Leonardo da Vinci (1452- 1519)
“Nessuna cosa si può amare, né odiare, se non si ha piena cognizion di quella“.
Artist, engineer, scientist, passionate, creative, precise and rigorous.
Leonardo da Vinci combined art and science, passion and talent together, fully embodying the spirit of the Renaissance, bringing it to the greatest forms of expression in the most diverse fields of art and knowledge, and is still an icon of creativity and human ingenuity.
Many of the landscapes portrayed by Leonardo are related to the course of the Adda and the Grigne, mountains unique in their kind that he was able to study carefully during his stay in Milan at the Sforza court.
Our territory has environmental, historical and cultural features that no other country can count on in such a wide range and beauty.
For Leonardo, the secret of the antiquity of the world is enclosed in the mountains, and in them is realized, in an obscure and immense way, an essential part of the great cosmic cycle that binds together rock, water, sky and belly of the earth.
Leonardo da Vinci shows not only a theoretical interest in the mountains, but goes to explore them in person, becoming a mountaineer in his own way.
The experience made by Leonardo in the Alpine environment and some short trips made from Milan to the Brianza and the pre-Alpine mountains, in addition to those he had in his youth with the mountain glimpses of the Apennines, excite the genius, so that the rocks, the peaks, the woods, are already present in some famous paintings.
However, the most significant Leonardesian Alpine representation dates back to the second Milanese period: we have to wait for a quiet and sunny day in the early sixteenth century, presumably 1511. Leonardo, who is now fifty-nine years old, depicts a mountain group with precise contours, in a small sanguine drawing, now preserved in the Windsor collection.
The mountains surrounding Lecco are of such a beauty that they even impressed Leonardo Da Vinci who, as a scientist, studied them carefully and described them in the Codex Atlanticus and, as an artist, painted them in his paintings.
Leonardo knew well the qualities of the nature of the Lecco area, from the fantastic peaks and the snaking mirrors of water, now calm and now suddenly upset by the forces of nature. In the drawing of the Windsor code it is nothing more than a view of medieval Lecco on which one of those spring showers bursts that we all know of the area.
Of absolute astonishment must have been the impact that the artist, born and raised among the Tuscan hills, had with medieval Lecco, partly perched at the foot of the vertiginous San Martino mountain, partly immersed in the basin between the Resegone, the Monte Barro, the Moregallo and the Corni di Canzo and lapped by the lake waters.
In the codes of Windsor, drawings of snowy ridges that belong to the Lecco landscape can be traced: the central massif of the Grigne, seen by the Monti di Brianza he traveled; the jagged profile of the Due Mani and of the Resegone portrayed from Lake Oggiono and from Garlate; the hurricane in a valley between the mountains, which in a flotilla of low clouds, gathered between the Moregallo and the S. Martino, shaken the Lecco basin by twenty.
Leonardo was several times in these areas between 1483 and 1498, saw the Brianza, went to Bellagio for the hospitality of the Marquis Stanga, went on to observe the phenomenon of Fiumelatte, by the way of Lecco entered the Valsassina to see mines and workshops of iron and copper, the mammoth croup of the Grigna “peeled” and other “fantastic things”, among which, perhaps, the cavity of the karstic type of which the area of the Grigne is rich, the cave of Moncòdeno is certainly the most curious: the limestone, the traditional protagonist of the underground sculptures – stalactites, stalagmites, draperies – is in fact replaced by the ice that gives life to an enchanted world in rapid and perennial change. It is a natural icebox, a forgotten jewel whose charm has attracted scientists, explorers and occasional visitors for centuries.
It is good, therefore, to emphasize once again how the fascination of the Lombard mountains and rivers has influenced Leonardo to such an extent that he has brought these profiles back to some of his most famous tables.
Riccardo Magnani, from Lecco, is convinced of this and has become one of the artist’s most established scholars.
In the Mona Lisa the fourteenth-century Azzone Visconti bridge, with its unmistakable arches, Mount Barro and the course of the Adda that becomes Lake Garlate, while on the left stands the San Martino. In the foreground the most famous and enigmatic smile in the history of art, that of the Mona Lisa. Not the Val d’Arno or the profile of the Montefeltro hills as a backdrop. But the mountains of Lecco and the ancient bridge with its typical variable arches can be identified in the Action Visconti bridge, whose architecture is very different from the Tuscan bridges.
The Gioconda hairstyle was a “sperada”, the typical spokes related to the iconography of Lucia Mondella. Pascal Cotte, the scholar who was granted the honor of analyzing Leonardo‘s painting with a particular photographic camera, highlighted around the head of the Mona Lisa twelve pins. A mystery to the French, which in reality is explained by the Larian tradition.
But the Mona Lisa is not the only picture that reproduces the Lecco landscape. The Virgin of the Rocks, a canvas preserved in the Louvre, where the Madonna is represented with the Child and Saint John the Baptist, is set in a cave in Laorca. You can see the spikes of the Calolden valley, the Sasso Cavallo and the Sasso Carbonari.
These are not random elements, but references sought, to trace a historical and cultural map of the Sforza of Milan and to pass on his philosophical, scientific, astronomical and geographical knowledge.
And what can we say about the map of Lecco, a map of the city of Lecco before the construction of the sixteenth-century walls, perhaps designed on the design of the Tuscan genius. Although the hypothesis is still to be demonstrated and confirmed, the sketch drawn by Leonardo is perfectly superimposable with the modern aerial photos of Lecco.
You can clearly see the fourteenth-century fortifications, the arch of the lakefront, the course of one of the streams that crosses the city with four mills, a tower, now incorporated in the wall walls.
Ours is the land of Leonardo‘s ferry, we are the custodians of a concrete testimony of his creativity and curiosity, the ferry indeed.
The ferry that currently crosses the Adda between Imbersago and Calusco, even if of modern times, is the work of the Tuscan genius that goes from one bank to the other of the river through the water current and a steel cable.
It is not known precisely if the real inventor of the ferry is indeed the genius; certainly he saw it, he was fascinated and drew it in the so-called Windsor Code. Another work by Leonardo on our territories is the Paderno canal.
The goods (wood, coal, wine) that descended from Lake Como along the Adda were to be unloaded on the ground for a few kilometers, then reloaded onto the Adda and from there to the Martesana canal to Milan.
The idea of designing a canal that would allow river navigation between Milan and Lake Como was born under the aegis of Francis I of France who commissioned Leonardo da Vinci to do his first studies. Later the project was resumed and the excavation was chosen, still visible, making the Adda navigable in the stretch of the rapids between Paderno and Cornate d’Adda, inventing a system of locks.