Leonardo da Vinci Society Newsletter

editor:  Francis Ames-Lewis


Issue 5,  November 1994

Recent and forthcoming events

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

The next in the series of joint Leonardo da Vinci Society and Society for Renaissance Studies symposia on the general theme of ‘Art and Science in the Italian Renaissance’ will be held on Friday 27 January 1995, at the Warburg Institute, Woburn Square, London WC1, starting at 10.15 am. The subject will be ‘Light’. Titles of papers to be read that have so far been confirmed are:

  Simon Gilson (St John’s College, Cambridge), on ‘Concepts of Light in Dante’s Paradiso’;

  Dr J. Gage (University of Cambridge), on ‘The De Coloribus  of V. Scarmilionius (1601)’;

  Dr T. Frangenberg (University of Leicester), on ‘Light in an Italian 17th-century ceiling’;

  Professor M. Kemp (University of St Andrews), on ‘In the light of Dante: Natural and divine light in painting from Piero della Francesca to Michelangelo’.

  Dr George Molland (University of Aberdeen) will also speak.


1995 Annual Lecture

The Society’s 1995 Annual Lecture will be given on Friday 5 May 1995 by Professor Carlo Pedretti, of The Armand Hammer Center for Leonardo Studies, at the University of California, Los Angeles. He will speak on some aspect of Leonardo da Vinci iconography. The lecture will be held at 6.30 pm, probably in the lecture theatre of the British Museum (the venue has not yet been definitively arranged, and will be confirmed at the time of circulation of papers for the Annual General Meeting, which will be held at 5.30 pm on the same day).


The Visual Culture of Art and Science: from the Renaissance to the present.                                                                 

An International Conference to be held at the Royal Society, London, on 12-14 July 1995. The meeting is organised by the Association of Art Historians (AAH), the British Society for the History of Science (BSHS), and the Committee on the Public Understanding of Science (COPUS). The purpose of the meeting is to promote greater understanding of the changing boundaries and interactions between what contemporaries called Art (or Craft) and Natural Philosophy/Science in the period from about 1400 to the present day. Speakers will include William Ashworth (Kansas), Michael Baxandall (Berkeley), Allan Chapman (Oxford), Sophie Forgan (Teesside), Steven J. Gould (Harvard), Richard Gregory (Bristol), Helen Haste (Bath), Tim Hunkin, Martin Kemp (St Andrews), Eileen Reeves (Princeton), Martin Rudwick (San Diego), Larry Schaaf (Baltimore), Albert van Helden (Rice), S. Zeki (London) and other distinguished art historians, historians of science, artists and scientists. For further information, please contact the BSHS Executive Secretary at the conference registration office: 31 High St., Stanford-in-the-Vale, Faringdon, Oxon., SN7 8LH, U.K. (tel. and FAX  0387.718963).

Leonardesque News

Leonardo da Vinci’s Sforza Horse to be cast at last?

Leonardo da Vinci’s Horse, Inc (LDVHI) is an organisation based at Fogelsville, Pennsylvania established for the primary purpose of making a gilt-bronze cast of Leonardo da Vinci’s never-completed Sforza Horse. The cast is to be on the same scale - three times life-size - used by Leonardo in his celebrated clay model which was destroyed when used for target practice by the French invaders of Milan in 1499. The project was initiated in 1978, and is still directed by Charles Dent, a former air pilot. What might be called the LDVHI ‘mission statement’ declares that                                                                                                                        ‘The Horse is to be given to the Italian people by the American people, in a gesture reminiscent of France’s gift of the Statue of Liberty, for three reasons:                                                                                                1) To honor the Italian people for the 2,000 years of cultural heritage they have given us, for our discovery as a continent, and for our name.            2) To commemorate Leonardo da Vinci, the Renaissance’s greatest Universal Man, who serves as an inspiration to us today.                                                     3) To celebrate the noble horse which has been the bearer of man and messages, in peace and in war, from the dawn of history. Even today, the horse gives its name to the measure of power in the most advanced machines.’            


