Leonardo's Fantastic Drawings-I Author(s): Martin Johnson Source: The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, Vol. 80, No.

471 (Jun., 1942), pp. 141-145 Published by: The Burlington Magazine Publications, Ltd. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/868603 Accessed: 15/08/2009 02:22
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p.. Leipzig [I925]. Akb. 2. and elsewhere. in the Bankipore Timurnamah well as in our manuscript.. whose colouring may to a certain extent have deviated of his own conceptions. in which both he and his imperial master were most interested. add to the impression of depth already given by the different scenes. Akb.. in spite of the great equality of style throughout the whole work. The remoteness of the background is clearly indicated through a tangible difference of size between its details and those of the foreground. harnesses and standards as in PLATE D. 46. showing The Building of FathpurSikri-may emphasize this difference. GLUCK. according to the signatures. The figures too have a type absolutely their own. N. 40. III. N. D. London. the leaves and blossoms of the trees form as regular and as ruglike a pattern as they do here. A. N. [1937]. No. 19 These comparatively short notes-short. it still seems possible to recognize at least the most prominent of the artistsas distinct personalities. D22.. wherever it is possible. have been chiefly assigned to Muskin. his own way of chosing very soft hues and intermediate notes is quite remarkable. he disposes. No. to these relatively modern paintings. a desire to representthings in a way suggesting their reality-which made them able to assimilate up to a certain point western influences. A. though very much indebted to Persia. indicated through the mountainous inequality of the soil or through architectural devices. For even in this miniature. who worked on our manuscript-though they all occasionally adopt the same devices-is the very clever way in which he bases his entire compositions on diagonal lines. Mus. p. P. And the works of these painters. the European. two. when the descendants of I41 . No. he has remained true to his origins in the greater poise of his pictures. indischen Die des Miniaturen Hamza-Romanes. 86. though he is deeply rooted in Indian tradition. That. II. though not in our. over Compare the subtle analysis given by ST. though these influences do not yet play in our manuscript the important part characteristic of them in the latest phase of Akbar's reign. Mus. the garments. -as well as the single figures and groups overlap. which were to become so much stronger only a few years later. It may be supposed. 3. painting by Bhawani). whilst it seems quite natural. Milan. Furthermore. to suggest the impression of their remoteness. or one of the books made for the emperor and mentioned by Abul Fazl-for otherwise it would be a strange coincidence indeed that exactly the identical masters he names are prominent in our manuscript.Sc. That we have here the identical book. we shall detect a better proportion between figures and architecture or landscape. KRAMRISCH:A Surveyof Painting in the Deccan. the stones of the paths. A.. 530. II. aT is now recognized that the strange of Leonardo must be approached not only through his few surviving paintings and doubtful sculptures. Perhaps we may assume.Akb. in our manuscript. 22 V. representing The Building of Agra.. I15. p. It seems likely that the sheets now treasured at Windsor. so that the ground loses a little of its unnatural extension. are fairly representative. No.23and nowhere do the flowers of the lawns. III. 26. and PLATE (outline by Tulsi the elder. 18 H. by enveloping in a haze the contours of far away things. and. or perhaps just because this trend is so much stronger in him than the Persian one. 8i. that they should work on the manuscript. that it is a certain affinity-an innate sensefor volume and space. fi y*xT ~genius DRAWINGS-I. these different scenes of action on different levels. in binding together the different parts of the pictures. A. III. rocks.An Akbar-namah Manuscript tendencies are already to be noticed and they obviously are an ancient Indian inheritance. It is obvious. 25. Of the three pictures he contributed to our manuscript. 21 V. that Muskin. 4 ff. No. but also through his many hundred drawings and several thousand pages of MSS. I. a fact which seems to emphasize the gap between him and his fellow-artists. have been done by him alone whilst in the third one (Akbar Watchingtwo Fighting Elephants)24 only the portraits have been added by Basawan. Farukh Beg is. 432. A. Vienna. chosen for their similarity of subjectPLATE C21 (outline by Muskin. I17. In no other illustrations of the Akbar-namah we meet with such a fine net of do ornaments spread over the architectural features. was one of the first Mogul painters who really absorbed the European influences.19 But where Muskin seems to be outstanding among the other masters. Mus. 24 23 V. Mus. etc. which. in spite of the dispersal which began about fifty years after his death in I519. p. LEONARDO'S FANTASTIC BY MARTIN JOHNSON. II. as we know it from Ajanta. that very complicated subjects. V. tents. though this picture is much more assimilated to the bulk of the other illustrations than both the others. Akbar'sEntry into Surat. Zurich. That at that period ofAkbar's reign the Indian painters were the leading artists at his court. in the minuteness of details. Mus. Akb. if we consider the great amount of pictures of our manuscript and the amount of masters who have worked on it-aim at putting forward the following points : I. as the sieges and assailments of mountain forts. due perhaps partly to the collaboration of several artists on the same picture. for they all show much similarity. II. sense. comparing his pictures with those of other painters. 372. the noblest representative of a different tradition. Coming from Persia. Akb. as that in all these pictures he has also exercised some influence on the colouring. definitely show that they are rooted in the old pictorial traditions of India though until now no direct line can be drawn from the old classical art. painting by Sarwan). 20 V. and surely it is not a mere chance. in the subtle harmonies of his colouring. Paris. N. he also makes his "receptacles"-houses. p. N. and in most of them the clouds of fire and smoke emanating from guns and cannons help. Two examples.

