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Even knowing that his birthright situation was then a common occurrence, Leonardo had a hard time accepting this humiliating heritage. It was 1467 and Leonardo had just turned fifteen. His birth father immediately arranged for him to relocate, and placed Leonardo to work as an apprentice with a local, well known, Master painter. This was the final blow to Leonardo’s ego. Father and son hardly ever saw each other afterwards.
LEONARDO THE LAST YEARS Leonardo da Vinci The Early Years by Ton PascalIt was 1467 and Leonardo hadjust turned fifteen. For the pastsix years Leonardo had beenliving with his grandfather, inFlorence. His birth father hadremarried for the second timebut still refused to legitimateLeonardo. Even knowing thathis birthright situation was thena common occurrence,Leonardo had a hard timeaccepting this humiliatingheritage.He had grown into a wellmannered, and very handsome young man. His birth father immediately arranged forhim to relocate, and placed Leonardo to work as an apprentice with a local, wellknown, Master painter. On that fatidic day Leonardo became an Artisan. Theprevailing Italian law had sealed his future; an illegitimate child had no socialrights. With no right to a family name, from now on he must sign simply, Leonardo,and he could add, from (da) Vinci, the town he was born. He would never go touniversity, have the right to own property in any Italian domain, or like his birth father,hold a public office. This was the final blow to Leonardo’s ego. Father and son hardlyever saw each other afterwards.The young Leonardo, in the prime of his youth, entered the busy atelier of Andreasdel Verrocchio. Verrocchio was an architect, sculptor, goldsmith and painter who rana large and successful workshop in Florence. Painters, apprentices, and servants,they all worked and lived, cramped up, in the same property. But, what a great time itwas for the young Leonardo. His life had taken a three hundred and sixty degreesturnaround. It was like a blessing in disguise. Verrocchio’s huge atelier was full of eccentric, boisterous, gay, and amusing people. The majority were openly homosexuals, including his new mentor and Master. Here Leonardo found the family he had always dreamed about. Leonardo suddenly found himself free to pursue new experiences. Free to discover and explore his blossoming sexuality. TPD Inc. 103 Avenue Rd. Suite 810, Toronto, ON, M5R 2G9 Canada. Web site: www.leonardo‐tly.com email: tonpascal@leonardo‐tly.com 1
LEONARDO THE LAST YEARS Late 1469, the young and flamboyant Francesco Botticini, who also worked in theatelier, got an especial commission to do a painting of the legend of “Tobias and TheThree Archangels”. He asked Leonardo to be the model for the angel Saint Michael.(Leonardo is the one on the far left.) Botticini finished the painting the following year,and by then everybody wanted the handsome, young Leonardo, to be their model.Even his Master had decided to use Leonardo ashis model. Verrocchio had accepted acommission from Lorenzo de Medici for asculpture of the bible’s hero “The Young Davidand Goliath.” This is without doubt Verrocchio’smost beautiful and better known sculpture. Thebiggest innovations introduced in this 125 cm tallbronze sculpture were the replacement of thetraditional ‘sling shot’ by a sword, and havingGoliath’s decapitated head at David’s feet. Whenthe piece was finished and delivered in 1473,every artist in Florence, or visiting, copied thisnew pose and attitude of the biblical hero.This was the ‘Golden Age’ of Florence, under theMedici’s rule.In 1474 Verrocchio got a commission from theChurch of San Savi to do a painting of “TheBaptism of Christ.”The commission specified that the images for thisaltar piece should follow the events exactly asrecorded in the Gospels of Mathew, Mark, Lukeand John: Jesus came to the Jordan Riverwhere John baptized him. The eventconcluded with heavens opening, and a dove-like descent of the Holy Spirit. Verrocchio had decided to do this commission in oil paint, a technique only used until then in Italy, for durable item like parade shields, or accessories. There was so much work going on at Verrocchio’s atelier that quite often several painters worked on one painting at the same time. In order to have it delivered on time, the above commission was no exception. Verrocchio did the essential parts of the main characters and other painters finished the details. Leonardo was entrusted to do the angel kneeling on the left side. TPD Inc. 103 Avenue Rd. Suite 810, Toronto, ON, M5R 2G9 Canada. Web site: www.leonardo‐tly.com email: tonpascal@leonardo‐tly.com 2
LEONARDO THE LAST YEARS At that time Leonardo was also working on another of Verrocchio’s painting using thesame oil technique, “The Annunciation.”Verrocchio had informed his assistants that the commission for this “Annunciation”, from the monastery of San Bartolomeo, required a symbolic, biblical account of the event, but with an Italian connotation, which of course would please the Medici family. Verrocchio cleverly rose up to theoccasion. He conceived the angel holding a Madonna lily, a symbol of Marys virginityand of the city of Florence. For the marble desk in front of Mary, he used the samedesign of the tomb of Piero and Giovanni de Medici in the Basilica of San Lorenzo,which Verrocchio had just finished sculpting. Verrocchio instructed Leonardo tocomplete all the background of the painting and the angel. On this artwork Verrocchioused lead-based paint and heavy brush strokes, while Leonardo used light brushstrokes and no lead. For the angel, he copied the wings from those of a bird in flight.The city in the background was Leonardo’s first approach of his new, signaturepainting technique ‘sfumato’. There are no harsh outlines. Minuscule brushstrokesblends the areas into one another with a hazy but realistic rendition of light and color.Leonardo developed his technique, “sfumato”, to utmost perfection and he used itbrilliantly on “Mona Lisa”, but that is another story…Author’s note: Once, when the Annunciation was x-rayed, Verrocchios work was evident whileLeonardos angel and background were invisible.Next chapter: “Leda And The Swan.”Pictures credit. From top to bottom:First: Florence in the 1460’s with the 13th century Palazzo della Signoria, later known as PalazzoVecchio on the far right. “The Hanging and Burning of Girolamo Savonarola, 1498”. Anonymouspainter, ca 1498. Museum of San Marco, Florence.Second: “Tobias and The Three Archangels” by Francesco Botticini. 135 x 154 cm, ca 1470, UffiziGallery, Florence.Third: “Young David and Goliath”, bronze sculpture by Andreas del Verrocchio. 125 cm, ca 1475.Uffizi Gallery, Florence.Fourth: “The Baptism of Christ” by Andreas del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci. 177 x 151 cm, oilon wood, ca 1470. Uffizi Gallery, Florence. TPD Inc. 103 Avenue Rd. Suite 810, Toronto, ON, M5R 2G9 Canada. Web site: www.leonardo‐tly.com email: tonpascal@leonardo‐tly.com 3
LEONARDO THE LAST YEARS Fifth: “The Annunciation” by Andreas del Verrocchio and Leonardo da Vinci. 99 x 217, oil andtempera on wood panel, ca 1473. Uffizi Gallery, Florence..Ton Pascal is a writer, designer of all things and artist. He also loves history and is anavid reader, so it is very natural that his latest book is a time leap into the 16thcentury. LEONARDO THE LAST YEARS starts in 1516 and spans three and a halfyears of Leonardo da Vinci’s life.Book’s Web site: http://www.leonardo-tly.com/Book on Amazon.com http://amzn.to/HhNUKN TPD Inc. 103 Avenue Rd. Suite 810, Toronto, ON, M5R 2G9 Canada. Web site: www.leonardo‐tly.com email: tonpascal@leonardo‐tly.com 4