Leonardo da Vinci Society Newsletter

editor:  Francis Ames-Lewis


Issue 18,  May 2001


Recent and forthcoming events

A Symposium on the 1651 editio princeps of Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattato della Pittura


A three-day symposium on ‘The Fortuna of Leonardo’s Trattato della Pittura (1651)’, organised by Thomas Frangenberg and Claire Farago, will be held at the Warburg Institute on September 13—15, 2001. The topic under discussion will be the first printed edition, with illustrations by Nicolas Poussin, of Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattto della Pittura, as reconstructed by Francesco Melzi on the basis of Leonardo’s notes, and its international fortuna. Speakers will consider how the editio princeps came into being, and how it was received in many different countries all over Europe in the seventeenth century. We hope to publish the definitive titles of papers in the May 2001 issue of this Newsletter; the current alphabetical list of speakers, and the provisional titles of their papers, is as follows:


Juliana Barone (with Prof Martin Kemp), ‘The depiction of motion in illustrations for Leonardo’s Trattato’;

Prof Janis Bell, ‘Leonardo’s legacy in early seventeenth-century Italian art theory’;

Hans Heinrik Brummer, ‘A gift for Queen Cristina of Sweden - Leonardo’s Trattato della pittura’;

Dr Chryssa Damianaki-Romano, ‘Translation and critical fortune of Leonardo’s Trattato in Greece’;

Dr Nicholas Davidson (to be confirmed),‘The Trattato in Venice’;

Dr Marcin Fabianski, ‘The Trattato in Poland up to 1919’;

Prof Claire Farago, ‘Leonardo’s writings on pictorial composition in the abridged treatise of 1651’;

Prof Claire Farago with Dr Thomas Frangenberg, ‘The demise of the Trattato’ (a round-table discussion);

Dr Frank Fehrenbach, ‘The Trattato in Central Italy after 1651’;

Dr J.V. Field, ’Perspective and the [Paris] Academy’;

Prof Francesca Fiorani, ‘The illustrations in the editio princeps of the Trattato;

Dr Thomas Frangenberg, ‘Leonardo’s Traité de la peinture in seventeenth-century French art theory’;

Dr Christophe Frank (to be confirmed),‘The Trattato in German speaking countries’;

Prof Teodoro Hampe Martďnez and Dr Francisco Stastny (to be confirmed), ‘Leonardo’s Trattato and its reception in colonial South America’;

Prof. Dr. Thomas Kirchner, ‘The Trattato in eighteenth-century France’;

Dr Michael Kwakkelstein, ‘The Trattato in the Netherlands’;

Pauline Maguire Robison, ‘The manuscripts prepared under the supervision of Cassiano dal Pozzo’;

Prof Javier Navarro de Zuvillaga, ‘The Trattato in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Spanish perspective and art theory’;

Dr Ulrich Pfisterer, ‘The Trattato in eighteenth-century Italy’;

Dr Geoff Quilley, ‘Leonardo’s reputation and the place of the Trattato in eighteenth-century British art and aesthetics’;

Prof Charlene VillaseĖor Black, ‘Rethinking Leonardo’s legacy in Spain: Pacheco’s art theory and the painting of Veląsquez’;

Prof Zygmunt Wazbinski, ‘La presenza del Codex Urbinas a la corte di Urbino’;

Prof Thomas Willette, ‘The 1733 Naples edition of the Trattato’;

Prof Robert Williams, ‘Leonardo’s theory in sixteenth-century Florence’;

Dr Michael Zimmermann, ‘Painterly suggestions and hypnosis. The Trattato della Pittura at the end of the nineteenth century’.



Leonardesque News



The XLI Lettura Vinciana, 21 April 2001


The Renaissance musicologist Professor Claude Palisca (Harvard University), who had originally been invited to deliver the forty-first Lettura Vinciana in April 2001, sadly died at the beginning of this year. The editor of this Newsletter was, late in the day, invited to take his place, and on 21 April at the Biblioteca Vinciana in Vinci, he gave the XLI Lettura Vinciana entitled ‘La matita nera nel pratica di disegno di Leonardo da Vinci’. Francis Ames-Lewis reviewed Leonardo’s use of black chalk for underdrawing in preparation for pen and ink drawings, and his recognition in his drawings from the time of the Milan Last Supper of the potential of chalk as a tonal medium. Comparing red and black chalk drawings of similar subjects, the lecturer distinguished particular qualities of black chalk and demonstrated how Leonardio exploited the opportunities offered by those qualities in studying the three-dimensional forms and especially the psychological expressiveness of his figures, and the representation of human feelings in their faces. Like all others in the Lettura Vinciana series, established in 1960, this year’s lecture will be published in due course.



