« הקודםהמשך »
LEONARDOS PORTRAIT 171
A year after Beatrice's death, on the 26th of April 1498, she sent to beg Cecilia Gallerani, Lodovico's former mistress, to lend her the portrait which Leonardo had painted some years before, in order that she might compare it with some fine portraits by Giovanni Bellini which she had just seen. Cecilia hastened to gratify the Marchesa's wish, and sent back Leonardo's picture by Isabella's messenger, saying that she only wished it were a better likeness; not that this was the master's fault, for there was no painter in the world who could equal him, but because, when he painted it, she was of "youthful and imperfect age."1 Leonardo himself seems to have paid a flying visit to Mantua in the following December, for in a letter from his villa of Goito, the Marquis desires his treasurer to pay Leonardo the Florentine eleven ducats for certain strings of lute and viol which he had brought from Milan, and begs him to do this at once, in order that the master may be able to continue his journey.2 But we know that he and his friend Luca Pacioli, who dedicated his "Book of Games" to the Marchesa, visited Mantua on their way to Venice at the close of 1499. It was on this occasion that Leonardo drew the beautiful portrait of Isabella, in pastels, which is now in the Louvre. The late M. Yriarte was the first to recognise Isabella's features in this drawing of the Vallardi collection, and although Dr. Luzio has lately expressed doubt on the subject, there seems little reason to question the fact. Leonardo has drawn the brilliant Marchesa's portrait in his own fashion— 172 LORENZO DA PAVIA
1 "Beatrice d'Este," pp. 53, 54.
2 Luzio, Emporium, 1900, p. 352.
wearing a simple striped bodice, with the waves of rippling hair falling low on her bare neck, without ornament or jewel of any description. But the fine and delicate features are the same as those in the medal which Cristoforo designed two years before; the eyes have the same bright and keen expression, and the whole face is radiant with life and intellect. Time has dealt hardly with Isabella's portraits, and of all those countless pictures which were scattered over Italy, this of Leonardo's is the only one which brings her before us in the bloom of youth and beauty. As it happens, we have a testimony to the truth of Leonardo's portrait from no less an authority than the great connoisseur Lorenzo da Pavia. For the Florentine master went on from Mantua to Venice, there to await the issue of Duke Lodovico's descent on Milan, and to watch with anxious eyes the result of that forlorn hope, on which his whole future was staked. There he met his old friend, the wise man of Pavia, and as they talked together of their great patron and the old life at Milan, the painter brought out his drawing of the Marchesa and showed it to her loyal servant. And on the 13th of March 1500, while they were rejoicing over the wonderful news from Milan, Messer Lorenzo wrote to the Marchesa about a lute which he was sending to Mantua.
"Most illustrious Lady,—I send you by this courier an excellent lute of walnut wood, made in the Spanish fashion, which seems to me to have the finest tone that I ever heard. I have been ill, and as yet unable to finish the black and white lute, which I will do, like this one, in the Spanish style. Leonardo Vinci is in Venice, and has shown ADMIRES LEONARDO'S DRAWING 173
me a portrait of Your Highness, which is exactly like you, and is so well done that it is not possible for it to be better." l
Leonardo, it appears, took a copy of his cartoon to Venice, and left the other at Mantua, for, a year afterwards, the Marchesa sent a message to him in Florence, begging him to send her a replica of his drawing, since the Marquis had given away the copy which she had kept. But he never painted her portrait in colours, as he had promised on that brief and memorable visit, and not all Isabella's efforts and entreaties were able to obtain a picture by his hand for her studio.
In this same year, when Leonardo came to Mantua, Isabella was intent on a new scheme, the erection of a statue to Virgil in the square in front of the Castello. Early in the century, Carlo Malatesta, acting as regent for his nephew, the young Gianfrancesco Gonzaga, had, in a fit of misguided piety, thrown a statue of Virgil which adorned the Piazza di S. Pietro into the Mincio, saying that the people of Mantua paid the Roman poet a homage only due to a saint. The Marquis Lodovico, who had learnt from his great teacher, Vittorino da Feltre, how to reverence Virgil, had been very anxious to restore this statue, but had never been able to carry out his pious intention. Now the discovery of an antique bust which Battista Fiera, a learned Mantuan physician, pronounced to be the true effigy of Virgil, fired Isabella with ambition to raise a monument to the Mantuan poet. She naturally proposed to entrust the work to the artist of all others best fitted for the task, Andrea Mantegna. A letter which her hus174 MONUMENT TO VIRGIL
1 A. liaschet, Aide Manuce.
band's secretary, Jacopo d'Atri, wrote to her from Naples, shows the enthusiasm which her intention excited among classical scholars.
"Most illustrious and excellent Madonna,—Your Excellency has doubtless heard of the great merits and talents of Pontanus,1 of whom we may truly say that not only in our own time, but since the days of Virgil, there has never been a man of greater learning or more real merit. Yesterday, after having a long conversation with him in the name of your illustrious lord, I remembered Your Highness's desire to raise a statue to Virgil, and thought I would consult him on the subject and hear his advice. I told him I did this by your order, and explained the object which animated Your Highness and inspired your magnanimous soul with the wish to carry out this idea. As soon as Pontanus heard this, he called two learned gentlemen and said to them: 'If Paolo Vergerio, who wrote De Educando Liberis, were present, the pleasure that he would have in recognising the generous soul of this illustrious Madonna would exceed the sadness which he felt on hearing that Carlo Malatesta had thrown the statue of Virgil into the river.' Then, laying stress on these words, he added: 'Only consider, gentlemen, the magnanimity of this lady of tender years and without classical learning, who determines to revive the fame of this great man, and to render honour and glory to Mantua, where the same lord, Carlo, a man of exADVICE OF PONTANUS 175
1 Pontanus, to whom he here alludes, was not only an elegant Latin poet, whose verses were afterwards published by Aldus, but held high office under King Alfonso of Naples and his son Ferrante, and enjoyed the confidence of the reigning monarch, Federico.
perience and learning, outraged the poet's memory and the fame of that noble city. Here, indeed, is a royal lady, worthy of all praise and commendation, and had I heard of this before, I would certainly have given her a place in my book De Magymnimitate! We then proceeded to discuss the question whether the poet's statue should be made of bronze or marble, and agreed that although bronze is certainly the nobler material, yet, since there is always a risk that it may be melted down to make guns or bells, we should prefer a fine marble statue, placed on a noble pedestal in some honourable place. The work should be given to some good sculptor, who would take the poet's portrait from nature, for I had just told Pontanus of the effigy lately discovered by Messer Battista della Fiera. And in order not to depart from the antique style, the statue should stand by itself, with a laurel crown on the head, and the drapery, either an antique toga caught upon the shoulder or a senator's robe, such as Messer Andrea Mantegna may think best. The hands should hold nothing, and the statue should be perfectly plain, without a book or anything else, but with antique sandals on the feet, and the attitude would be such as Messer Andrea shall decide. At the base there should only be a few words, such as—Publius Virgilius Mantuanus, and also—Isabella Marchionissa Mantua? restituit—as may please Your Excellency. These gentlemen agreed that Pontanus must consider what would be the best words to be engraved on the base, and he agreed to do this willingly. What I did will, I hope, be agreeable to Your Excellency, since it was prompted by true affection, and by one who desires your glory and feels that this will bring you immortal