FRANCESCO MELZI AND THE CODEX URBINAS

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CHAPTER 3 – Dispersal, loss and recovery of manuscript

After Leonardo’s death, Francesco Melzi compiled a Treatise of Painting which must have been an enormous task because of the number of manuscripts in their disordered state, all in mirror script. A more disastrous problem occurred after Francesco Melzi’s death, which was the dispersal of the manuscripts before complete copies of them were made.
Francesco Melzi died in 1568, and all Leonardo’s manuscripts were inherited by his son and heir Orazio Melzi who seems to have had little interest in them, and no idea of their value. A tutor to the Melzi family at Vaprio d’Adda, Lelio Gavardi d’Asola, noticed that these manuscripts were left in the attic and he stole thirteen of them. This was at some point between 1585 and 1587, and his intention was to sell them to Francesco I the Grand Duke of Tuscany1 in Florence. His plan failed because of the Grand Duke’s death in October 1587. Lelio Gavardi then met another student in Pisa called Giovan Ambrogio Mazenta (Pedretti 1965b:252)2 who challenged him about taking the manuscripts. It was Mazenta who returned them to Orazio Melzi. Orazio claimed he had many more in his attic and let Mazenta keep them. That was when the manuscripts began to disperse (Mazenta 1635:23-4).

POMPEO LEONI

Pompeo Leoni,3 a sculptor working for the King of Spain, returned to Italy in 1582 and heard about the dispersal of Leonardo’s manuscripts probably early in 1588. Sometime between then and 1590 he approached Orazio Melzi for any original manuscripts by Leonardo that he still had. He wished to offer them to the King of Spain, and extended an inducement to Orazio that he could arrange a seat for him in the Senate of Milan which was under Spanish control at the time (Mazenta 1635:24). It is improbable that Pompeo could have arranged that even with his royal connections, but it was a strong inducement for Orazio. By now most of the manuscripts must have dispersed because Orazio approached Mazenta, who still had the thirteen manuscripts stolen by Lelio Gavardi, and asked for their return. Mazenta returned only seven plus some loose sheets which Orazio Melzi handed over to Pompeo Leoni (Mazenta 1635:24). Mazenta kept the other six, and in the year 1600 he gave what is now known as Manuscript C to Cardinal Federico Borromeo. This has survived and is a manuscript on light and shade. Mazenta also gave a manuscript to the Duke Carlo Emmanuele of Savoy4 which has not survived. It is possible that it burnt in one of the fires in his library in 1667 or 1679. He gave another manuscript to the painter Ambrogio Figino,5 which then passed from Figino to Cardinal Borromeo’s agent Ercole Bianchi (Mazenta 1635:24),6 and he in turn sold it to Consul Joseph Smith7 in Venice. Why he sold it to Consul Smith, and not to Cardinal Borromeo is a mystery. Perhaps Consul Smith simply offered more for it. That manuscript is also lost.
Joseph Smith was a great collector and one of the biggest buyers of the Sagredo collection8 (Oxford 2010). Zaccaria Sagredo’s collection had been inherited by his heirs, and was sold after the death of his nephew Gherardo in 1738. In due course Joseph Smith’s collection was bought by King George III in 1762 for 10 000 pounds, and it forms an important part of the Royal Collection of Drawings at Windsor and the King’s Library at the British Museum.
The remaining three manuscripts eventually ended up in Pompeo Leoni’s hands (Lomazzo 1974:17),9 and he may in the meantime have acquired more from Giovan Ambrogio Mazenta or his brother Guido.
Leoni divided his loose notes into two halves, one roughly on technology, the other on anatomy and artistic studies. The former became the Codex Atlanticus (UL 2013:Codex Atlanticus), so called because of its size, and it is now in the Ambrosian Library in Milan; the latter were the manuscripts that finally ended up in the Royal Collection at Windsor, of which about one third are the Anatomical Manuscripts.
It is astonishing that Pompeo Leoni managed to collect so many of Leonardo’s manuscripts. Of those that have survived, he appears to have owned the following (Pedretti 1965b:256-257):
Manuscripts A,B,D,E,F,G,H,I, L,and M.
Manuscript on the Flight of Birds.
Codex Trivulzianus.
Codex Atlanticus.
Windsor Manuscripts.
Codex Arundel.
Codex Madrid I and II,
and possibly the Forster Codices.
Further detail about the dispersal of Leonardo’s manuscripts at this stage is hazy.
There are gaps in their provenance and more seem to have been lost.