A new Leonardo drawing for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


An important, hitherto little-known and unpublished double-sided sheet by Leonardo da Vinci, sold at Sotheby’s on 5 July 2000, was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in early autumn last year. It has now been discussed in detail by Carmen Bambach in an article in Apollo, CLIII no. 469, March 2001, pp. 16-23. Among a number of brief sketches on the sheet, Dr Bambach concentrates attention on two soft black chalk drawings showing a nude male seen from the front, on the recto, and from the back, on the verso. Since he holds what appears to be a club horizontally Across his body, the nude male is identifiable as Hercules. Associated with a bolder black chalk study in Turin, the Hercules studies on the new sheet were probably made with a work of sculpture in mind. Dr Bambach intriguingly argues that Leonardo may have been sketching preliminary ideas for a colossal Hercules to complement Michelangelo’s David in both scale, Florentine imagery and perhaps even location outside the mainentrance to the Palazzo della Signoria. This would have been under considetration at very much the same time as Leonardo and Michelangelo were working in competition on their two great battle scenes for the Sala del Cinquecento in the years immediately after 1503. The sketches may therefore ‘provide a key piece of evidence for any reconstruction of Leonardo’s activity as a sculptor’.



Il Genio e le Passioni. Leonardo e il Cenacolo. Precedenti, innovazioni, riflessi di un capolavoro


As anticipated in issue 17 (November 2000), of this Newsletter, an important exhibition that investigates the precedents, innovations and later reflections and influence of Leonardo’s Last Supper opened at the Palazzo Reale in Milan on 21 March 2001; it closes on 17 June this year. Conceived in association with the recent unveiling after a twenty-year programme of conservation of Leonardo’s mural in the Refectory of S. Maria delle Grazie (see Newsletter 16, May 2000), the exhibition is curated by Pietro Marani, for many years the director of the conservation programme.

            The exhibition opens with a series of rooms dedicated to the iconography of the Last Supper during the two centuries before Leonardo’s radical reconsideration. Examples are drawn from various regions of the peninsula and beyond, including an exquisite French early fourteenth-century embroidered altar frontal from Toulouse, Ugolino di Nerio’s Last Supper from the Santa Croce altarpiece (1320s), and Taddeo Gaddi’s version from the Sacristy cupboard also in Santa Croce, Florence. The second section of the exhibition is devoted to Leonardo drawings, including almost all of his studies for the Last Supper which allows for detailed comparison of his use of different graphic techniques as he prepared the composition. The way the works are placed allows for direct comparisons also between the drawings and equivalent details in the Royal Academy’s full-scale copy of the final composition by Giampetrino, normally to be seen in the Chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford.

            The next section considers how Lombard and Piedmontese artists adhered to or resisted this new paradigm of composition and emotional response, with its powerful treatment of hand gesture and facial expression. Engraved copies of the Last Supper were already in circulation in the last year or two of the fiftenth century, allowing knowledge of the composition to spread rapidly. Dominated by the Giampetrino copy, the display includes surviving examples from two series of drawn copies of heads from the Last Supper, the first, in Strasbourg, by an anonymous early sixteenth-century Lombard draughtsman, and the second, less accomplished and surely significantly later (eighteenth century?) group, divided between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a private collection in London. Also displayed are a striking Christ mocked by Sodoma, drawings by Bramantino, and a variant of Leonardo’s composition by Bernardino Luini in around 1530.

            Responses to the Cenacolo by Milanese sculptors follow, headed by Tullio Lombardo’s marble version in Santa Maria dei Miracoli, Venice. Included here are a group of rhetorically-expressive Apostles by il Bambaia for the tomb of Gaston de Foix (d.1512), and a magnificent Last Supper group of life-sized polychromed wood figures by Andrea da Milano and Alberto da Lodi, commissioned in 1531 for the Sanctuary at Saronno. The next section traces sixteenth-century reflections of the Last Super in the Veneto, Florence and Rome. Although regrettably the Giorgione Concert could not in the final analysis be lent from the Palazzo Pitti, the early Venetian response is represented amongst others by a fine Rocco Marconi Christ and the Adulteress, and Last Suppers by Titian, now in Urbino, and by Jacopo Bassano (Rome, Galleria Borghese). Florence is represented by six vigorous red chalk drawings by Andrea del Sarto for his Last Supper in the Refectory of San Salvi.

