The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci - Volume 2

The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci - Volume 2

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The notes on Sculpture.

Compared with the mass of manuscript treating of Painting, a very small number of passages bearing on the practice and methods of Sculpture are to be found scattered through the note books; these are here given at the beginning of this section (Nos. 706-709). There is less cause for surprise at finding that the equestrian statue of Francesco Sforza is only incidentally spoken of; for, although Leonardo must have worked at it for a long succession of years, it is not in the nature of the case that it could have given rise to much writing. We may therefore regard it as particularly fortunate that no fewer than thirteen notes in the master's handwriting can be brought together, which seem to throw light on the mysterious history of this famous work. Until now writers on Leonardo were acquainted only with the passages numbered 712, 719, 720, 722 and 723.

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 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....