AMBROSIAN LIBRARY – THE ARCONATI DONATION

Pompeo Leoni died in 1610 which led to further dispersal of the manuscripts. He left his collection to Polidoro Calchi, the husband of his daughter Vittoria (Mazenta 1635:25). Calchi offered a portion of the collection to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Cosimo II10 in 1614. What he offered was the Codex Atlanticus and fifteen manuscripts, but Cosimo declined the offer. Sometime later Polidoro Calchi died and his son Francesco Maria inherited the manuscripts. In 1622 Francesco Maria Calchi sold this collection to Count Galeazzo Arconati for 300 crowns.11 Count Arconati held it for about five years and then generously gave the collection to the Ambrosian Library in 1637, and it is now known as the Arconati Donation.12
In 1603 the famous Cardinal Federico Borromeo13 had founded the Ambrosian Library in Milan, and it became the first public library in Italy, and second in Europe only to the Bodleian at Oxford (Burton 1937:254). It was intended to be an Art and Science Academy, a Library and a Museum, and was described in 1869 as follows (Dalton 1869:472): “Cardinal Federigo Borromeo founded the Ambrosian College, and appointed sixteen doctors to teach all the fine arts and sciences gratuitously: to this noble establishment he joined the Ambrosian Library, and opened it to the public under the title of ‘Bibliotheca Ambrosiana’. It is said to contain more than 40,000 volumes and 15,000 Manuscripts”.14
In 1609 Cardinal Borromeo had deposited Leonardo’s Manuscript C there, the Treatise of Light and Shade, which he had received from Ambrogio Mazenta in 1600. The Ambrosian then acquired an abridged copy of the Codex Urbinas from the library of G.V.Pinelli,15 which is known as the Codex Pinellianus (Pedretti 1965b:4).
The Arconati donation then greatly enriched the Ambrosian (NQ 1869:472). This donation and other acquisitions enabled the Ambrosian Library in Milan to become the home of an astonishing collection of Vinciana. Count Galeazzo Arconati’s donation was to include the Codex Atlanticus, Codex Trivulzianus16 and the Manuscripts A,B,E,F,G,H,I,L and M. The arrangement was that these would remain with Arconati until his death. When the donation was eventually given effect, it was found that the Codex Trivulzianus had been replaced with Manuscript D, and there was a discrepancy between the earlier offer to Cosimo and the Arconati donation – a difference of three manuscripts which Arconati evidently retained. Why this occurred has never been explained, and what happened to the three manuscripts is unknown. They are simply lost.
In 1674 the Ambrosian enlarged its collection further with Manuscript K which it acquired from Count Orazio Archinti, and its provenance is unknown. It is astonishing that so many of the extant manuscripts (Appendix 4) ended up in the Ambrosian through the Arconati donation, and also astonishing that Pompeo Leoni had managed to collect so many of them. Without his efforts many more would have been lost.
The manuscripts in the Ambrosian were only a portion of Pompeo Leoni’s collection. Another of Pompeo Leoni’s manuscripts that ended up in Milan, but not in the Ambrosian, is the Codex Trivulzianus (UL 2013:Codex Trivulzianus), mentioned above. This is possibly Leonardo’s earliest manuscript along with Manuscript B and part of Anatomy B. It was written in the last years of the 1480’s when Leonardo was about 35 and contains notes on military and religious architecture and on his efforts to improve his education and language skills. After it was exchanged with Manuscript D when the Arconati donation took effect at the end of 1648, it disappeared for a bit. It then turned up in the hands of Gaetano Caccia from Novara who gave it to Carlo Trivulzio17 in 1750. Carlo Trivulzio recorded at the time that he had exchanged the manuscript for a silver watch which had cost him sixteen guilders.18 The manuscript became part of the municipal collections of Milan in 1935 and is now in the Biblioteca Trivulziana in the Museums of Castello Sforzesco.

