The record of performance in the Duke's service relates to the final clauses of the letter. We may instance his work on the statue, his design for the cupola of the Duomo, the sketches of the pavilion for the garden of the Duchess of Milan, the architectural studies for palaces and castles, the notes and sketches in reference to the fertilizing of the plain of the Lomellina by constructing water-courses, and the plans for rendering navigable the Martesana canal.
His talent as musician, as to which there is rare unanimity among the early biographers, finds no place in the letter. It was as musician, according to Vasari, that he made his first appearance in Milan, sent, according to the " Anonimo Fiorentino," by Lorenzo with a lute as a present to Ludovic. This may, as Dr. Richter suggests, be the very reason of his silence as to his musical pro-4 ficiency; for it needed no mention in a recital of talents by the exercise of which he hoped to be retained in Ludovic's service.
Plate 3. Study Of Landscape (Dated 1473)
Alinari photo - Uffizi Gallery, Florence
Leonardo in the draft of a letter to the Commissioners of Buildings at Piacenza1 speaks of himself as having been invited from Florence to make the equestrian statue of the Duke Francesco. Of all the offers of service which the letter to Ludovic contained this alone would seem to have found immediate acceptance.
The letter to Piacenza thus confirms the testimony of Sabba da Castiglione and the "Anonimo Fiorentino" as to the date at which he proceeded to Milan. But the commission given, it was some years before he did much towards carrying it to completion. There is no evidence of his presence in Milan between 1483 and 1487. It might seem not unnatural that these years, if spent in Milan, should be comparatively without record, for Leonardo, who always worked slowly, would have to win his position. But when references do occur they are such as to suggest that.his Florentine prestige attended him at the outset, and that he immediately stepped into the foremost place among the artists of Ludovic's court; cf. the statement of Bellincioni that Ludovic Da Fiorenza un Apelle ha qui condotto.
These four years constitute a rather perplexing hiatus in the history of Leonardo's life. According to the "Anonimo Fiorentino" he left Milan after his first visit there on Lorenzo's mission, and returned for a time to Florence.
1 C. A., 323 r. and v.
But there are absolutely no records of his presence in Florence between 1481 and 1495, nor anywhere in Italy between 1483 and 1487. May we fill the void in part by interpreting as records of actual experience the letters in the " Codice Atlantico "1 addressed to the Devatdar of Syria, the lieutenant of the Sultan of Egypt, the writer being, as he states, employed in the Sultan's service as engineer in Armenia? The letters contain somewhat exculpatory references to the performance of official duties, and a description of the regions of Mount Taurus and of the effects of an earthquake or landslip in those parts. Accompanying the text are drawings of rock formations and scenery, and there is also a sketch map of Armenia in which the classical instead of the mediaeval forms of names have been used.
For a detailed consideration of the letters and the varied interpretations of them, which range from their acceptance as fact to their treatment as a flight of fantasy, with the halfway house of considering them the record of the travels of another, I must refer to the works of Dr. Richter, Professor Uzielli, and the articles by Professor Govi and Mr. Douglas Freshfield. I am disposed to regard the letters as statements of fact, and to believe that Leonardo was in Syria in a capacity somewhat analogous to that in which he had offered his services to Ludovic Sforza, and did subsequently serve Caesar Borgia.
In 1487 he was established in Milan in the service of Ludovic. From this date down to the close of 1499 his presence there except for brief intervals is shown by records of his work. Sabba da Castiglione, by way of explaining how few of his paintings were to be seen at Milan besides the Last Supper, says that "when he ought to have worked at painting, in which he would without doubt have proved a new Apelles, he gave himself up entirely to Geometry, Architecture and Anatomy."1 But he was also general artificer to the Court. He appears as deus ex machina to perform whatever the occasion required.
1 C. A., 145 r. and v., 214 v.
He is described as Ludovic's architect in the record of the application made to him for a design for the cupola of the cathedral.2 Payments commencing in August, 1487, were made to him and to a wood-carver in his service by the Consiglio della Fabbrica del Duomo for the expenses of the construction of a model completed on the nth of January, 1488. Such of his drawings as are studies for it are classified by M. de Geymuller and Dr. Richter in treating of his work in architecture (Richter, ii.).
On the 10th of May, 1488, Leonardo obtained the return of his model on condition of restoring it if required. On the 17th he received money on account for the expenses of constructing a second model, but of this there is no record. The commission was finally awarded the Milanese architects, Omodei and Dolcebuono, in April, 1490.
In June of the same year Leonardo left Milan with Francesco di Giorgio to advise as to the construction of the cathedral at Pavia. They were the guests of the city, and their bill at the Locanda del Saracino, amounting to twenty lire, was paid on June 21st. Immediately afterwards Francesco di Giorgio returned to Milan.
1 "Ricordi" (1561), 115 v.
2 Calvi, "Notizie, etc." (1869), p. 18.
Leonardo remained in Pavia until the close of the year, returning in consequence of a letter sent by the Duke's secretary to all the Milanese artists in connection with the preparations for the marriage of Ludovic with Beatrice, and of Anne, sister of Gian Galeazzo, with Alfonso d'Este.