what is it that he is observing? The same question is raised by the cosmic fury of his catastrophicdrawings and the loathsome deformity and maniac expression of his grotesques. In human and animal and plant biology it typifiesthe same strength and weakness seen in his physics that precision of experimental detail was again of greater interest to him than generalisation. Strict naturalism is exploited fully in 5. In palaeontologyand physicalgeography and meteorologyhe was again the most acute observer of his century. The same qualities gave him peculiar insight into living mechanism. For instance he anticipated modern methods of the semi-conscious implanting of suggestion and he commented upon the sublimation-value of certain kinds of intellectual labour. Here the occasional human figures are tiny things expressing the extremity of despair while their cities are overwhelmed in flood or tornado or volcanic outbreak. We recollect that he controlled by music the expressions of Mona Lisa while painting the famous portrait. Much of his treatise on painting betrays shewd self-analysis in classifying the best sequence for developing a learner'sabilities. We submit that the most profound mystery left by Leonardo is the difficulty of seeing in a single personality the unearthly serenity and the unearthly horror of these drawings. [PLATE D].where shrewd mechanical analysis of observeddetails in bird flight led to his remarkable explorations of the possibility of human control over the same forcesin the same medium. in fact. Many represent hideous malformations in facial anatomy. i. like his geometry. Many of the manuscript pages are Leonardo's illustrated notes on scientific research. His innumerable geometrical devices served physical ends.just as chemistryand metallurgy interested him mainly as means for effecting the preparation of substances needed in other sciences and arts. 24 In contrast. This appears especially in his aerodynamics. the essence of his methods was to adhere rigorously to a truthfulness of record open to any experimenter'simpartial verification. and when we say that he anticipated the balancing of action and reaction. as with the principle of inertia. rather than that he possessed any of the generalising power of a Newton or Einstein. to tell them jokes and then study their facial contortions in laughing. For the purpose of confronting the most acute problem set by Leonardo to the modern mind. that he returned more eagerly to problems upon which he could actually experiment. his anticipation of understandingthe blood circulation was an incident ratherthan a deliberated conclusion. But he was not a great theorist.on the other hand. but when those shrewd and strict recordings of animal anatomy suddenly escape into the non-existent monstrosityof his fantasies. even reportsome crudeexperimental Contemporaries such as his trick of selecting strangers psychology. Melzi seem to have allowed the sculptor Pompeo Leoni to scatter Leonardo's sketches and other papers over Spain and Italy. and they overlap the character of the more deliberate drawings when angels or Madonnasor monsterscrowd the marginsof machine designs and the diagrams of a biologist's dissections. we make here the following brief revaluation from his MSS. and they largely 142 conditioned his attitude to both inanimate and living environment. we suggest the following tentative classification of the drawings : selection by chronology is now possible through the work of Sir Kenneth Clark and others. we mean that his notes reveal their unconscious use in solving particular problems. and this educated his sober patience in recordingnatural phenomena and developing similar behaviour in apparatus of precision. or even the principle of inertia. drawing was not merely the painter's preliminary to formal composition. the muscular mechanism as perfect for a composite creature with dragon's wings as for a horse and rider in mortal agony. and was more often the scientist's instinctive reaction to any new thing observed. 3. but perhaps the most memorable. conveying the everwhelming sense of urgency. First there are the drawings which suggest mental stressexpressedin animal or human anatomy. he pursued for their own sake. Throughout. 4. and sometimes of complacent acquiescence in the most fiendish ugliness [PLATEB]. At the other extremeare Leonardo'sgrotesques. our analysisof the drawingsleaves us unable to evade the problem of Leonardo's divided personality. Mechanicsand physics. are the studies of unassailable serenity in which the steadfast gaze of the faces suggestsa confident reliance upon some secret knowledge. Taken in conjunction with these note-books. notably in embryology. most absorbed by experimental and observational exactitude.Leonardo's FantasticDrawzngs-I. This strong peace of mind is the most subtle and elusive. for example the many sketches of Madonna with the baby who is teasing a cat or struggling with a lamb. there are drawings full of the unselfconscious grace of children or animals.as well as the heavenly serenitywhich . indulged in by many renaissance artists. but his rarer astronomical work suggests. while in the same personality we discover the scientist'sstrict confinement to matters of fact and their unexaggerated recording. but selection according to the mood inevitably forced upon a beholder may afford clues to the mood of the artist. It is not generally realised that his MSS contain many fragmentsindicating a primitive but strictly observational science of psychology. For in view of occasional suggestions that his scientific activities represented merely a dilettante straying. The most violent are drawings of cosmic disaster. To Leonardo. with striking features. In contrast. of the impressions from Leonardo drawings [PLATE A]. The expressions conveyed are often of maniacal fury. but sometimesof pathetic resignation. He was.