THE MANUSCRIPTS THAT WENT TO FRANCE

The Ambrosian collection was later to suffer a sudden devastating reversal (Turner 1992:92). In 1796 Napoleon entered Milan,
and on the amazing pretext that “All men of genius, all who have attained a distinguished rank in the republic of letters are French, whatever the country that gave them birth”,19 he transferred the Ambrosian collection of Vinciana to France. The Codex Atlanticus Figure 15. Codex Atlanticus 30v
Nationale in Paris, and the rest of Leonardo’s manuscripts in the Ambrosian went to the Institut de France. Some recompense was made in 1815 when the Codex Atlanticus was returned to the Ambrosian,20 but the other twelve manuscripts, A to M, remained in the Institut de France in Paris.
Some years later, the manuscripts in Paris suffered further loss and damage when Count Libri despoiled them. This is dealt with in Chapter 5, which includes details of how the Codex on the flight of birds was separated from Manuscript B, sold, recovered and then entered the Royal Library in Turin.
The rest of Pompeo Leoni’s manuscripts dispersed widely, some went to England, another to Turin, but two stayed in Madrid.

THE ‘LOST’ MADRID CODICES IN SPAIN

Codex Madrid I (figure 16) and Codex Madrid II are the two Codices from Pompeo Leoni’s collection that remained in Spain, and are in the Biblioteca Nacional (UL 2013: Codex Madrid). These two volumes originally went to Spain in about 1590 with Pompeo Leoni who offered them to King Philip II. The King declined to buy them and they were inherited by Polidoro Calchi, Pompeo Leoni’s heir, with the rest of his collection in 1610.
They were then mentioned in an interesting reference by Vicente Carducho,21 court painter to Philip III of Spain, who wrote, “I saw there, in Juan de Espina’s home, two books drawn and written by the hand of the great Leonardo da Vinci, of great learning and curiosity, which he would at no price sell to the Prince of Wales,22 who was at the court” (Carducho 1633:193).23 What Carducho saw were probably the Madrid Codices. How they came into the hands of Juan de Espina,24 the famous collector, is a mystery. Nevertheless he left them to King Philip IV of Spain on his death in 1642.
These two volumes were in the Royal Library of Spain until about 1830 when King Philip V transferred them to the Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid when the Royal Library was merged with the National Library. They were known to have actually entered the National Library, but on their reception in the library a cataloguing mistake occurred before the books were placed in their correct positions on the shelves (Reti 1968 v.3:11) Thereafter the incorrect catalogue reference was used, and as a result the volumes could not be found and were considered lost. Scholars realized the two Madrid codices should be somewhere in the Biblioteca Nacional of Madrid as they were registered there in an inventory prepared by the chief librarian, Antonio Gonzalez, in 1830. The catalogue entry again appeared in 1863 in the appendix to the book Ensayo De Una Biblioteca Española De Libros Raros Y Curiosos by Bartolome’ José Gallardo25 who quoted it as ‘Leonardo da Vinci, tractados de fortificacion, meccanica y geometria escritas al reve’s y en los anos 1491 y 1493, 2 vols. Aa.19.20.’ (Reti 1968 v.3:11).
In 1898 Professor E. de Marinis of Florence checked those references, and found two different volumes in their catalogued places, being the De Remediis Utriusque Fortunae of Petrarch, and glosses from the Digest of Justinian. It was assumed that these had been exchanged for the Leonardo volumes that were now somehow stolen or lost. Subsequent searches revealed nothing, although one wonders how thorough the searches could have been. Whoever placed them on the shelves in about 1830 must have followed some sort of shelving system which was not followed in the searches (Reti 1968 v.3:11-12).
There are two versions of what happened next. The first is that André Corbeau, a French scholar, raised the possibility of a cataloguing error in 1964, and the Director of manuscripts started another search. The two manuscripts were found but their discovery was kept very low key and only became generally known about in 1967.
Another version claims that in 1965, Dr Jules Piccus,26 an expert in early Spanish literature, was looking for mediaeval ballads or cancioneros and accidently re-discovered the two Madrid Codices on the shelf where they had been for 135 years.27
Perhaps both versions took place, and Jules Piccus discovered the volumes when the Director of manuscripts was still dithering about announcing that they had been found – when they had never really been lost, just miscatalogued and mislaid.