Fibreglass cast of the LDVHI Horse seen outside the Dome Studio at Fogelsville, Pennsylvania

            On 12 April 1993 a lifesize model in fibreglass was set up on an 8' high Renaissance-style pedestal outside the Dome Studio in Fogelsville (see illustration). The design is derived essentially from those drawings by Leonardo that can best be associated with the second project for the Sforza Horse, started according to Leonardo himself on 23 April 1490. Finalised after extensive consultation with art historians and others, the design is probably as close as can now feasibly be reached to that of Leonardo’s original clay model. Perhaps more difficult to recreate now is the character of the surface gilding that Leonardo would have proposed. In order to emulate this final gilded surface, the clay model from which the mould was made for the fibreglass casting illustrated here was covered in aluminium foil, to which several coats of orange shellac were applied. The resulting surface is not entirely convincing in appearance, but the gilding of the final, full-scale bronze cast may produce a more satisfactory result, although it is certain to add significantly to the cost of the project.                                                                                                Not surprisingly, it is in the area of costs that LDVHI has come up against one of its principal difficulties. Scaled up from a plaster cast of the 8' maquette, the full-scale 24' high clay model has now been built, but work cannot go ahead on casting it in bronze until substantially more funds have been raised. The other major, and as yet unresolved, difficulty in completing the project concerns the negotiations that are currently in train with Italian authorities. It is proposed that the cast should stand permanently in the courtyard of the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, where Leonardo’s patron Lodovico il Moro originally intended to erect the commemorative equestrian monument to his father Francesco Sforza, who died in 1466, that Leonardo worked on throughout his first Milanese period, from c.1482 to 1499. Charles Dent’s intention is to present the cast to the Italian people ‘to honor them for their gift of the Renaissance. We owe them so much for that period of intellectual and artistic brilliance’. Some Italians are enthusiastically supporting the project, but not all who have a say in the matter wish to accept the gift of an American-made reconstruction of the Sforza Horse, at least on the terms proposed by LDVHI.               

The Codex Hammer sold at auction at Christie’s New York

As a result of the death of Dr Armand Hammer in 1990, a lawsuit under which the ownership of Dr Hammer’s art collection is being disputed has developed. To cover their legal costs, the Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center at Los Angeles has had to sell one of its most valuable possessions, the so-called Codex Hammer. Dr Hammer bought this Leonardo da Vinci notebook, then called the Codex Leicester, at the Holkham Hall sale at Christie’s London on 12 December 1980, paying £2,420,000. The notebook, which dates c.1508-1510, includes discussion of a wide range of issues ‘from astronomy to the atmosphere and meteorology, from physical geography to geology and paleontology, and from hydraulics and hydrodynamics to canalisation ... Water, in fact, is the common denominator to all subjects under scrutiny ... the notes in the Codex Hammer may be viewed as part of a vast treatise on water.’ (Carlo Pedretti, in the sale catalogue). At the sale at Christie’s New York on 11 November 1994 the Codex Hammer raised $30 million, or some £19 million. It was bought by Bill Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, the firm that manufactures computer software such as that used for the production of this Newsletter.

Further news on the restoration of Leonardo’s Last Supper

Many members will recollect with pleasure the first Annual Lecture of the Leonardo da Vinci Society, delivered on 21 March 1989. Dr Pietro Marani, of the Brera in Milan, then reported on the results so far of the restoration in progress on Leonardo’s Last Supper. On 26 October 1994, some five and a half years later, and (like Pietro Marani’s lecture) at the Italian Cultural Institute, the restorer responsible for the work on the Last Supper, Dr Pinin Brambilla Barcilon, gave a lecture on her work, in the Institute’s current series on ‘Restoration in Italy’.Dr Marani’s slides had shown a lighter tonality, more pastel colours than we had been used to, and a brilliant treatment of light effects, such as the reflections off the metal dishes and the play of light onto and through the glass of the drinking vessels. The further restoration work has continued to show that the colours and tones are much lighter and brighter than in the unrestored state. Dr Brambilla Barcilon’s lecture emphasised the impressive results that, as Dr Marani’s talk had already demonstrated, the restoration has achieved.

