In Gallery 25 the Venetian and Bolognese drawings have been replaced by otherdrawings from the Museum collection. The present exhibition is chosen from thechools of Parma, Milan, and Genoa, and one wall is given over to the school ofRaphael. Among these is the back of a nude man by Raphael himself, made durng his stay in Florence, one of the drawings given by Cephas G. Thompson in 1887.In the Genoese group the series of twelve brilliant drawings by Luca Cambiaso is worthy of comment, as are many others of the exhibit; but the chief interest will befound in the two sheets of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci which were purchased in917 and are now shown for the first time. In all probability these have alwaysbeen attributed to this master, but they were unknown to any of the prominent thorities and consequently do not occur in any of the lists. Since 18o01 theirhistory is traceable. On the folder in which they were kept up to the time ofheir mounting for exhibition is an inscrip- tion in French stating that they weregiven to J. Allen Smith by J. G. Legrand, May, 18o0. The drawings were ownedÂ later by Thomas Sully, the painter, who presumably acquired them during one of his visits to Europe, either in 1809-1o or more probably in i837-38, when he painted the portrait of Queen Victoria. At Sully’s death the drawings, with other propertÂ of the painter, passed to his grandson, Francis T. S. Darley, 1 who in his turn bequeathed the Leonardos to Thomas Nash, from whom the Museum acquired them.Order now
One of the sheets shows a pen and bistre drawing in a circle about 24 inches in diameter in which a sleeping man is seated under a tree while a snake and a lizard fight on the rock where he leans his head. It is an illustration for a bestiary, expound ing points of natural history or moral precepts, on which Leonardo was engaged the subject of many manuscript pages preserved in the library of the Institute of France. The explanation of the theme of our drawing is given in the inscription above it in Leonardo’s exquisite and peculiar right to left handwriting, which, literally translated, reads thus: The greenÂ lizard faithful to the man, seeing him sleeping, fights with the snake. He sees that he can not conquer, runs over the face of the man and wakes him, so that the snake shall not harm the sleeping man.
A companion work to ours, in the Bonnat Collection at Bayonne, is reproduced in Berenson’s Florentine Drawings, vol. 2, page 86. It is also a drawing in a circle of about the same size and is in a similar style.
On the reverse of this sheet are some scratchy pen sketches for the setting of a masque or play, also notes and memoranda. There is an indication of a barrel-vaulted room with niches on the side walls, one marked with the word annunZiatori, announcers, and at the end a seated figure in a mandorla from which flames radiate.
The signification of another sketch to the right is not apparent. Above are some figures and writing. The writing gives a list of characters in a play founded on the story of Danae, and the actors who were to take the parts. The whole inscription as far as it has been deciphered is as follows: Acrisio (Acrisius the father of Danae), Giovanni Cristofano; (the next name undeciphered, then) Danae, Francesco Romano; Mercury, Gianbattista -; Jove, Giovanni Francesco; Servant; Announcers of the Festival: those marvel at the new star and kneel down and these adore and kneel down and with music they finish the festival.
The other sheet, 72 inches by 6- inches, is much more important. On it are drawings in pen and bistre of the Madonna adoring the Child, conceived more or less in the spirit of the traditional Florentinetreatment of the subject inherited from Fra Filippo Lippi. But in the sketcheshe old theme is humanized and at the same time glorified. In the writer’sopinion, they mark the stage when the recognized rendering of the subject was being transformed in Leonardo’s mind into the epoch-making composition of the Virgin of the Rocks.
The drawings are still far from the profound sentiment and full expression of thepainting. The group in the center approaches its general aspect more nearlyhan the others, but in it the theme is still the usual one-the invention of the Madonna’s posture, the one hand on Saint John’s shoulder and the other in the grand sture of consecration over the Christ Child, has not yet occurred to him, thoughthe germ idea appears in the two outstretched arms. The divinity and revernce of the children are but half suggested in the drawing. In the arrangement ofthe Madonna’s mantle pulled out over the right arm the drawing is like the picre; the definite indications of the folds suggest that the artist had arranged thedrapery on a maquette or mannikin. The lower sketch, where the same pose andolds are shown from another viewpoint, bears out this idea. This lower drawing,in a space with an arched top, shows only the tiny Christ Child lying on the ground, d there is a background-a corner of a ruined room with a view of mountains seenthrough an arch. The other two drawings show different poses of the kneeling Virgin;n each only the Christ Child is shown with her; one has a suggestion of a pent-roofedshed in silver point for background. There are also two studies of babies in silver point lightly reinforced by pen and bistre.
Leonardo signed the contract in 1483 to paint the center picture of the altarpiecein the Church of San Francesco in Milan for the Confraternita della Concezionehis work was the Virgin of the Rocks. It was at the time of his first visit to Milan,and it is at about this time or somewhat before that I should venture to place the drawing, that is to say, not far from theÂ time of the numerous drawings for the Adoration and the Madonna with the Cat. The other sheet, the Allegory, would date as well from the first visit to Milan, I believe, if only from the masque memoranda on the reverse, as it is known that much of Leonardo’s time in the service of Lodovico was spent in arranging such affairs.La prima pietra 06 dicembre 2018 | La prima pietra | Clay Aiken