José Luís Espejo - The presence of Leonardo in Catalonia, silenced

The presence of Leonardo in Catalonia, silenced

 

            More than ten years ago I began to follow the track of the elusive Leonardo. Over this time I have arrived to the conclusion that this artist and philosopher of the Renaissance has been in Catalonia on at least three occasions, as knows who has followed my books or my website. It is not my purpose to explain the corpus of my arguments in defense of this thesis (just look over this section to have a basic knowledge of it). But I think necessary to look into an idea that has assaulted my mind in recent months: if I investigate the presence of Leonardo in Catalonia is because nobody has done it before. What means: 1) either that Leonardo was not in Catalonia (that is what some people think); (2) or if he was in Catalonia, he did it with discretion, without leaving a trace; or (3) finally, someone wanted to delete the tracks of his passage through this country.

            As is well known, I refuse to accept the first possibility (that Leonardo has not ever been in Catalonia), because from my point of view the evidences of his presence in this country are overwhelming. In some occasions I have evoked that the second possibility (that Leonardo had hid his own trace) is quite likely, because as I have explained in my articles, certainly he would have come as an spy, in the turbulent and changing times of the Italy of his time (in which Aragon, and afterwards Spain, had a predominant paper, both to a commercial and political level), taking advantage of the "safe-conduct" of which enjoyed the "artists" in the foreign countries, by the fact of being so (his case is not unique: the Florentine "cultural embassies" during the Renaissance are well known). In what refers to the third option (some hidden interest has tried to silence the presence of Leonardo in Catalonia) I have never dared to express it openly.

            Until today. I think that it is time to bring it to light, in view of the evidences. As we will see at the end of this article, I don't have any doubt of the fact that Leonardo came to Catalonia with a "low profile" (as spy, i.e., of incognito), but seems evident that "someone" (perhaps an official of the Court of Madrid, at the end of the 18th century) seems interested in hiding his presence here. With what purpose, we will see later.

            With the passage of the years I've become convinced that Leonardo went to Catalonia on at least three occasions. Significantly, these three visits coincided with "turning points" in his life and in his work. Contrary to what is believed, there are documents that appear to have been manipulated or made to disappear, aiming to erase his trace here.

 

First visit (1481-1483): censorship in the monastery

 

            His first visit to Montserrat coincides with an important moment in the history of Florence: had ended the war between this Republic and Naples (ally of Aragon), but is guessed new conflicts in Italy. Giuliano della Rovere (the future Jules II), based in Avignon, was at that time Abbot of the monastery; his vicar was Llorenç Marull, who exercised at the same time as Abbot of the nearby monastery of Santa Cecilia de Montserrat.

            I will not explain the motives inducing me to think that Leonardo was in this monastery, at least a few months, in the period 1481-1483. Look at the section Hidden History of this web page. But I will explain the details that seem to indicate that his presence here had been silenced by the own monks of Montserrat, in a very particular moment.

            In two articles (Los manuscritos de Montserrat, no tan perdidos and Más sobre el archivo de Montserrat) I try to elucidate the fate of the archive of Montserrat, which is not as clear as it seems at first sight (sustained on the thesis that it was destroyed by the French troops in the year 1811, and that there are not any remnants). I will not now go into this issue. But in another article I allude to a series of letters, in the bundles II-2519 and II-2520 of the library of the Palacio Real of Madrid, that evidence a policy of concealment and of destruction of "inconvenient" documents, implemented by an archivist excessively "jealous" and compliant to the Authority (headed by Francisco of Zamora, of the Court of Madrid). About this case writes repeatedly the archivist Miguel Pérez de Vassa, that was moved away of his function in benefit of the more "submissive" (for certain interests) Benet Ribas i Calaf.

            In my article Leonardo, spy in Montserrat (year 1482) I presented a letter of the "oficial" archivist  (blessed by the authority), Benet Ribas, in which he anticipates that he will send, to his interlocutor of the Court, Francisco de Zamora, a number of documents of the Kings and celebrities who have passed by the monastery. In particular, he refers to a letter from the Catholic monarchs to the monastery, in relation to a matter associated with hermits:

 

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Letter of Benet Ribas to Francisco de Zamora (1789).