            The exhibition now moves north of the Alps: to Dürer’s responses to the Leonardesque engraved Last Supper by Marcantonio Raimondi after Raphael, via a Goltzius engraving, to a beautiful early Van Dyck (Madrid, private collection), a very close copy of Leonardo’s figures and drama located however in a very different, entirely Van Dyckian, setting. This copy was probably based on a drawing made by Rubens on his return through Italy in 1607, which served as prototype also for etched versions by Pieter Claesz Soutman. Coming closer to the present day, the exhibition includes copies of Leonardo’s heads by Italian academic draughtsmen such as Giuseppe Bossi (1777-1815), early books on the Cenacolo, the late nineteenth-century photographic record, and the celebrated celluloid parodies of the Last Supper in Pasolini’s Mamma Roma (1962) and BuĖuel’s Viridiana (1961). These last deftly demonstrate the iconic status gained by the Cenacolo in the last century, and with a group of 1980s pop-art reflections foreshadow the continuing hold that we may expect the composition to have over the twenty-first century imagination.

            The splendid exhibition catalogue, edited by Pietro Marani, includes beautiful colour plates and detailed catalogue entries on almost all the 236 exhibits, introductory essays to each section of the exhibition, four major scholarly essays by Pietro Marani, Carlo Bertelli, Cristina Acidini Luchinat and Martin Kemp, and a Preface by Sir Ernst Gombrich.



The exhibition of ‘Leonardo e la Leda’ in Vinci announced in issue 17 (November 2000)


A reminder to all readers who will be in Tuscany this summer that an exhibition entitled ‘Leonardo e la Leda’ is to be held at the Palazzino Uzielli del Museo Leonardiano in Vinci from 23 June to 23 September 2001. Organized by the Comune di Vinci in conjunction with the Soprintendenza per i Beni Artistici e Storici delle provincie di Firenze, Pistoia e Prato and with the Ministero dei beni Culturali, it is jointly curated by Gigetta Dalli Regoli (Professor of the History of Art at the Universitą di Pisa), Romano Nanni (Director of the Biblioteca e Museo Leonardiano di Vinci) and Antonio Natali (Director of the Department of Renaissance and Mannerist Paintings at the Uffizi, Florence). The exhibition will consider the relationships between classical representations of the story of Leda, the choices and reasons underlying Leonardo’s compositions, and the alternative solutions to Leonardo’s, especially those devised early in the sixteenth century. For further detail, please refer to issue 17 (November 2000) of this Newsletter.



Recent publications on Leonardo da Vinci and related topics


An English translation of Manuscript I


The Ente Raccolta Vinciana has issued the second in its series of English translations of the Leonardo da Vinci manuscripts. The Manuscripts by Leonardo da Vinci in the Institut de France: Manuscript I, translated and annotated by John Venerella, was published earlier this year, with the continuing support of the Getty Grant Program. Manuscript I includes several pages of Leonardo’s exercises, probably undertaken between 1494 and 1497, in Latin vocabulary and grammar, based on his study of Niccolė Perotti’s Rudimenta gramatices (first published in Rome in 1474). It also contains parts of Leonardo’s studies of Euclid, undertaken under the tutelage of Luca Pacioli perhaps from 1496. The errors in his Latin at this stage indicate that Leonardo was not yet in a position to commprehend Euclid without help. His work with Pacioli, which resulted also in his drawings of the polyhedra that illustrate Pacioli’s De divina proportione (dedicated to the Duke of Milan in Spring 1498), has been seen as a turning point in his career, since before 1496 his knowledge and understanding of geometry was relatively primitive. There is also in Manuscript I an important series of notes on isues associated witht he flow of water.


