricus’ De Sculptura of 1504.

            Of great service is Kwakkelstein’s classification of the heads that fall under the blanket category ‘grotesque’ - and his illustrations which show patterns of easily recognizable types. What is obvious is that Leonardo repeated certain configurations - the heroic/warrior/choleric type, for example - as well as Kenneth Clark’s ‘nutcracker head’. Some of the heads seem to be records of visual impressions. Some are comic. Some fit into the category ‘physiognomic experiments’- heads that lack the ridiculous attributes of the comic types. Most convincingly argued is that the heads of old men by Leonardo’s pupils may be copied from sculpted models, probably by the master himself.

            With Kwakkelstein’s book we are well started on a road to working out what Gombrich once called ‘one of the most interesting problems [in Leonardo studies] still awaiting solution’.


*‘Leonardo da Vinci’s grotesque heads and the breaking of the physiognomic mould’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 54, 1991, 127-36; ‘The lost book on moti mentali’, Achademia Leonardi Vinci, 6, 1993, 55-66; ‘Heads of old men as tźtes d’expression’, Raccolta Vinciana, 25, 1993, 39-62.


Leonardesque News from Windsor


Martin Clayton (Royal Library) reports: The Royal Library is planning an exhibition of a hundred of Leonardo’s drawings at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, opening in March 1996. This is partly to mark the completion of the programme of restoration of the Leonardos at Windsor (after more than twenty years’ work), and will include many sheets that have not been exhibited for decades; only a handful of the drawings will have featured in the Hayward Gallery show in 1989. The exhibition will be organised on a broadly chronological basis, with drawings grouped by project - particularly strong sections will include the sequences of maps, drawings for the Trivulzio Monument, and anatomical sheets. We hope to produce a catalogue along the lines of the Hayward publi-cation, with all drawings reproduced in colour.

            The small but very successful exhibition of anatomical sheets from Windsor that visited three venues in the USA in 1992 will have a short tour in Japan later this year. It can be seen at the Teien Museum in Tokyo from 10 June to 30 July, and in Nagoya at the Aichai Prefectural Museum from 15 September to 15 October. An hour-long television programme on Leonardo has been made by CBC for broadcasting in Japan during the exhibition’s run. The centenary conference of an organisation of Japanese anatomists in Tokyo has been timed to coincide with the exhibition, and will include a session on Leonardo’s work.


The Armand Hammer Award for Excellence in Leonardo Studies, 1994


The third Armand Hammer Award was presented to Dr Pietro Marani, Deputy Director of the Pinacoteca di Brera, Milan, and the Leonardo da Vinci Society’s first Annual Lecturer in 1989, at a ceremony held at the Armand Hammer Center for Leonardo Studies at UCLA on 5 May 1994. At this event Pietro Marani delivered a lecture on ‘Hadrian, Antinous and Tivoli: New Evidence of Leonardo’s Relation to the Antique’.


A new appointment for the Society’s President


Dr Frank James (Royal Institution) writes: Professor Martin Kemp, FBA, was recently appointed President of the History of Science Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, for the year 1995-6. The British Association carries out many activities throughout the year promoting science to a wide audience. Its flagship event is the Annual Meeting which is held in a main regional centre (this year, Newcastle) in early September. The organisation of the bulk of the programme falls to the sixteen diisciplinary sections, of which the History of Science is the most recently formed. The Annual Meeting is a major media event attended by thousands of members of the public: it is not a professional scientific meeting, but one designed tio give wide access to recent work in the sciences, medicine, technology, economics, sociology, and the history of science.

            Each Section has a President who should both be highly regarded in his/her own field and be an able communicator of their subject. In this context, Martin Kemp was seen as trhe ideal choice, to help emphasise that science is an integral part of general culture and indeed has an artistic dimension. For further details of the actiovities and programmes of the History of Science Section, pleAse contact Dr Frank A.J.L. James, IICHST, Royal Institution, 21 Albemarle Street, London W1X 4BS. For further information on the British Association, contact the Press Oficer, British Association for the Advancement of Science, 23 Savile Row, London W1X 2NB.


Further developments in the ‘Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse’ project


Shortly after I reported in Newsletter 5 on the progress of the plan to recreate and finally to cast in bronze Leonardo da Vinci’s Sforza Horse, the project lost its presiding genius and director. On Christmas Day 1994 Charles Dent died at his home at Fogelsville near Allentown, PA, of a swift-spreading muscular wasting disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known in the US as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’ after a celebrated baseball player who died of it several decades ago. As a spokesman pointed out to me, both Dent and Leonardo worked for sixteen years on their respective Horses, and neither lived to see the final fruits of their labours.

            However, Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse Inc. is determined to carry the project forward to completion. ‘We are dealing with great uncertainties’, Roger Enloe, President of LDVHI said recently, ‘but we intend to build the horse, not only in memory of Leonardo da Vinci but also of Charles Dent. We’ll put his name on it somewhere.’ Dent required in his last will and testament that at least nineteen Renaissance bronzes and other pieces in his private collection be sold to provide further funds towards casting and transportation of the Horse. The estimated cost of completing and installing the 24-foot high Horse is over $3 million (to include some $800,000 for the casting process and $1 million for a maintenance endowment), and it is not yet clear how much of this sum can be raised by the sale of works from the Dent collection, or how any further monies needed may be found.

