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LIONARDO DA VINCI,
LIONARDO, called DA VINCI, from the place of his nativity, a small burgh or castle of Valdarno di Sotto, was the natural son of one Piezo, a notary of the Signoria, at Florence. The time of his birth has been disputed; Durazzini, in his Elogi de gl' illustri Toscani, placing it in 1452, and Vasari and other biographers, in the year 1445. Being very early instructed in every branch of polite literature, and shewing a particular fondness for design, he was put under the tuition of Andrea Verocchio, at the period when Pietro Perugino, studied in the school of that master.
No artist before his time betrayed such comprehensive talents, or so discerning a judgment, to explore the depths of every art or science. He studied nature with curious and critical observation, and was peculiarly attentive to mark the passions of the human mind. To strengthen his ideas on that point, he sketched every countenance that appeared to have any singularity, and attended the processions of criminals carried to execution, that he might impress on his memory the various passions that he noticed among the crowd, and to trace, through the visage of the sufferers, those strong emotions of mind which became apparent in every feature, from the near approach of a sudden and violent death.
In the year 1494, while at Milan, under the patronage of the Duke Lodovico Sforza, he painted his incomparable picture of The Last Supper; of the merits of which
Rubens delivered the following opinion in a Latin manuscript, which, in part, has been translated by De Piles:-"Nothing," observes that artist, "escaped Lionardo that related to the expression of his subject; and, by the warmth of his imagination, as well as the solidity of his judgment, he raised divine things by human, and understood how to give men those different degrees that elevate them to the character of heroes. The best of the examples that Lionardo has left us is The Last Supper, in which he has represented the apostles in places suitable to them, but our Saviour is in the midst of all, in the most honourable, having no figure near enough to press or incommode him. In short, by his profound speculations, he arrived to such a degree of perfection, that it is impossible to speak as highly of him as he deserves, and much more impossible to imitate him." Mr. Cochin, however, an ingenious traveller, « who saw this celebrated picture at Milan, in 1757, after describing the beauty of the design, the fine air of the heads, and the noble cast of the draperies, observes, that it possesses a very singular impropriety, which is, that the hand of St. John has six fingers.
The life of Lionardo may be divided into four periods. The first of which is, that of his youth when he lived at Florence. The second, that which he spent at Milan in the service of Lodovico Sforza, where he stayed till 1499.-The third period dates from the return of Lionardo to Florence, after the fall of Francesco Sforza :—and the fourth period of that great man's life terminates likewise the career of his art. From Florence (having met, in young Bonaruoti, with a rival), at the invitation of Francis the First, he passed into France, where he died in the arms of that monarch, in 1519.
VOSTERMAN was born at Bommel, in the year 1643, and learned the rudiments of the art from his father, who was a portrait-painter; but it is to Herman Sachtleven, with whom he studied as a disciple, that he is indebted for that excellence to which he afterwards arrived.
Though the merit of this artist was confessedly great, his vanity was still greater; and, instead of pursuing his profession, by which he might have lived in honour and in affluence, he wasted his time and his fortune by assuming the appearance of a man of rank. During his residence in France, he hired a costly mansion, kept a number of domestics in rich liveries, frequented the houses and assemblies of the great, and dissipated his patrimony in many ostentatious follies. Reduced, at length, by his prodigality and indiscretion, he turned his attention to England, indulging great hopes of encouragement from the known liberality of the natives of that kingdom towards those who distinguish themselves in any art or science, and his reception answered his warmest expectations. He was soon introduced to Charles II. and employed by many of the principal nobility. The View of Windsor, in the royal collection, and for which he was but indifferently paid, is the most remarkable picture of his painting while he remained here. Accustomed to an expensive mode of living, his earnings were inadequate to answer his demands, and he was thrown into prison, from whence he was released by the benevolent zeal of some English artists.