 

            In another letter, signed by Joan Boada (priest in the neighbouring town of Olesa), we know the story of a "pretended Italian pilgrim" that, in times of the honourable Mr Rull (Llorenç Marull, vicar of Montserrat, and Abbot of Santa Cecilia), was accepted by the community. The "pretended pilgrim" was supposed to be a spy (the "fake" term is clear in this regard), and therefore it is likely that such spy was an artist. These were, along with some traders, the main candidates to espionage activities; and were also the most protected by the princes of the time, because they used to have special safe-conducts (it is well known one issued by Caesar Borgia to Leonardo da Vinci).

 

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Letter of Joan Boada (1789).

            Italian spy in Montserrat in times of Llorenç Marull (towards the year 1482). Who could be but the own Leonardo da Vinci? It is well known that this painter and philosopher practised as spy during most of his career. Charles Nicholl, in his famous biography, calls him "the eyes and ears" of the Florentine Republic in the various missions (in Milan, in the Court of Cesare Borgia, perhaps in Rome) that was entrusted to. Why not in Barcelona, which is playing an important role in great part of the destiny of Italy, as a allied power to Naples, great rival of Florence?

            But is that also, according to this document, this "pretended Italian pilgrim" (Leonardo?: spy and artist, protected by the Signoria of Florence) was admitted in the community and resided in the monastery. Not as a monk or as a "donato", but as an employee, surely in functions of artist. Not in vain, beside this letter, we can see the image of a statue, drawn -it seems- by the own Fernando de Zamora: a Sainte Cecile. This makes sense, if we take into account that the Vicar of Montserrat at that time (Llorenç Marull, the Rull of the letter) was Abbot of the nearby Abbey of Santa Cecilia de Montserrat.

            The letter of Joan Boada says that in those moments the monks of the monastery were throwing (eliminating) documents in relation to a 'subject' which causes 'murmurs'. What subject ? Perhaps that "subject" identified by three initials, located on the top of the drawing of the statue of Santa Cecilia that I mentioned above: L d V (Leonardo da Vinci?). Note that these initials are what remains of a registration that has been deliberately erased.

 

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Initials L d V on the top of the drawing of the statue of St. Cecilia (year 1789).

 

            First evidence of concealment of the presence of Leonardo in Catalonia, implemented, in this case, by the own monks of Montserrat (in particular, by the chief archivist, Benet Ribas). Note that Joan Boada, author of the letter in question, said to his interlocutor (we do not know who is) that has duly informed to Francisco de Zamora (i.e., to the Court of Madrid). So therefore, who seems most interested in the destruction of evidences on the passage of Leonardo by Montserrat? Without any doubt, the Court, with the submissive collaboration of the monastery.

 

Second visit (1494): censorship in the diary of Jerónimo Münzer

 

            In my article The Holy Supper of Solsona, model for the Last Supper of Leonardo? I argue that Leonardo had been inspired in an catalan altarpiece (the Holy Supper of Solsona, of Pere Teixidó) to paint his Last Supper of Milan (started on the year 1495). The iconographic homologies are very eloquent (I suggest to the reader to look into the cited article). But when could have seen, in person, this predella, located in a small chapel in a remote place of the Centre of Catalonia? (more specifically, in Santa Constança de Linya, close to Navès).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comparison between the Last Supper by Pere Teixidó and the one of Leonardo.

