Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Leonardo da Vinci & Salai

Portrait of Salai (Gian Giacomo Caprotti) as Saint Sebastian

Gian Giacomo Caprotti da Oreno (nicknamed Salai (Little Devil). Gian entered Leonardo's household around 1490 at the age of 10. Leonardo himself has recorded in MS. C the precise date of this event. "Giacomo came to live with me on St Mary Magdalene's day (22 July) 1490, aged ten years. The second day I had two shirts cut out for him, a pair of hose and a jerkin, and when I put aside some money to pay for these things he stole the money (4 lire) out of the purse; and I could never make him confess although I was quite certain of it. The day after I went to sup with Giacomo Andrea, and the said Giacomo supped for two and did mischief for four, for he broke three cruets and spilled the wine." And then in the margin, ladro, bugiardo, ostinato, ghiotto--thief, liar, obstinate, glutton.


Self portrait of Salai as Saint John the Baptist

Salai played the role of adoptive son, protégé, friend, helper, student and quite possibly, lover to Leonardo da Vinci." He was described by Vasari as "a graceful and beautiful youth with fine curly hair, in which Leonardo greatly delighted." The relationship was not an easy one. A year later Leonardo made a list of the boy¹s misdemeanors, calling him "a thief, a liar, stubborn, and a glutton." The "Little Devil" had made off with money and valuables on at least five occasions, and spent a fortune on apparel, among which twenty four pairs of shoes. Nevertheless, il Salaino remained his companion, servant and assistant for the next twenty nine years until the artist death, and Leonardo's notebooks during their early years contain pictures of a handsome, curly-haired adolescent.


Salai as Saint John the Baptist



Salai as Bacchus Leonardo da Vinci "Bacchus" 1510 - 1515


Leonardo da Vinci (Salai) as "St. John the Baptist" 1513 - 1516


Leonardo used the scheming, ambitious and selfish Salai as a model for his St John the Baptist. Every critic has laboriously pointed out that this is not a conventional presentation of the Baptist, and we must try to answer the question why Leonardo, who attached so much importance to the interpretation of a subject, has created an image almost blasphemously unlike the fiery ascetic of the Gospels. The exotic Salai with his feminine face and ringlet curls has a mysterious smile and points up and over his shoulder. It is believed that the portrait had the cross and fur pelts painted latter. So Salai as St John the Baptist would have been
originally nude. Also this portrait was painted for Leonardo and was not a commissioned piece of artwork. It is believed to be the last painting Leonardo painted and keep with him at all times. It is said the portrait was hung along side of the more famous Mona Lisa in Leonardo's bedroom in France. Salai as Saint John the Baptist is perhaps most famous for the enigmatic look and smile on Salai's face. Hes expression and the meaning behind it have survived for 500 years as one of the greatest mysteries in art history.


Leonardo da Vinci, Drawing of Salai


Leonardo da Vinci, Drawing of Salai


Leonardo da Vinci, Drawing of Salai



Who was the bad adolescent boy with beautiful feminine face that anyone else would have cast out into the streets? He was a muse for Leonardo. Salai in the Life of Leonardo is a subject that few critics & biographers would dare wright about. Today it is still a topic of Don't ask, don't tell, or the relationship is completely looked over. Salai was too important in the life of Leonardo to be looked over.  Salai's face appears  in Leonardo's paintings, numerous drawings including erotic drawings.  Salai  traveled everywhere Leonardo went. Leonardo spent a fortune on Salai. Salai inherited half of Leonardo's estate. During Leonardo's life time critics said Salai's work looked like Leonardo's work. Art critics today say he was not a good artist.


