Page:Hind - Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, 1907.djvu/15

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
THE DRAWINGS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI
 

man had come into the world who had attained so great a knowledge as Leonardo." Everybody knows Pater's luminously imaginative essay on Leonardo, and scientific criticism has said perhaps the last word upon his achievement in Mr. McCurdy's recent volume, and in Mr. Herbert P. Home's edition of Vasari's "Life." As to the drawings, Mr. Bernhard Berenson, in his costly work on "The Drawings of the Florentine Masters," has included a catalogue raisonné, has scattered lovely reproductions through the pages, and placed his favourites on the pinnacle of his appreciation. In the manuscripts, with their wealth of sketches in the text, one realises the tremendous sweep of Leonardo's mental activity. Some are still unpublished, but the Italian Government promise a complete edition of the MSS. at an early date. His "Treatise on Painting" is easily accessible in Dr. Richter's "Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci" —that wonderful treatise which begins: "The young student should, in the first place, acquire a knowledge of perspective, to enable him to give every object its proper dimensions: after which, it is requisite that he be under the care of an able master, to accustom him, by degrees, to a good style of drawing the parts. Next, he should study Nature, in order to confirm and fix in his mind the reason of those precepts which he has learnt. He must also bestow some time in viewing the works of various old masters, to form his eye and judgment, in order that he may be able to put in practice all that he has been taught." Chapter ccxxx. in the section on "Colours" is entitled "How to paint a Picture that will Last Almost for Ever." In view of the present condition of The Last Supper at Milan, fading from sight, Leonardo was wise to insert the word "almost." He is constantly giving the reader surprises, and not the least of them is the series of "Fables" from his pen, included in Dr. Richter's edition of his literary works.

One authentic portrait of Leonardo by his own hand exists—the red chalk drawing in the library at Turin. Dating from the last years of his life, it shows the face of a seer, moulded by incessant thought into firm, strongly marked lines. The eyes lurk deep beneath shaggy brows, the hair and beard are long and straggling it is the face of a man who has peered into hidden things and who has pondered deeply over what he discerned. The beard is no longer "curled and well kept," in the words of a contemporary document, wherein he is described as "of a fine person, well proportioned, full of grace and of a beautiful aspect, wearing a rose-coloured tunic, short to the knee, although long garments were then in use."

Mr. Berenson has suggested that the youth in armour, who alone