Leonardo Da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man

By Martin Kemp | Go to book overview

II
The Microcosm

Man is all symmetrie,
Full of proportions, one limbe to another,
And all to the world besides.
Each part may call the furthest, brother:
For head with foot hath private amitie,
And both with moons and tides.

(George Herbert, Man)

Why did Leonardo go to Milan and, more important, why did he stay? Early sources indicate that he was sent by Lorenzo de' Medici as an artistic emissary, accompanied by a sixteen-year-old musician and bearing a novel lute in the form of a horse's skull. The musician's name is given as Atalante Migliorotti, and Leonardo's inclusion of an 'Atalante who raises his face' among the works in his inventory at this time lends some credence to this otherwise undocumented story. Whatever his reasons for visiting Milan, he settled there presumably because he considered that it offered a better arena for his talents than the city in which he had been trained. The major reason probably lies within the nature of the patronage he could expect to receive in Milan, always bearing in mind that decisions to 'emigrate' are rarely occasioned by a single, definitive cause, but rather by a complex compound of present dissatisfactions and future expectations. Much has been made of his intellectual affinity with the climate of Aristotelian thought in Northern Italy and his antipathy to the rarefied philosophizing of Neoplatonic Florence, but these polarities are too crudely drawn. It is doubtful if any identifiable philosophical stance can be credited to the Milanese thinkers as a group – if a 'group' as such can be said to have existed at all – while Leonardo himself showed a more than passive sympathy with certain aspects of the Platonic philosophy which coloured intellectual life in the Medici circle. His motives were probably social and material.

In Florence, not even the Medici family as de facto rulers could be said to support an autocratic court on the scale of the tyrants of Italy, such as the Sforza of Milan, the Gonzaga of Mantua, the d'Este of Ferrara and the Aragonese rulers of Naples (or even the Pope himself). The Medici certainly provided

-71-

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Leonardo Da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Praise for Martin Kemp's Leonardo ii
  • Leonardo Da Vinci iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Plates vii
  • List of Colour Plates xii
  • List of Figures xiii
  • Preface to the 1981 Edition xvii
  • Preface to This Edition xx
  • Acknowledgements, 1981 and 2006 xxv
  • Abbreviations and References xxviii
  • I - 'Leonardo Da Firenze' 1
  • II - The Microcosm 71
  • III - The Exercise of Fantasia 137
  • IV - The Republic: New Battles and Old Problems 204
  • V - The Prime Mover 271
  • Bibliography 349
  • Index 367
  • Photographic Acknowledgements 382
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