            Nor is it yet clear whether the Italian authorities will agree to the installation of the Horse in the courtyard of the Castello Sforzresco in Milan, once the full-size bronze cast is ready for transportation to Italy. The cultural director in Milan, Philippe Daverio, has been quoted as saying that there is no ‘historic reason’ to allow such a placement, and that ‘no matter how good’ the Fogelsville Horse is it is still not Leonardo da Vinci’s. However warm Charles Dent’s sentiments were towards Italy, the Italian people and towards Leonardo in particular, and however genuine were his reasons (recorded in issue 5 of this Newsletter) for wishing to offer Milan his recreation of the Sforza Horse, it seems likely that negotiations preliminary to its installation will be protracted.


Recent Publications


New and recent issues of the Raccolta Vinciana of Milan


Dr Pietro Marani (Milan, Brera) writes: Exactly two years after the issue of vol. 25 (1993) of Raccolta Vinciana (for the index of which see below), the publication of vol. 26 (1995) is announced. The Raccolta Vinciana, founded at the beginning of this century by Luca Beltrami, has its offices at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. It is founded on a library that is considered to be one of the three finest in the world for the number and comprehensiveness of the publications on Leonardo that it contains (the other two are the Biblioteca Leonardiana at Vinci and the Elmer Belt Library at the University of California at Los Angeles), which is provided with a monumental trhree-volume printed catalogue (edited by Mauro Guerrini) which also lists the Leonardo literature owned by the Bibliooteca Leonardiana. Raccolta Vinciana today presents itself as the oldest and finest periodical in existence that is entirely dedicated to Leonardo, recently complemented by the establishment of Achademia Leonardi Vinci which has now reached its seventh volume (1995), announced for issue this Spring together with volume 6 (1994). These two publications together constitute an obligatory  reference point for Leonardo students worldwide.

            The last volume of Raccolta Vinciana, no.26, 1995 (obtainable free by writing to the Direzione delle Civiche Raccolte d’Arte Antica, Castello Sforzesco, Piazza Castello, 20121 Milano), includes articles and contributions by Augusto Marinoni, Maria Teresa Fiorio, Enzo and Matilde Macagno, Pietro C. Marani, Franco Paliaga, Giovan Battista Sannazzaro, Janice Shell and Grazioso Sironi, and Frank Zöllner amongst others; as well as a complete bibliography on Leonardo da Vinci brought up to date to 1994, edited by the Biblioteca Laurenziana in Vinci. Contributions treat themes ranging from Leomnardo as architect and urban planner with respect to his relations with the Antique, to Lombard sculpture (with the publication of unedited documents concerning Giovan Ambrogio de Predis), to ‘caricati’ drawings by Giovan Paolo Lomazzo, to pseudo-Francesco Napoletano, and finally to the neoclassical painter Andrea Appiani showing his debts to Leonardo. This is therefore a consistently rich volume which it is hoped will interest all Leonardo da Vinci specialists.


Index to volume 25 (1993):

            A. Marinoni, ‘Note sulla ricerci delle fonti dei manoscritti vinciani’

            Michael W. Kwakkelstein, ‘“Teste di vecchi in buon numero”’

            Giovanni Battista Sannazzaro, ‘Per S. Maria presso S. Satiro e Leonardo: nuovi documenti’

            Janice Shell and Grazioso Sironi, ‘An unpublished document for Leonardo da Vinci’

            Maria Teresa Fiorio, ‘Qualche aggiunti a Bernardino de’Conti’

            Pietro C. Marani, ‘Giovan Battista Belmonte ritrovato’

            Janice Shell and Grazioso Sironi, ‘Some documents for Giovanio Pietro Rizzoli: il Giampetrino’

            Silvia Padoa, ‘Una nuova Madonna di Giampetrino in una collezione milanese’

            Luisa Cogliati Arano, Una proposta per Cesare da Sesto a Bayonne’

            Giacomo Berra, ‘La storia dei canoni proporzionali del corpo umano e gli sviluppi in area lombarda alla fine del cinquecento’

            Marco Tizzoni, ‘A proposito della “Vera del rame e dello argento” di Leonardo da Vinci’

            Giovanni Zaro, ‘Inquadramento geologico dell’antico bacino minerario di Prato S. Pietro (Cortenova)’

            Luisa Gioppo, ‘Una copia sconosciuta del Trattato di Francesco di Giorgio Martini: il Codice Orsetti della Biblioteca del Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnica di Milano’

            Pietro C. Marani, Giovanni Testori e le “Reliquiae fugientes” di Leonardo’

            idem, ‘Lettera a Martin Kemp (sul restauro del Cenacolo)’

            Mauro Guerrini, ‘A proposito di bibliografia leonardiana’

            idem, ‘Bibliografia leonardiana 1991-1993’.



The Leonardo da Vinci Society


President: Professor Martin Kemp, Department of Art History, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, Scotland, KY16 9AL.

            Secretary/Treasurer: Dr Richard Schofield, Department of Art History, University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK.                                                                                          Please send items for publication to the editor of the Leonardo da Vinci Society Newsletter, Francis Ames-Lewis, Department of History of Art, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD, UK  (FAX 071.631.6107)