Luca Pacioli e la Matematica del Rinascimento

Dr. F.K.C. Smith writes: This conference, held in Pacioli’s birthplace, Borgo Sansepolcro, from 13-16 April 1994, celebrated the quincentenary of the publication of Pacioli’s Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportione et Proportionalitą. It coincided with the opening of an exhibition in which reconstructions of polyhedra from the Divina Proportione, Pacioli’s collaborative work with Leonardo da Vinci, hung starlike from the ceiling of a darkened room, and preceded displays of manuscripts and early printed books of Pacioli, his contemporaries and his predecessors. Topics treated in conference papers covered the Summa, Pacioli’s other works, and wider aspects of medieval and Renaissance mathematics. Perhaps of most interest to art historians was M. Dalai Emiliani’s talk on the Naples Portrait of Pacioli attributed to Jacopo de’Barbari, and her speculation as to the identity of the building which can be seen in the reflections in the hanging glass figure.

The Turin Shroud - a Leonardo da Vinci self-portrait?

The fruits of an elaborate, multi-faceted piece of research conducted over the last five years by Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince have recently been published in a book entitledTurin Shroud: In Whose Image? The Shocking Truth Unveiled. The authors ask a series of questions about where the Shroud in Turin came from, how the image that purports to be of the Crucified Christ was implanted in it, by whom, when, and finally why this was done. They take as their point of departure the results of the carbon-dating tests carried out in mid-1988, which demonstrated that the fabric of the Shroud was made sometime between 1260 and 1390. Despite the mis-match of dates, the authors propose that in 1492 Leonardo da Vinci substituted a new Shroud for the one that we know already existed in the 1350s. They claim that he devised a method of generating on the fabric an image of a crucified man, to which he added the image of his own face. Identifying this as a 1492 self-portrait depends, however, on comparisons with the celebrated red-chalk drawing in Turin. This dates from more than twenty years later, and may not be a self-portrait. Moreover, the evidence presented for the theory of a complex conspiracy between Pope Innocent VIII, Lorenzo de’Medici, the House of Savoy (to whom the Shroud belonged) and Leonardo himself is somewhat tenuous.                                                       Given the historical misinterpretations that pepper the text, the reader may find it difficult to take much of this book very seriously. But the investigation into how the image was implanted into (rather than merely onto) the fabric is more intriguing, for it may seem that the image was ‘fixed’ by a primitive but precocious photographic technique. By trial and error the authors evolved such a process which produced images comparable with that on the Turin Shroud.                                                                                                       This is a racy account of an investigation that is more detective fiction than historical research, and fails to present a persuasive case for a hitherto unrecognised Leonardo self-portrait. But it undeniably offers further contributions to the burgeoning Myth of Leonardo da Vinci.

Recent Publications                          


            Christie’s New York, The Leonardo da Vinci Codex Hammer... Friday, November 11, 1994. New York, 1994.                                                                                                         Maidani-Gérard, Jean-Pierre, Léonard de Vinci, mythologie ou théologie, Paris, 1994.           Scarpati, Claudio, Leonardo da Vinci. Il paragone delle arti, Milan, 1991.                                                                        Shell, Janice, Leonardo, New York, 1992.      Turner, A. Richard, Inventing Leonardo, New York, 1992.                                                                        Verdiglione, Armando, Leonardo da Vinci, Milan, 1993.                                                                                     Zöllner, Frank, Leonardo da Vinci, Mona Lisa: das Porträt der Lisa del Giocondo, Legende und Geschichte, Frankfurt am Main, 1994.


