Leonardo the Florentine: A Study in Personality

Leonardo the Florentine: A Study in Personality

Leonardo the Florentine: A Study in Personality

Leonardo the Florentine: A Study in Personality

Excerpt

Leonardo the Florentine! So he wrote himself wherever fortune drew him, however estranged and exiled he might seem from the bright city that bred him. As Leonardo the Florentine was he known by those alien places that gave him hospitality, however richly they might flatter him. For, sceptic and mystic, various artist and savant of all the sciences, cavalier and student, sweet with an ironic sweetness, strong with a serenity of grace, armoured in pride, with the Medusa on his breastplate, splendid but reticent, supple with courtesy, love-compelling, with some cruelty, beautiful in spirit and in body, fitted alike for the symposia or the sacred games of Hellas, a natural heir to the Greek tradition rather than the Roman, this great Renaissance figure inevitably proceeds from that supremely Renaissance City for whose midsummer festival he suddenly sighed in the quiet French castle of his closing years, remembering her, doubtless, in the resentful Dantesque regret with which all her exiles remained loyal to Florence. He was not Milanese, nor Roman, nor French. He seemed indifferent to the destiny of his city as to other mortal circumstances; he even served her enemies, as if suavely unaware of her danger. But the great exemplar of "l'uomo universale" was a Florentine; and he allowed it.

There are magical names in the history of humanity--names that are like shaken lights or sudden chords of music. They are properly to be called magical because they make an indescribable stir in the mind and provoke excited responses, and awake the sense of wonder. They are not often the names of the good, for Aristides is not a magical name, though Saint Francis is; they are rarely the names of the wise, for Confucius is not, though Plato is. They are only sometimes the names of the mighty, for even Constantine is not, though Charlemagne is. They are the names of the beautiful, the strange, the kindred of the gods, of the people who pass easily into legend because we do not question them as to what they achieved while we ponder what they were. It does not much matter what they have done. What they have not done, what they might have done, has usually a rarer quality of rainbow- like radiance. They had enchanting and vibrating personality; and so, though their eyes and hands have long been blown dust in the windy . . .

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