READ  THE FUNCTION OF THE SCAPULA STABILISERS

THE MANUSCRIPTS THAT WENT TO ENGLAND

Important manuscripts in Pompeo Leoni’s collection that dispersed to England are the drawings in the Royal Collection, the Codex Arundel in the British Library, and the Codices Forster in the V&A (assuming they were in Pompeo Leoni’s collection).
The provenance of the Royal Collection is not clear but it is known that some folios had come from Pompeo Leoni’s collection, because one of them has a note on it which reads “Disegni di Leonardo da Vinci Restaurati da Pompeo Leoni” (Keele & Pedretti 1979:Intro). After his death, they passed into the hands of Don Juan de Espina, and they seem to have been sold later to the collector Thomas Howard Earl of Arundel,28 and brought to England between 1625 and 1630. They are known to have been part of Lord Arundel’s collection as three were copied and engraved by Wenceslaus Hollar29 when they were still in the Arundel collection, and they bear the inscription ‘Ex collectione Arundeliana’. Hollar worked for Lord Arundel from 1636 to 1641. The drawings were in Lord Arundel’s collection when he died in 1646, and they subsequently entered the Royal Collection though not all at the same time, but probably by 1690. There are several pieces of evidence for this below.
Constantine Huygens, a secretary to William III,30 noted in his diary on the 1st September 1690 that he was shown a book of Leonardo’s drawings by Queen Mary (Kurz 1936:135). There is an earlier reference suggesting that King Charles I of England had obtained some manuscripts of Leonardo. How he acquired them is unknown, but it goes back to about 1639 (Richter 1937:139-140) (Uzielli 1884:351). This earliest reference is intriguing in that it appears in three sources; in the Manuscript Ganay (MsGan:115v), in Manuscript H 227 Inf., and in Manuscript H 229 Inf. (MsH229:18).
Another reference was an inventory of Leonardo’s drawings in the Royal Collection which was compiled after 1737 which established that by 1760 almost all the present inventory was in the Royal collection.
A further reference is a note that Jean Paul Richter31 found in the British Museum which states that some drawings of Leonardo da Vinci were delivered for Her Majesty’s use in the year 1728, without any other details. He also found a note at Windsor from the early 1800’s claiming that one of the Leonardo drawings had been bought in Venice from the Bonfiglioli collection.32 This collection had been transferred to Venice from Bologna when Zaccaria Sagredo bought it for 3000 sequins or zecchini.33
The Codex Arundel (UL 2013:Codex Arundel) also ended up in England. This manuscript was bought in Spain in 1636 by the avid collector Thomas Howard Lord Arundel after the death of Pompeo Leoni. Thomas Howard’s grandson Henry Howard34 inherited it, and John Evelyn35 the diarist persuaded him to present it to the Royal Society in 1667, and the British Museum bought it from the Royal Society in 1834. It is now in the British Library.36
The other manuscripts that went to England are the Codices Forster (UL 2013: Codices Forster). Their early provenance is unknown and it is assumed that they were part of Pompeo Leoni’s collection (figure 18). They were bought by Lord Lytton37 in Vienna sometime before 1863, and how they got there is a mystery. He gave them to John Forster38 in the 1860s, who in turn bequeathed them to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London on his death in 1876.

