The interruption was only temporary; Leonardo was in the service of the Signoria preparing to execute the picture, when, in May, 1506, de Chaumont, who was governor of Milan for the French, sent a request that the artist should go there to do a certain work for him. The Signoria granted him three months' leave of absence from the end of May, he giving surety in 150 florins for his return. However, shortly before the expiration of the term, both de Chaumont and the Vice-Chancellor Jafredo Caroli wrote to the Signoria asking for the extension of Leonardo's leave of absence until at any rate the end of September.1 The Signoria, not venturing to offend the ministers of Louis XII., acceded to their request in a letter of August 28th,2 resentment accounting perhaps for a statement in it which their own records show to be incorrect, viz., that if Leonardo wishes to remain away for a still longer time, he can do so if he return the money paid him for the work which he has not commenced. On the 9th of October,3 in response apparently to another application, Piero Soderini wrote urging that a date be fixed, and that there be no more requests for extension " for Leonardo has not behaved properly to the Republic, having received a considerable sum of money and made but a small beginning to a great work which he is under contract to do."
1 Gaye, vol. ii., XXXII. and XXXIII.
2 Vasari, edit. Milanesi.
3 Gave, ii., XXXIV.
However, in the following January, in response to letters1 from the French King and the Florentine ambassador, Francesco Pandolfini, the Signoria acceded to the King's wish to allow Leonardo to remain in Milan until he came to Italy; and even expressed their pleasure that Leonardo should do the will of the King. The King's desire, says Pandolfini, in his letter, has been awakened by the sight of a small picture by him; and the works which he wished to obtain from the artist were " certain small panel pictures of the Madonna, and others as the mood shall take me, and perhaps my portrait."
What pictures he painted either for de Chaumont or for Louis have disappeared without record; but the King entered Milan on the 24th of May, and Leonardo remained there until September, when private affairs necessitated his presence in Florence.
His father, Ser Piero da Vinci, had died, as he records in a note in the manuscripts, on July 9th, 1504, apparently intestate, and the seven legitimate sons had divided the inheritance. Since then his uncle, Francesco, had died leaving him by his will a share in his estate. His brothers attempted to set aside the will. Leonardo, therefore, returned to Florence in September to have the case tried. His coming was preceded by letters2 from Louis XII. and de Chaumont to the Signoria, urging them to see that the lawsuit was settled with all possible despatch and fairness. The King's letter, which was dated July 25th, speaks of " nostre chier et bien ame Leonard da Vincy, nostre painctre et ingenieur ordinaire." That of de Chaumont of August 15th refers to him as painter to the Most Christian King, and says with what reluctance they are allowing him to depart, for he is under contract to paint a picture for His Majesty.
1 Gaye, ii., XXXIX. and XL.
2 Uzielli (1872), Doc. XIV. and XVI.
After arriving in Florence Leonardo wrote, on September 18th, to Cardinal Ippolito d'Este, to entreat him to exercise his influence with one of the members of the Signoria, before whom the case was being tried, so that he might receive justice, and that as speedily as possible.1
Autres temps,autres mceurs-but the law's delays at any rate afford a thread of continuity. The case lasted six months. In a letter written to de Chaumont,at some time in the following spring, he says:2 "I am almost at the end of the litigation with my brothers, and I hope to be with you at Easter, and to bring with me two pictures of the Madonna, differing in size. They were made either for the Most Christian King or for whomsoever else your Lordship pleases." He would be glad also to know where he is to reside, and whether, as he has been working for the Most Christian King, his salary is to continue or no.
He did not resume work in the Sala del Consiglio. He had passed into the service of the King of France and his ministers, and the Battle of Anghiari remained a fragment.
The resentment revealed in the letters of the Signoria was not unnatural. It may at any rate be urged in extenuation that Leonardo's position was one of extreme difficulty. The propitiation of the French was the first political principle of the Signoria. They were at the same time desirous of obtaining the consideration which would accrue from freely placing Leonardo's services at the King's disposal, and indignant because he was thus perforce absent from the work in Florence. To the charge of bad faith Leonardo's reply was to induce friends to offer to restore to the Signoria all the money he had received.
1 R., 1348
2 C. A., 317 r., R., 1349.
He postulated in the " Trattato " for the artist a life quiet, uneventful, passed in his studio. His own had become a shuttlecock, driven by the capricious wind of political fortune. To its urgency was due in great measure the fact that his last great commission was abandoned in mid-effort.
Of the fate of the Cartoon nothing is known beyond a statement by the "Anonimo Fiorentino " that when Leonardo went to France, in the service of Francis I., i.e. in 1516, he left the greater part of it in charge of the Hospital of S. Maria Nuova.
The painting in the Sala del Consiglio is mentioned in 1510 in Albertini, " Memoriale ": " li cavalli di Leonardo Vinci, et li disegni di Michelangelo."
There is a record of money paid on April 13th, 1513, to a carpenter for putting boards " to protect the figures painted by Leonardo da Vinci in the Great Hall." 1
The "Anonimo Fiorentino," writing between 1542 and 1548, spoke of the group of horses as " to-day visible in execution." Mr. H. P. Home quotes from a letter by Anton Francesco Doni, dated August 17th, 1549,2 enumerating to a friend, among the sights of Florence, in the Sala Grande, " a group of horses and men (a portion of the battle of Leonardo da Vinci) that will appear a miraculous thing to you."
1 Vasari, edit. Milanesi.
2 Bottari, G., "Raccolta di Lettere sulla Pittura," etc., 1754, vol. iii., p. 234.