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LEONARDO DA VINCI.
THE Virgin is seen seated in the lap of St. Anne, and bends forward to take the infant Jesus in her arms, who is playing with a lamb.
It is somewhat singular that Leonardo should have placed a female, of the age apparently of eighteen, upon the lap of her mother. This composition the artist has copied, and there is still existing a similar picture at Milan.
This picture formed a part of the old collection of paintings at the Louvre;-it is painted on wood, about five feet two inches high, and three feet ten inches broad.
This master was descended from a noble family, and born at the castle of Vinci, near Florence, in 1445. From the excellence of his genius, his proficiency was so rapid that he surpassed his instructor, Andrea Verocchio, in such an eminent degree, that it provoked him to quit the profession entirely. His talents were of the most comprehensive kind, and the virtues of his mind were only excelled by his understanding.
In the year 1494 he went to Milan, where he was most affectionately received by the Duke Ludovico Sforza, and the fondness which that prince afterwards expressed
for Leonardo, on account of his accomplishments in music, poetry, and architecture, encreased to a height that seemed scarcely credible. He was remarkably slow in finishing his pictures, but when he did finish them, they were exquisite. He spent four years on his celebrated portrait of Mona Lisa, wife of Francesco di Giocondo.
Leonardo possessed a very enlarged genius, a lively imagination, a beautiful invention, and a solid judgment. His design was extremely correct, his disposition judicious, and his expression natural. But his colouring is not agreeable, as the violet tint predominates to an extreme degree; it is, however, not improbable, that when his colours were first laid on, they had a very different appearance.
This extraordinary artist, in conjunction with Michael Angelo, was employed to paint the great hall of the Senate of Florence, and they made those Cartoons for their designs, which are still the admiration of mankind. From being competitors, they became rivals. Leonardo soon desisted from his work, and went to the court of Francis the First, king of France, in 1515, by whom he was treated with the greatest respect, and in whose arms he died in the year 1519.
Da Vinci had perhaps one of the greatest minds that the art of painting ever possessed. He was a mathematician, an engineer, a poet, and a philosopher; and wrote on his art with as much spirit and talent as he exercised
The following are the observations of M. Fuseli, on the powers of this great man:
"Leonardo da Vinci, made up of all the elements, without the preponderance of any one, gave universal hints, and wasted life insatiate in experiment: now on the wing after beauty, then grovelling on the ground after deformity; now looking full in the face of terror, then decking it with shards, and shells, and marks, equally attracted by character and caricature, by style and common nature. He has drawn rudiments of all, but like a steam lost in ramification, vanished without a trace.
"Want of perseverance alone could make him abandon his Cartoon of the celebrated group of horsemen, destined for the great council-chamber at Florence, without painting the picture. For to him, who could organize the limbs of that composition, Michael Angelo himself could be no object of fear. And that he was able to organize it, we may be certain, from the sketch that remains of it, however pitiful, in the Etruria Pittrice', lately published, but still more from the admirable print of Edelinck, after a drawing of Rubens, who was his great admirer, and has said much to impress us with the beauties of his last supper at Milan, which he abandoned likewise, without finishing the head of Christ, exhausted by a wild chace after models of the heads and hands of the apostles. Had he been alive to conceive the centre, the radii must have followed of course. Whether he considered that magic of light and shade which he possessed in an unparalleled degree in his smaller pictures, as an inferior principle in a work of such dignity, or as unable to
*Shells of Beetles. This requires some explanation: Leonardo was employed to paint a head of Medusa. A beautiful woman sat to him for the same. The adjuncts of horror he sought for in the fields, bringing home for them occasionally in his walks nettles, thorns, beetles, spiders, toads, adders, &c.
diffuse it over numerons groups, cannot now be determined; but he left his piece flat, and without that solemnity of twilight, which is more than an equivalent for those contracts of chiaro-scuro, that Giorgione is said to have learnt from him. The legend which makes Leonardo go to Rome with Juliano de Medici, at the election of Leo X. to accept employment in the Vatican, whether sufficiently authentic or not, furnishes a characteristic trait of the man. The pope passing through the room allotted for the pictures, and instead of designs and cartoons, finding nothing but an apparatus of distillery of oils and varnishes, exclaimed, “Ah me! he means to do nothing, for he thinks of the end before he has made a beginning." From a Sonnet of Leonardo, preserved by Lomazzo, he appears to have been sensible of the inconstancy of his countrymen, and full of wishes at least to correct it."