OTHER MANUSCRIPTS

One of Leonardo’s manuscripts that was never owned by Pompeo Leoni is the Codex Leicester (UL 2013:Codex Leicester), and its movement from one owner to the next took it from Italy to England, then to America. Its early provenance is not known, but it seems to have been owned by the sculptor Giovanni della Porta, and then his son Guglielmo della Porta.39 Pedretti thinks that Giovanni della Porta may have received the manuscript from Francesco Melzi (Farago 2003: 194). It seems that della Porta’s heirs gave the manuscript to the painter Giuseppe Ghezzi,40 and he subsequently sold it to Thomas Coke in Rome in about 1717.41 It remained in the library of Lord Leicester at Holkham Hall, Norfolk (NQ 1865:89)42 until it was bought by Armand Hammer43 in 1980, and was catalogued in the Los Angeles County Museum under the title Codex Hammer. In November 1994 it came up for sale, and was bought by Bill Gates44 of the Microsoft Corporation. Instead of renaming it the Codex Gates, he decided that it should revert to its previous title of the Codex Leicester.
Another of the manuscripts lost in the Orazio Melzi dispersal was a Manuscript on Light and shade (Libro W). There have been comments that it has been seen, but its location is unknown (Pedretti 1965b:147). This was another Manuscript on Light and Shade, distinct from Manuscript C, probably written between 1508 and 1515 and Francesco Melzi, who named it Libro W, may have copied it into the Codex Urbinas. It is possible that it could have been bound together with Manuscript C and later separated. Manuscript C was the manuscript which was given to Cardinal Borromeo and eventually entered the Ambrosian (Pedretti 1965b:146-47). These sightings were claimed in Milan in 1866 and 1958. The first sighting was reported by the Gazzetta di Milano that a Dr Ortari had discovered a Leonardo manuscript of 112 pages dealing with light and shade, which was a surprisingly precise description, but the information did not lead anywhere. The second was a rumour that it had been seen in a library of the Borromeo family in Milan. Carlo Pedretti followed this up without success (Pedretti 1965b:147-48).
Then there are separate sheets in various collections, such as the Galleria dell’Accademia in Venice, the Biblioteca Reale in Turin, the Louvre in Paris, and the collection in the Uffizi in Florence. There are a few scattered sheets in collections elsewhere, such as the Budapest Museum, the Albertina collection in Vienna, and the Brera in Milan.
There are two manuscripts that contain transcribed material from Leonardo’s notes where some of the original manuscript sources are lost. They therefore assume the importance of manuscripts by Leonardo, although they were not written by him.
The first is the Codex Urbinas which was transcribed by Francesco Melzi, and was lost in the dispersal when Orazio Melzi inherited Leonardo’s notes. Its provenance and significance are discussed in Chapter 4.
The other is the Codex Huygens (Steinitz 1958:134-136)45 and it is important because it is a copy of material which shows that the artist who transcribed it must have had access to Vincian manuscripts that are now lost. It originated in Italy, passing from hand to hand, and is now in America.

THE CODEX HUYGENS

The Codex Huygens was transcribed sometime before 1570 in Milan and contains five books dealing with the form and structure of the human body.46 It contains material on the theory of human movement, transformation, the theory of proportion and a theory of perspective that date from Leonardo’s later notes (Steinitz 1958:135). In the Codex Huygens there are copies of some of Leonardo’s original drawings that have not survived in any other manuscript.47
Until recently, there remained the question of who had transcribed the Codex Huygens? Part of the mystery was that the title page was missing. Over the years various names had been proposed, including Aurelio Luini,48Ambrogio Figino,49 Bernardino Campi,50Paolo Lomazzo, and Carlo Urbino.51 The title page eventually turned up at auction, establishing that the manuscript was compiled by Carlo Urbino (Marinelli 1981:214). It also contained illustrations from the body of the Codex Huygens in an engraving, and the inscription Tavola Cavata dal quinto libro della Prospettiva delle regole del Disegno di Carlo Urbini pittore, referring to “the five books on perspective and the rules of drawing of the artist Carlo Urbino”. It seems that the Codex Huygens was Carlo Urbino’s own notebook, and his dates agree with the Milanese watermarks of the Codex Huygens which suggest a date around 1560-1570. He was born in Cremona and trained in Venice, but worked for some years in Milan. Carlo Urbino died in 1585.
The title page also contained the signature of Gaspare dall’Olio who was active in Bologna from about 158352 as an engraver and dealer in prints, which established that this notebook passed directly from Carlo Urbino to Gaspare dall’Olio. The title page had probably been removed at some stage to conceal the author’s name, so that the manuscript could be passed off as an original by Leonardo.53 Its provenance seems to be that it was acquired by Remigius van Leemput54 some years later. Van Leemput was a Flemish artist who had been an assistant to Van Dyck, and he died in 1675. The well-known collector Constantine Huygens55 then bought the Codex Huygens in 1690 from the widow of van Leemput for the bargain price of three and a half guineas.56 There was then an hiatus in its provenance until the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York acquired the Codex Huygens in 1938 (Argentieri 1956:409).
The first dispersal of Leonardo’s manuscripts occurred when Orazio Melzi inherited them, and many seem to have been lost. Pompeo Leoni managed to collect a surprising number of them, but a further dispersal took place after his death in 1610, with the resultant loss of further manuscripts. This pattern of events has been traced and detailed, and a stemma has been compiled to show the dispersals. The next chapter is one of reconstruction, showing how the abridged printed editions were compiled despite the setbacks. Then Melzi’s transcription of the Treatise of Painting was found, and the complete editions could be published at last. That is followed by Chapter 5 showing further destruction by Count Libri.