Essays in memory of Augusto Marinoni


The city of Legnano counts the late Augusto Marinoni, one of the principal Leonardo scholars of the second half of the twentieth century, amongst its famous sons. It has therefore sponsored, with a contribution from the Ente Raccolta Vinciana, the publication of a commemorative volume entitled “Hostinato rigore”. Leonardiana in memoria di Augusto Marinoni, edited by Pietro C. Marani, which appeared at the end of last year. The motto ‘hostinato rigore’, is inscribed beside the plough impresa on a sheet in the Royal Library (RL 12282), which serves also as the logo for our Society. It was selected as an appropriate epithet to call to mind the well-known simplicity and rigour of Marinoni’s life and scholarship. Several studies published here refer to aspects and qualities of Marinoni’s own researches on Leonardo and associated subjects, and also include a tribute by Carlo Pedretti. Others offer new material or original interpretations in specialist areas.


Pietro C. Marani, Leonardo da Vinci. The Complete Paintings (New York, 2000)


First published in Italian in 1999, Pietro Marani’s new monograph appeared late last year in an English translation (by A. Lawrence Jenkens) published by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., New York. Described by the author as ‘an interpretive essay on the evolution of Leonardo’s art’, this large-format book includes superb colour plates of all Leonardo’s paintings, with many details, and a large number of his related drawings; a documentary appendix with new transcriptions (by Edoardo Villata) of all primary sources on, or associated with, Leonardo’s paintings; and an annotated chronological catalogue of Leonardo’s paintings with full technical data and brie summaries of the historical record of each work. The text includes original discussions of the problem of the two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks, of Leonardo’s portraiture, and of his debts to classical antiquity. It constitutes a beautifully produced and important contribution to Leonardo da Vinci studies.


The Codex Leicester in facsimile


A fine facsimile of the Codex Leicester (until recently also known as the Codex Hammer) has been produced in conjunction with the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Codex Leicester — notebook of a genius. This display at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia from 5 September to 5 November 2000 was timed to coincide with the Olympic Games held last year in that city. Since soon after the Codex Hammer was acquired (and given its former name once more) by William H. Gates III (a.k.a. Bill Gates) in 1994, it has been travelling around the world, and has been displayed in Venice, Milan, Rome, Paris, New York, Seattle, Lisbon, Munich, Berlin and last autumn, Sydney. The Powerhouse Museum is an appropriate venue for the exhibition: established in 1880, it is a museum of decorative arts, design, science, technology and social history. The catalogue has a general introduction, designed to inform and appeal to the exhibition visitor who is new to Leonardo and his achievements in both art and science, and a brief codicological study of ‘The structure and dating of the Codex Leicester’ by Carlo Pedretti. Prof. Pedretti has also written detailed explanatory notes to each page of the facsimile reproduction. In conjunction with the exhibition, a multimedia CD-ROM guide has been produced by the Corbis Corporation. This leads users through the intricacies of the manuscript, reproducing every sheet so that it can be examined in detail. With a unique translation tool, the Codescope, the user can reverse Leonardo’s mirror writing and read his notes in a translation from Leonardo’s Italian into contemporary English.



The Leonardo da Vinci Society


We would always be grateful for suggestions of material, such as forthcoming conferences, symposia and other events, exhibitions, publications and so on, that would be of interest to members of the Society for inclusion in this Newsletter or on the webpage, which can be visited at <http://giorgio.hart.bbk.ac.uk/davinci/>


            President: Dr J.V. Field, School of History of Art, Film and Visual Media, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H.0PD; e-mail: jv.field@hart.bbk.ac.uk

            Vice-President: Professor Francis Ames-Lewis, School of History of Art, Film and Visual Media, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H.0PD; 020.7631.6108; e-mail: f.ames-lewis@bbk.ac.uk

            Secretary/Treasurer: Dr Thomas Frangenberg, Department of History of Art, University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, LE1. UK; e-mail: tf6@leicester.ac.uk

            Committee members:

            Rodney Palmer, 88 Ifield Road, London SW10.9AD;  e-mail: rodpalmer63@hotmail.com

            Frank A.J.L. James, Royal Institution Centre for the History of Science and Technology, Royal INstitution of Great Britain, 21 Albemarle Street, London W1X.4BS; e-mail: fjames@ri.ac.uk


Please send items for publication to the editor of the Leonardo da Vinci Society Newsletter, Francis Ames-Lewis, School of History of Art, Film and Visual Media, Birkbeck College, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD; fax: 020.7631.6107; e-mail: f.ames-lewis@hart.bbk.ac.uk