Leonardo was said to have seen Salai drawing in a field and then approached his father to train Salai as his assistant and apprentice. Salai would have only been a peasant whose family was not too dissimilar to Leonardo’s mothers side. Leonardo saw some potential in the boy and wanted to give Salai the opportunity to do something with his life. Salai was also like Da Vinci himself said to be incredibly attractive.
What was the extent of the relationship with Salai and Leonardo? No definite proof exists of Leonardo's homosexuality, there are plenty of indications, in his male erotic drawings as well as in his writings, that he was attracted to males. When he was twenty-four years old, Leonardo was arrested, along with several young companions, on the charge of sodomy. Homosexuality was common in Florence. The Office of the Night (Ufficiali di notte) which was active in Florence from 1432 to 1502, which contains documents about more than 16,000 men implicated in sodomy, of whom nearly 3,000 were convicted.  Thus, in a city of only 40,000 inhabitants, the majority of men were incriminated for engaging in homosexual relations at least once during their lifetimes.  Several things indicate that Leonardo was probably gay. He never married or showed any interest in women; indeed, he wrote in his notebooks that male-female intercourse disgusted him. His anatomical drawings naturally include the sexual organs of both genders, but those of the male exhibit much more extensive attention. Finally, Leonardo surrounded himself with beautiful young male assistants, such as Salai and Melzi. Leonardo's  art reflects an appreciation of androgynous beauty. It has, therefore, been assumed that he was a homosexual.


Leonardo da Vinci, Drawing of Salai


Leonardo da Vinci, Drawing of Old and Young "Salai"


A drawing of Salai in fancy-dress costume by Leonardo da Vinci



Allegory of Pleasure and Pain / Androgyn corpus with two heads, Leonardo de Vinci and Salai

As a young man Leonardo was very attractive and one of his first biographers  Vasari writes "there is something supernatural in the accumulation in one individual of so much beauty, grace, and might. With his right hand he could twist an iron horseshoe as if it were made of lead. In his liberality, he welcomed and gave food to any friend, rich or poor." His kindness, his sweet nature, his eloquence ("his speech could bend in any direction the most obdurate of wills") his regal magnanimity, his sense of humor, his love of wild creatures, his "terrible strength in argument, sustained by intelligence and memory," the subtlety of his mind "which never ceased to devise inventions," his aptitude for mathematics, science, music, poetry. What's more, Leonardo was a man of "physical beauty beyond compare." In 1466, at the age of fourteen, Leonardo was apprenticed to the artist Andrea di Cione, known as Verrocchio whose workshop was "one of the finest in Florence".  Leonardo himself may have been the model for two works by Verrocchio, including the bronze statue of David in the Bargello, and the Archangel Michael in Tobias and the Angel.


Young Leonardo is said to have model for this Statue of David by Verrocchio




Young Leonardo is said to have model as Archangel Michael for this painting by Verrocchio with his white dog by his feet


It is believed that Leonardo Da Vinci painted himself as a young man in his: Adoration of the Magi (unfinished) - 1481 - 1482. Lower right corner looking away.


Francesco Botticini: Tóbiás and the three Archangels with Leonardo da Vinci painted as the first angel and his white dog by his feet, Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence Tempera on wood 1470


Young Leonardo 1468


The new self portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, which was painted between 1475 and 1480 and can be found in Washington, The National Gallery of Art, Note white dog


In all of Da Vinci's journals, the name 'Salai' was used most. Salaì's name also appears (crossed out) on the back of an erotic drawing (ca. 1513) by the artist, The Incarnate Angel, at one time in the collection of Queen Victoria. It is seen as a humorous and revealing take on his major work, St. John the Baptist, also a work and a theme imbued with homoerotic overtones by a number of art critics. Another erotic work, found on the verso of a foglio in the Atlantic Codex, depicts il Salaino's behind, towards which march several penises on two legs (Augusto Marinoni, in "Io Leonardo", Mondadori, Milano 1974, pp.288, 310). Salai stole things, broke things, lied, and was generally a devil; if he were a mere student or servant he would have been fired. Instead of punishing him Leonardo showered him with finest of clothes–this would have been unusual behavior toward a servant or pupil. It's not hard to see how this bad boy would be attractive to Leonardo. Modern critics contend that Leonardo's love of boys was well-known even in the sixteenth century. Rocke reports that in a fictional dialogue on l'amore masculino (male love) written by the contemporary art critic and theorist Gian Paolo Lomazzo, Leonardo appears as one of the protagonists and declares, "Know that male love is exclusively the product of virtue which, joining men together with the diverse affections of friendship, makes it so that from a tender age they would enter into the manly one as more stalwart friends." In the dialogue, the interlocutor inquires of Leonardo about his relations with his assistant, Salai, "Did you play the game from behind which the Florentines love so much?"