 

             As I discuss in my article Leonardo, ¿en Barcelona en 1494? the reading of the diary of Jerónimo Münzer, during his journey through Spain and Portugal, in the years 1494 and 1495, provides the following passage:

§ 8. Agasajo que nos hicieren ios mercaderes alemanes
Entre otros mercaderes alemanes que. allí vivían a la sazón,
estaban Gregorio Rasp, de Augsburgo; Erardo Wigant, llamado
Frank, de Mergentheim, ciudad de Franconia, y Wolfang Ferber,
de Ulrria; asimismo hallábase en la ciudad fray Juan, de la Orden
de San Francisco, a quien conoce mucho el doctor Stahel, su
amigo Nicolás y Leonardo, que tiene un hermano en la casa de
los teutones de Nuremberga, todos los cuales nos regalaron con
extremada liberalidad. Convidados en sus casas, nos sirvieron en
vajillas de oro y plata; comimos y bebimos al uso catalán; durante
el banquete, músicos con diversos instrumentos tocaron continuamente
para solazarnos, cantaron coros y bailaron al estilo morisco.
A buen seguro que no se harían tales agasajos ni a un barón
ni a un conde de Alemania : ¡qué manjares, qué frutas, cuan varias
clases de reparadores vinos! Y como no es posible dar cabal
idea de ello, hagamos recaer las alabanzas en nuestros huéspedes,
en sus hijos y en sus amigos.

§ 8. Pleasure that some German merchants gave to us. Among other German merchants that lived there [in Barcerlona] at the time, were Gregorio Rasp, from Augsburg; Erardo Wigant, called Frank, of Mergentheim, city of Franconia, and Wolfang Ferber, of Ulrria; also was in the city fray Juan, of the order of Saint Francis, to who knows much the doctor Stahel, his friend Nicolas and Leonardo, that has a brother in the house of the teutons of Nuremberg, that behaved with us with extreme liberality. Invited into their homes, we were served in dishes of gold and silver; we ate and drank to the catalan use; during the banquet, musicians played continuously with different instruments to pamper us, sang chorals and danced in the Moorish style. Surely that such entertainments were not done to a baron or a count of Germany: what delicacies, how many genres of wines! And as it is not possible to give a full idea of it, let us praise our guests, their children and their friends.

            Note that here is mentioned the name, the surname and the place of origin of various German persons. However it is hidden the surname and the nationality of Leonardo, and of Nicolas, and of course of the Franciscan named Juan. It is said that such Leonardo has a brother in the Teutonic order, in Nuremberg. Since we know nothing of the brothers of Leonardo da Vinci (Antonio, the oldest, would have 18 years on that date), and that he had -in those days- a German pupil named Giulio, we can not rule out that such Leonardo is really Leonardo da Vinci, that had access to Germans at the right time in which Jerónimo Münzer visited Barcelona, and met with individuals of that nationality -and also with a Leonardo- at the beginning of the autumn of the year 1494. And who was Nicolas? It would not surprise me if he was Niccola Machiavelli, which at that time began his career as a diplomat at the service of the Republic of Florence, in the months leading up to the revolution which marked the drop of the Medici family.

            What originated the oblivion of Jerónimo Münzer, important cosmographer of the Renaissance (friend of Martin Behaim), of the identity of such Leonardo? Perhaps his own insistence (of Leonardo) in maintaining anonymity? Or the manipulation of the original manuscript to hide this detail? This is something that we may never know, because it seems that the original has disappeared.

            Again, silence about the presence of Leonardo in Catalonia. Perhaps his promoter is the artist himself. Whatever it is, the meeting of Munzer with such Leonardo took place in Barcelona in September 1494, a year before the start of the Holy Supper in Milan. Is it then when he knew the Santa Cena by Pere Teixidó, in an small chapel near Navès, in the center of this country?

 

A curious note of Leonardo, in the year 1494

            In a note of the H manuscript of Leonardo da Vinci, dated in the year 1494, we find the following words:

            "Aguglia, Niccolao, refe, Ferrâdo, Iacopo Âdrea, tela, pietra, colori, penella, tavoletta da colori, spuga, tavola del Duca".

            Note that in the same year (1494) in which Jerónimo Münzer mentioned a Leonardo, in Barcelona, that it is accompanied by a Nicolas, Leonardo da Vinci mentions a Niccolao, alongside a Spanish person -presumably- named Ferrando. Perhaps because he wanted to go to Spain?, or perhaps because he was already there? Is it a proof that Leonardo was really in Barcelona in 1494? The coincidence, in any case, is staggering.