CONTENTS
PREFACE
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
INTRODUCTION
ENDNOTES
CHAPTER 1 – Leonardo’s life 1452 -1519
1.1 INTRODUCTION
1.2 FAMILY BACKGROUND
1.3 FIRST FLORENTINE PERIOD 1466-1483
1.4 FIRST MILANESE PERIOD 1483-1499
1.5 THE WANDERING YEARS 1499-1503 31
1.6 SECOND FLORENTINE PERIOD 1503-1506
1.7 SECOND MILANESE PERIOD 1506-1513
1.8 ROME 1513 -1515
1.9 FRANCE 1516-1519
1.10 CONCLUSION
CHAPTER 2 – Leonardo’s legacy before 1570
2.1 NOTES, CODICES AND MANUSCRIPTS
2.2 FRANCESCO MELZI AND THE CODEX URBINAS
2.3 EARLIER TREATISES NOW LOST
CHAPTER 3 – Dispersal, loss and recovery of the manuscripts
3.1 ORAZIO MELZI
3.2 POMPEO LEONI
3.3 AMBROSIAN LIBRARY – THE ARCONATI DONATION
3.4 THE MANUSCRIPTS THAT WENT TO FRANCE
3.5 THE ‘LOST’ MADRID CODICES IN SPAIN
3.6 THE MANUSCRIPTS THAT WENT TO ENGLAND
3.7 OTHER MANUSCRIPTS
3.8 THE CODEX HUYGENS
3.9 STEMMA OF THE DISPERSAL OF THE MANUSCRIPTS
CHAPTER 4 – The printed editions
4.1 THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRINTED EDITIONS
4.2 STEMMA OF THE PRINTED EDITIONS
4.3 THE FIRST PRINTED EDITIONS- DU FRÊSNE 1651
4.4 COMPLETE EDITIONS OF THE CODEX URBINAS
CHAPTER 5 – Count Libri and his theft of manuscripts
CHAPTER 6 – Analysis of what may be lost
6.1 BRIEF SUMMARY – MANUSCRIPTS THAT ARE LOST
6.2 REFERENCES TO MISSING MANUSCRIPTS
6.3 PARTIAL MANUSCRIPTS
6.4 LOST AND FOUND OR RECOVERED MANUSCRIPTS
6.5 OTHER EVIDENCE
6.6 ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT THE EVIDENCE
6.7 AN ANALYSIS OF THE FOLIOS PER YEAR
6.8 DEDUCTIONS
6.9 OBJECTIONS
6.10 APPLICATION OF THE REFINED METHODOLOGY
6.11 AN ANALYSIS OF THE PIXELS PER YEAR
6.12 REFINEMENTS TO PREVIOUS DEDUCTIONS
6.13 FINAL CONJECTURES
CONCLUSION
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT

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