 In 1499 he accompanied him to Mantua, Venice and Florence. By 1505 he had achieved some fame as a painter; Alvise Ciocha, an agent of Isabella d'Este, Marchioness of Mantua, described him as 'very able for his years' and invited him to advise Pietro Perugino who was working for her. He accompanied Leonardo to Rome in 1513 and three years later to France, with Francesco Melzi. In 1519, following his master's death, Salai settled in Milan on property that Leonardo had bequeathed him. He died a violent death. An inventory of his possessions shows that he inherited many works by Leonardo, including the Mona Lisa and the Infant St John the Baptist (both Paris, Louvre). No signed works by Caprotti are known; documents mention two paintings of the Penitent St Jerome (untraced) in the monastery of S Gerolamo in Milan. It is assumed that his work adheres closely to that of Leonardo. According to this hypothesis, the Virgin and Child with St Anne (Los Angeles, UCLA, Wight A. G.) and St John the Baptist (Milan, Ambrosiana), copies of paintings by Leonardo (both Paris, Louvre), have been attributed to him.


The Incarnate Angel

Il Salaino's name also appears (crossed out) on the back of an erotic drawing (ca. 1513) by the artist, The Incarnate Angel, at one time in the collection of Queen Victoria. It is seen as a humorous and revealing take on his major work, St. John the Baptist, also a work and a theme imbued with homoerotic overtones by a number of art critics such as Martin Kemp and James Saslow (Saslow, 1986, passim). Drawn late in Leonardo's life, probably between circa 1513 and circa 1515 when he was living at the Vatican in Rome (he died in France in 1519 at age 67), the black chalk or charcoal rendering shows an angelic adolescent with deep-set doe eyes, pouty collagen lips and a cascade of fluffy hair. The feminine boy, vaguely tipsy, looks like he might have just rolled out of bed -- which, given the crude rendering of an erect phallus in the torso's sketchier lower extremities, is entirely possible. (Leonardo's student and reputed boyfriend, Salai, may have been the drawing's model.) A poorly foreshortened -- and unfinished -- right arm is raised to point toward heaven, a gesture that adds a funny homoerotic twist to Leonardo's lascivious depiction.

Another erotic work, found on the verso of a foglio in the Atlantic Codex, depicts il Salaino's behind, towards which march several penises on two legs (Augusto Marinoni, in "Io Leonardo", Mondadori, Milano 1974, pp.288, 310). Some of Leonardo's other works on erotic topics, his drawings of heterosexual human sexual intercourse, were destroyed by a priest who found them after his death.




Salaì as Narcissus School of Leonardo


Portrait of Salai School of Leonardo

                                                                                 
The Mona Lisa nude.  The naked portrait – titled the Monna Vanna, and complete with the model’s famous enigmatic smile – was painted in 1515 by Leonardo da Vinci’s pupil, Andrea Salai. Art historians say that it was not only inspired by Leonardo, but is almost certainly based on a lost original by the artist himself. Looking at the Monna Vanna you can clearly see a connection between Salai's face and the face in the portraits. The Monna Vanna has Salai's eyes, distinctive nose, lips, the shape of his face as well as his ringlet curls. When you look at the anatomy of the portrait it is the anatomy of a man except the breast. The neck is large. The arms are males arms. I believe this portrait is actually a 'self portrait' but he depicted himself as a woman!  Copied from a new lost Leonardo.




Some people say that the Mona Lisa, is a disguised self-portrait of Leonardo. The Monna Lisa was bequeathed to Salaì by Leonardo. King François I bought the painting for 4,000 écus and kept it at Château Fontainebleau,

Nude Mona Lisa Attributed to Salai after the lost original of Leonardo? This painting was supposed to originate from Leonardo's workshop. Some experts claim that this picture was painted after Leonardo's original


Nude Mona Lisa Attributed to Salai after the lost original of Leonardo? This painting was supposed to originate from Leonardo's workshop. Some experts claim that this picture was painted after Leonardo's original


Nude Mona Lisa Attributed to Salai after the lost original of Leonardo? This painting was supposed to originate from Leonardo's workshop. Some experts claim that this picture was painted after Leonardo's original


This naked portrait once belonged to Napoleon's uncle, Cardinal Joseph Fesch (1763-1839) and was ensconced within the wood walls of Fesch's private library for nearly a century, before trading more hands within the Napoleon family.