            Andersen, W., ‘Leonardo da Vinci and the slip of fools’, History of European Ideas, 18, 1994, 61-78.                                                                                                                    Banjafield, J., et. al., ‘Left and right in Leonardo’s drawings of faces’, Empirical Studies of the Arts, 11, 1993, 25-32.                          Berger, M., ‘Zur Tendenz der Konkretisierung des “Anna-Selbdritt”: Phantasmas bei “späten” Muttern und im Bereich der Reproduktionstechnologie’, Zeitschrift für Psychosomatische Medizin und Psychoanalyse, 36, 1990, 332-42.                                                                         Elliott, D. B., et al., ‘Visions of the famous: the artist’s eye’, Opthalmic & Physiological Optics, 13, 1993, 82-90.                                                                                             Farago, C., ‘Leonardo’s “Battle of Anghiari”: a study in exchange between theory and practice’, Art Bulletin, 76, 1994, 301-                                            Gibson, E., ‘Leonardo’s Ginevra de’Benci (the restoration of a Renaissance masterpiece)’, Apollo, March 1991, 161-5.                                                                        Grindberg, L., et. al., ‘The attraction of Leonardo da Vinci. 36th International Psychoanalytical Congress (1989, Rome, Italy)’, International Review of Psycho-Analysis, 18, 1991, 1-10.                                                                                                                                         Harsch, H., ‘Freuds Identifizierung mit Männern, die zwei Mutter hatten: Oedipus, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo und Moses’, Psyche: Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse und ihre Anwendung, 48, 1994, 124-53.                                                                Hilloowala, R., ‘“Leonardo da Vinci and procreation: Aristotelian, Galenic or Empiricist”. 106th annual meeting of the American Association of Anatomists, San Diego, California, 27-31 March 1992’, Anatomical Record, 1993, 61.                                                                                                                Israels, H., ‘Freud and the vulture’, History of Psychiatry, 4, 1993, 577-86.                                                                    Joannides, P., ‘Creative distortion in the Renaissance: Lippi, Leonardo and Parmigianino’, Apollo, October 1992, 239-46.                        Kemp, M., ‘From scientific examination to the Renaissance market: the case of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Madonna of the Yarnwinder”’, Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 24, 1994, 259-75.                                                                                                                               Keynes, M., ‘The iconography of Leonardo’s London cartoon’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, April 1991, 147-58.                                                                 Kwakkelstein, M., ‘Leonardo da Vinci’s grotesque heads and the breaking of the physiognomic mould’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 54, 1991, 127-36.                              Maidani-Gérard, J.-P., ‘A propos de trois feuillets de Léonard de Vinci’, Psychanalyse a l’Université, 18, 1993, 91-127.                        Idem., ‘Pater incertus, mater certissima... Les origines incertaines du createur’, Evolution psychiatrique, 57, 1992, 417-37.                                                       Idem., ‘Le “souvenir d’enfance’ de Léonard: son impact sur le travail de Freud’, Psychanalyse a l’Université, 16, 1991, 159-78.                                                                Mitzner, W., et. al., ‘On the purported discovery of the bronchial circulation by Leonardo da Vinci’, Journal of Applied Physiology, 73, 1992, 1196-201.                                                                    Moss, D., ‘On a regressive feature of applied psychoanalysis: From Freud’s “Leonardo” to Chasseguet-Smirgel’s Creativity and Perversion’, American Imago, 49, 1992, 63-79.                   Pérouse de Montclos, J.-M., ‘Nouvelles observations sur Chambord’, Revue de l’art, 102, 1993, 43-7.                                                        Schroter, M., ‘Two empirical notes on Freud’s Leonardo’, International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 75, 1994, 87-100.                                                                      

                   Zöllner, F., ‘Leonardo’s portrait of Mona Lisa del Giocondo’, Gazette des Beaux-Arts, March 1993, 115-39.           



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)




 To bolster the theory, the writers indulge in lengthy discussions of the involvement of the Knights Templar in perpetrating the original fraud in the mid 14th century, and of Leonardo’s own involvement in alchemy, necromancy, the occult, and more particularly in a covert, mysterious and heretical sect called the Priory of Sion of which, according to a document of uncertain status, Leonardo was himself Grand Master from 1510 to 1519.  Starting from the assumption that alchemy dominated the lives and practices of the most imaginative and creative Renaissance men,


                        Barker, G., ‘Insider trading (painting attributed to Leonardo is offered for sale’, Art Review, June 1993, 24-5.                                                   

                        Danto, G., ‘Mona Lisa slips around the corner (moving to a new and improved case in the Louvre’s Grand Gallery, Paris)’, Art News, April 1992, 50.

                        ‘500-year old visions: Leonardo online (new CD-ROM disc from Interactive Publishing Corp.)’, Business Week, 1 August 1994, 68.

                        Hochfield, S., ‘Too hot to handle? (Louvre considers restoration of Mona Lisa and Virgin and Child with St Anne)’, Art News, September 1994, 154-9.                                                                                               ‘Leonardo for sale (Codex Hammer on the block at Christie’s)’, Art in America, September 1994, 136.