" Many commentators have failed to see that while personal feelings are relevant in artisticcreation and irrelevant in scientific investigation. It is these moods to which our classificationof the drawings may be. It is futile to guess at the source of such profound emotional reactions. Hence the common use of adjectives " cold. otherwise we find ourselves regarding his Last Supper-most emotional of all representations of the scene-as a piece of impassive juggling with a set of feelings which had no part in Leonardo's own experience [PLATE C]. as soon as the emotional intensity is recognised in these creations of a scientist who has often been labelled "cold. at first sight so remote from the ecstasy and fury of the artist. The present article will be restricted mainly to a consideration of the designs borrowed from the Venetians. Those grossparodiesof physical reality can only be symbols of an internal. a horizontal disk of metal extending beyond the sides and which takes the place of the flat top of the bell.Leonardo's Fantastic Drawings-I. then to show why its influence should have extended to this country. One prevalent source of misconception must be guarded against. not an external world. subsequent ages have tried in vain to see in living faces. a feature consistentlypresent in English candlesticks for at least two hundred years. B shows a I45 . and finally to note from English examples how much we were indebted to the art of Venice. the gentle piety of Fra Angelico or the superb arrogance of Michelangelo which permeate all their works. the former becoming laterally symmetrical. We seek this insight by proceeding to assess some ways in which the relevant artistic and scientific influences developed his powers at the expense of his peace. bVt it is rash to mistake this for an inability to participate personally in any emotions depicted. for not until the sixteenth century does Flemish influence play an important part in English design. a legitimate clue. and from them the Venetians learned the art of making both candles and candlesticks. for instance. This gives a more truncated bell form and the sides still curve gradually outward to the lower rim. the artist may be expressinghis own feelings or he may be acting as a comparatively impassive recorder of feelings observed or inferred in others." " dis- passionate. There always is an ambiguity attending any discussion of the emotions conveyed by a work of art. The actual growth of the scientific habit. For this purpose it will be necessary. having a separate central drip tray. we assume also the change in form was due to Venetian candlestick in the British Museum and bearing M Venetian stick of the fifteenth century. it is true that in his character of scientist his responsibility for causes as well as for mere phenomena demand of him a strict impartiality. G. a design popular in Western Europe at a much later period. In the rare instance where the artist happens also to be a scientist. first to trace the source and the course of Venetian design. This is possibly the earliest example known. we must beware of going further than crediting him with an ability to see his subjectsmore nearly sub specieaeternitatis. having the same type of base and drip tray but modifications in the socket and stem. and sometimes all three sources contribute to a composite design in a single candlestick. As Venetian influence was responsiblefor the change in the surface decoration. changes in design followed one another in quick succession. until we gain some insight into the harmony or disharmony of Leonardo's relation to environment. About the year ideas and PLATE I. A shows an Arabian the arms of the patrician family of Boldu who lived in Venice during the fourteenth century. reaches in this case the most poignant solution: for the most disturbingly suggestive of emotion are just those drawings to which nothing in external nature can have been an observedprototype. PLATE I." or even " objective" must be regarded with suspicion. A colony of Arabs had settled in Venice at the beginning of the fourteenth century. The ambiguity as to whether the scientistis a participating or a merely recording artist. MACKAY THOMAS HOUGH prior to I6o0 the English had evolved designs in candlesticks unlike those on the Continent. In contrastingLeonardo'scharacterwith. this distinction will need very careful interpretation for the unique case of Leonardo. until habits or moods can be recognised in him beyond the isolated occasions of single pictures. yet they did not scruple on occasion to incorporate details copied from 'either the Venetians or the Flemings. may possibly have been the source of mental conflict which expressed itself in the other half of this divided personality. we suggest. with the exception of the art of damascening still used as a surfacedecoration. (To be concluded) OLD ENGLISH CANDLESTICKS AND THEIR VENETIAN PROTOTYPES BY W. so by the end of the sixteenth century little trace of Arabic influence remained. Once the Venetians had embarked on the production of candlesticks.

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