NUDE GIOCONDA: There were more than 60 alleged Mona Lisas, as is known, and here,a seminude portrait of "La Belle Gabrielle," which is currently in the collection of Lord Spencerof Northamptonshire, England, and is "attributed to the school of Da Vinci."


Monna Vanna Attributed to Salai about 1515 Cartoon, 72.4 x 54 cm Chantilly, Musee Conde


Copy of the Mona Lisa said to be by Salai shows how vibrant the Mona Lisa supposedly was at the time it was painted




Copy of the Mona Lisa School of Leonardo

 Vasari considered Salaì to be Leonardo’s most faithful follower and he even went so far as to say that some of their works were confused. Unlike the other Leonardeschi - such as Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Marco d’Oggiono, Andrea Solario, Cesare da Sesto - Salaì did not embark upon an independent artistic career but seemed content in copying and interpreting his master’s works, thus disseminating Leonardo’s inventions throughout the first quarter of the 16th century. As Shell and Sironi have observed, ‘Salaì represents another kind of Leonardesco; the faithful replicator of Leonardo’s models and, by his own lights, executor of Leonardo’s intentions’.In 1516 Salaì went on a journey once again with Melzi but this time to France, as part of Leonardo’s household. Salaì continued to work for Leonardo until the latter’s death and in his master’s will of April 23, 1519, Salaì is named as joint heir to half of Leonardo’s vineyard, where Salaì built his home and lived extremely comfortably (considering he was a painter who had worked as a shop assistant for thirty years). In June 1523 Salaì married Bianca Coldiroli d’Annono but six months later, on January 19, 1524, his life came to an abrupt end after a shooting. An inventory of Salaì’s property and household goods drawn up on April 2, 1525, lists numerous paintings including a Leda and ‘Joconda’ . The inventory of his possessions shows that he inherited many works by Leonardo, including the Mona Lisa and the Infant St John the Baptist (both Paris, Louvre). The high values assigned to some of the works would suggest that they were Leonardo’s originals

Gian Giacomo Caprotti Head of Christ, 1511
This is the only singed painting by Gian Giacomo Caprotti "Salai". It sold in New York city for $650,000. The head of Christ looks like the head of Salai



The Virgin and Child with Saint. Peter and Paul; Gian Giacomo Caprotti



Madonna and Child with St Anne by Gian Giacomo Caprotti. Oil on board, 72x99 cm.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

9 comments:

  1. wow amazing information. The best i've seen about Salai anywhere online. I think you would be VERY interested in what i've found regarding Salai and Da Vinci. You can see it on my web site itsjustlife.com specifically itsjustlife.com/monsalai.html and my blog derekbair.blogspot.com

    THanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Derek

    Thank you. I enjoyed doing this post so much. And learn so much more about Leonardo and art work by him that art critics will not attribute to him. I have looked over your site and it is very interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thanks, I ventured out looking for information on Da Vinci and Salai after reading a post about the hidden letters S and L in Da Vinci's artwork. Although I had never taken much intrest in artwork I am beginning to believe I may have been missing out. My gears have shifted and I think I may start doing some research and visiting some art museums. Once again thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Andrew,

    That is some beautiful blogging man. I look forward to more.

    ReplyDelete
  5. WOW! That is amazing info! Great Job on the research! Love it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. I will certainly give you credit for in depth research. Just maybe, does your interest stem from a certain bias?

    ReplyDelete
  7. Some of the drawings are not Salai. They are probably other pretty male students of Da Vinci. I have some pictures to show you if you're interested.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Portrai of salai is from leonardo da vinci, not from the school, please verify it here : http://www.cbedizioni.com/files/admin/leonardo-da-vinci-the-angel-in-the-flesh-and-salai.pdf

    ReplyDelete