A Chronology of Leonardo Da Vinci's Architectural Studies after 1500

A Chronology of Leonardo Da Vinci's Architectural Studies after 1500

A Chronology of Leonardo Da Vinci's Architectural Studies after 1500

A Chronology of Leonardo Da Vinci's Architectural Studies after 1500


Chronology has been only recently developed as a branch of the study of Leonardo's manuscripts. Calvi's pioneering work on this topic dates from 1925, Clark's catalogue of Leonardo's drawings at Windsor from 1935, Brizio's anthology from 1952. I have already made an attempt of dating each folio of the Codex Atlanticus and of the Codex Arundel. I have also suggested dates to each chapter of the Treatise on Painting (see Bibliography).

The necessity of chronology is particularly felt in the study of Leonardo's notes and designs on architecture. Ms. B of ca. 1490 contains the greater amount of Leonardo's studies on the building of churches and fortifications. These studies are connected with Leonardo's work on the Cathedral of Milan and on the Sforza Castle. Other Leonardo manuscripts contain studies on architecture which are usually attributed to the time of Ms. B.

It is known that Leonardo's interest in architecture is not limited to a period before 1500. In 1500 Leonardo made a plan for a villa Gonzaga in Mantua. In 1502 he was in the service of Cesare Borgia as a military architect. In 1505-6 he was called in to advise on the restoration of the Church of S. Salvatore and on the construction of the campanile of S. Miniato in Florence. In 1506-7 he was in Milan in the service of Charles d'Amboise, the French governor, who commissioned him to design a palace. In 1517 Leonardo was in France as an architect of Francis I, planning a great palace at Romorantin.

With the exception of the latter projects no drawings of Leonardo have been connected with his activity as an architect after 1500. It is the aim of this book to retrace Leonardo's architectural projects from 1500 onwards.

These projects survive only in preliminary notes and sketches. Since they are not dated by themselves, they have to be dated by paleographic and stylistic criteria. Then it will be possible to interpret them on the basis of historical and biographical data. Finally an attempt can be made to define their importance in the context of the theory and practice of High Renaissance architecture.

Although only circumstantial evidence was available in most instances, it was possible to discover completely unknown phases of Leonardo's activity, for example that of 1513 when Leonardo was planning to enlarge the villa Melzi at Vaprio d'Adda, and that of 1515 when he was designing a new Medici palace in Florence.

The Leonardo drawings in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle are reproduced by gracious permission of H.M. the Queen Elizabeth II.

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