Leonardo da Vinci Biography: Milan, Florence, France

In the summer of 1506, Leonardo returned to Milan. In March, 1509, he made a visit to Florence, probably to take care of new litigations with his brothers. It is supposed that he returned to Milan by June, and superintended the splendid celebrations which took place there when Louis XII., King of France, returned from his victory over the Venetians, at Agnadello.

In common with the Milanese citizens, he now always spoke of Louis as "Our most Christian King." Caterina di San Celso was now the reigning beauty at Milan, famous for her songs, her dancing, and her fascinating face, which had conquered even King Louis himself. Frequent journeys now took place between Florence and Milan, while he continued his contest with the Da Vincis.

In March, 1510, he designed a wharf on the Great Canal, at Milan; and a few months later he wrote from Florence, telling of the progress of the lawsuit. However this contest in the courts may have terminated, Leonardo was afterwards reconciled with his brothers, and bequeathed to them his property at Florence.

The most familiar portrait of Leonardo is that which he made of himself, in the year 1512, showing a venerable old man, with long and flowing hair, thick gray beard, large and mobile black eyes, and an aquiline nose. This is the picture now in the Uffizi Gallery, from which so many engravings have been made.

In 1515 Francis I. took Milan and Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to make an automated lion for the ceremonies accompanying the peace talks with Pope Leo X. The Lion walked into the king's presence and opened his breast filled with French lilies.

From now on, he remained true to the French service, openly showed himself in the suite of Francis at Bologna on the meeting between that monarch and the Pope, and revenged himself for all supposed slights by caricaturing the papal courtiers.

In 1516 Leonardo da Vinci accepted the invitation of Francisc I. to settle in France, where he was to receive a salary and protection from the French king. Francisc I, a sincere admirer of genius, did that only to enjoy the pleasure of conversation with Leonardo, as he asked for no single work in return. He always highly admired Leonardo's artistic, scientific, and philosophical talents.

While in his new country, Leonardo devoted himself to scientific studies, and to the completion of works he already commenced for Francis I. In 1517, the artist received the visit of the Cardinal of Aragon, whose notes are an invaluable account of the master's last years. He notes that Leonardo had his right hand crippled by paralysis. The great artist could still draw and instruct others, and was helped and accompanied everywhere by his pupil, Francesco Melzi, who, as the cardinal mentions, has extensively studied and written on anatomy.

The paralysis prevented Leonardo from using his brush, and must ultimately contributed to his death. When he felt that the end was close, he called the notary and ordained that his body should be buried in the Church of Saint Florentin at Amboise. His most precious possessions, among them the invaluable manuscripts, he bequeathed to Francesco Melzi, in recognition of the services which he had rendered him.

Leonardo da Vinci died at the Château of Cloux (now Clos-Lucé), at Amboise, in 1519. The world will probably never see another artist of his stature and of such polyvalence.

Leonardo da Vinci Biography

Leonardo da Vinci in Milan

Leonardo da Vinci in Florence and Urbino

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