PAINTING IN ITALY, FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE RENAISSANCE TO THE PRESENT CENTURY.

Fig 37 Fig. 37.—Mona Lisa.—
“La Belle Joconde.

When Francis returned to France he desired to cut out the wall on which the Last Supper was painted, and carry it to his own country: this proved to be impossible, and it is much to be regretted, as it is probable that if it could have been thus removed it would have been better preserved. However, not being able to take the artist’s great work, the king took Leonardo himself, together with his favorite pupils and friends and his devoted servant. In France, Leonardo was treated with consideration. He resided near Amboise, where he could mingle with the court. It is said that, old though he was, he was so much admired that the courtiers imitated his dress and the cut of his beard and hair. He was given the charge of all artistic matters in France, and doubtless Francis hoped that he would found an Academy as he had done at Milan. But he seems to have left all his energy, all desire for work, on the Italian side of the Alps. He made a few plans; but he brought no great thing to pass, and soon his health failed, and he fell into a decline. He gave great attention to religious matters, received the sacrament, and then made his will, and put his worldly affairs in order.

The king was accustomed to visit him frequently, and on the last day of his life, when the sovereign entered the room, Leonardo desired to be raised up as a matter of respect to the king: sitting, he conversed of his sufferings, and lamented that he had done so little for God and man. Just then he was seized with an attack of pain—the king rose to support him, and thus, in the arms of Francis, the great master breathed his last. This has sometimes been doubted; but the modern French critics agree with the ancient writers who give this account of his end.

He was buried in the Church of St. Florentin at Amboise, and it is not known that any monument was erected over him. In 1808 the church was destroyed; in 1863 Arsine Houssaye, with others, made a search for the grave of Leonardo, and it is believed that his remains were found. In 1873 a noble monument was erected in Milan to the memory of Da Vinci. It is near the entrance to the Arcade of Victor Emmanuel: the statue of the master stands on a high pedestal in a thoughtful attitude, the head bowed down and the arms crossed on the breast. Below are other statues and rich bas-reliefs, and one inscription speaks of him as the “Renewer of the Arts and Sciences.”

Many of his writings are in the libraries of Europe in manuscript form: his best known work is the “Trattato della Pittura,” and has been translated into English. As an engineer his canal of Mortesana was enough to give him fame; as an artist he may be called the “Poet of Painters,” and, if those who followed him surpassed him, it should be remembered that it is easier to advance in a path once opened than to discover a new path. Personally he was much beloved, and, though he lived when morals were at a low estimate, he led a proper and reputable life. His pictures were pure in their spirit, and he seemed only to desire the progress of art and science, and it is a pleasure to read and learn of him, as it is to see his works.

Other good artists of the Lombard school in the fifteenth century were Bernardino Luini (about 1460-1530), who was the best pupil of Leonardo, Giovanni Antonio Beltraffio (1467-1516), Gaudenzio Farrari(1484-1549), Ambrogio Borgognone (works dated about 1500), and Andrea Solario, whose age is not known.

We return now to the Florentine school at a time when the most remarkable period of its existence was about to begin. We shall speak first of Fra Bartolommeo or Baccio della Porta, also called Il Frate(1469-1517). He was born at Savignano, and studied at Florence under Cosimo Rosselli, but was much influenced by the works of Leonardo da Vinci. This painter became famous for the beauty of his pictures of the Madonna, and at the time when the great Savonarola went to Florence Bartolommeo was employed in the Convent of San Marco, where the preacher lived. The artist became the devoted friend of the preacher, and, when the latter was seized, tortured, and burned, Bartolommeo became a friar, and left his pictures to be finished by his pupil Albertinelli. For four years he lived the most austere life, and did not touch his brush: then his superior commanded him to resume his art; but the painter had no interest in it. About this time Raphael sought him out, and became his friend; he also instructed the monk in perspective, and in turn Raphael learned from him, for Fra Bartolommeo was the first artist who used lay figures in arranging his draperies; he also told Raphael some secrets of colors.