Leonardo Da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man

By Martin Kemp | Go to book overview

V
The Prime Mover

If man's construction should appear to you to be of marvellous artifice,
remember that it is nothing compared to the soul which inhabits such
architecture, and truly, be it what it may, it is a divine thing (W.19001r).

While Leonardo had been working in Florence, the Milanese legal processes had been grinding their verbose way towards a settlement of the dispute concerning the Madonna of the Rocks. The route towards an agreement was opened by the arbitrators' report on 27 April 1506. And before the end of the next month the painter had arrived in Milan. Whether these two events were cause and effect, we have no way of knowing.

Charles d'Amboise, who was governing the city on Louis' behalf, was personally anxious to secure Leonardo's services for more than the three months the Florentine Signoria had authorized. Charles' request on 18 August for an extension to Leonardo's leave specifically mentioned a 'certain work which he has started', and in his reply of 16 December to Soderini's exasperated letter he referred to 'certain designs and architecture and other things pertaining to our situation' with which Leonardo was involved. The Governor added that Leonardo 'has provided satisfaction in such a manner that we do not only remain content with him but have unstinted admiration for him'. Whatever hopes the Signoria may have entertained of rapidly resecuring the painter's services on a permanent basis must have evaporated in January 1507 when Francesco Pandolfini, Florentine ambassador to Louis, reported the King as saying that he wanted 'certain small paintings of Our Lady and others, according to how my fancy [fantasia] takes me, and perhaps I will have him portray myself'. The King's desire for such paintings was occasioned by 'a small picture' which had arrived in France – surely the Madonna with the Yarnwinder, eventually delivered to his secretary, Robertet. It was Robertet who was responsible for writing Louis' letter of 14 January requiring that the Signoria should permit Leonardo to stay until he 'makes the work which we intend him to do'. During the summer of 1507 Louis visited Italy, primarily to suppress a rebellion at Genoa, and on 24 May he grandly entered Milan. Leonardo had probably returned from a visit to Florence during the spring in time to greet the King. By July Louis was referring

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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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