Leonardo's Cover Letter

Leonardo's skills

Atlantic Codex (Codex Atlanticus), f. 1082recto. (c. 1483-85) by Leonardo da VinciVeneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana

This sheet shows the famous letter that Leonardo addressed to Ludovico il Moro soon after his arrival in Milan, in 1482-83.

To solicit the immense political ambition of Ludovico, the Master introduced himself first as an expert military engineer, capable of designing fearsome and innovative weapons, describing his artistic skills only in the final part of the missive.

Aware of the limits of his handwriting, he had the text transcribed by a professional copyist. The paper shown here is a draft and we do not know whether a final version was ever delivered to the Lord of Milan.

The text, divided into ten points or paragraphs, seems like a "table of contents" for themes of study contained in Leonardo's oldest manuscripts.

All ten paragraphs allude to themes of the military arts, machines for sieges or for defense, as well as to work of engineering, mechanics, hydraulics, etc., in the following order:
1, bridges;
2, watercourse deviations;

3, fortress destructions;
4, bombes that launch a tempest of stones;

5, tools for defending or destroying canals;
6, methods for burrowing tunnels;

7, types of covered wagons;
8, bombardment methods, mortars and culverins;

9, types of mangonels and catapults;
10, works of architecture and hydraulics, works in marble, bronze and clay, as well as works in paint.

The final mention of works in paint and also to the equestrian monument in honor of Francesco Sforza seem to be inserted more to appeal to Ludovico's vainglory that to obtain practical results.

All the rest having been conceived to impress Leonardo's potential benefactor with all the amazing machines he had thought up and to satisfy Ludovico Sforza's extreme political and military ambition.

Credits: Story

Collegio dei Dottori della Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana

Monsignor Alberto Rocca
Direttore della Pinacoteca Ambrosiana

Monsignor Francesco Braschi
Dottore della Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana

Ufficio mostre ed eventi:
Elena Fontana
Michele Figlioli
Carolina Donzelli

Referenti Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana per il progetto Google Arts&Culture:
Michele Figlioli
Carolina Donzelli

Creazione stories e editing testi:
Federica Lamberti con la supervisione di Carolina Donzelli

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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