             The reader possibly will understand that I think that such Niccolao can be Niccola Machiavelli, to who Francesco Guicciardini, in several of his letters (the 17 of May of 1521, or the 12 of November of 1526) called literally Niccolao Machiavelli, and adds "como fratello honorando"; ie: to which he regards as a brother (Francesco Bausi: Machiavelli).

            Who can be Ferrando? Pedro Miguel Ibáñez Martínez, in his book Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina, la incógnita Yáñez, speculates with the possibility that he is the same "Ferrando Spagnolo, dipintore" (perhaps Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina) which Leonardo mentions two occasions on certain notes, coinciding with the works in the "fresco of the battle of Anghiari" (April and August of the year 1505).

             If it were true that Leonardo would have met in Barcelona with Juan Pérez and Niccola Machiavelli, in 1494, it would have perhaps been with the intention to resolve diplomatic affairs, in the moments before the revolution at the end of 1494 in Florence. Why not at the proposal of Fernando el Católico? Perhaps the King could have employed -supposedly- the diplomatic abilities of Juan Pérez (the other senior diplomat, Bernat Boïl, was coming from America) with a representative of Florence: Machiavelli, accompanied by the "spy" Leonardo? It continues to be a speculation, but it makes sense.

             Whatever it is, even if such Nicholas is not Niccola Machiavelli, it is clear that Leonardo is linked to such Nicolas in two documents of the same year (1494): one of them places him in Barcelona. Also is mntioned in the handwritten document of Leonardo (where is named Niccolao), as well as the Spanish person of name Ferrando; further evidence of his physical presence in Barcelona.

Third visit (1504): censorship in the Royal Palace of Madrid

 

            In several articles of the section Hidden History I allude to the presence of Leonardo in Catalonia, in the second half of the year 1504, as it is evident in the Codex Madrid II, dated to that time. First, is visible in the drawing of the castle of Salses, finished (with a clash with France included, at the end of 1503) a year earlier.

 

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Castle of Salses (above), drawn by Leonardo in the Codex Madrid-II.

 

            But we also notice his presence in another drawing, also in the Codex Madrid-II, where it appears a mountain, with a building on the top, beside which we read -very dimly- the name Rocafor, and on the reverse we have -in a list of clothing- a piece called "a catelano rosato" (a catalan pink cloak). This is not coincidence. The drawing and the list (on the two sides of the same sheet) allude to a trip that had as one of its milestones the Priory of Sant Genis de Rocafort, half a kilometer away from Martorell, not far from the place where he would have taken notes for the landscape of the Mona Lisa (see my article Leonardo, La Gioconda and Martorell).

 

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Half deleted, we read Rocafor; on the reverse, "A catelano rosato" (a catalan pink cloak). Codex Madrid-II (1504).

 

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Sant Genís de Rocafort (Martorell). Up to the right, drawing of Leonardo in the Codex Madrid-II.

 

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Although the letters have been expressly erased, we read clearly Rocafor. Compare with the calligraphy of Leonardo.

 

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We know that Rocafor is Sant Genís de Rocafort, next to Martorell, for details like this: left, Sant Genís; right, drawing from the Codex Madrid II (Rocafor).

 

            Someone deleted the words situated next to the drawing of Leonardo in the Codex Madrid-II. Not doubt that Leonardo tried to hide his trace, but some censor helped him out, to silence his steps by Catalonia.

            Ultimately, at least three evidences of the presence of Leonardo in Catalonia have been manipulated or deleted: 1) documents that allude to Leonardo in Montserrat, according to the letter from Joan Boada (see above); (2) drawing of the Santa Cecilia, where someone deleted a name, of which we can gues three initials (LdV); (3) the place name Rocafor in the Codex Madrid-II. But it is also remarkable the following painting:

 

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Gioconda of Madrid, recently restored. The background was painted black.

 

            This is the Gioconda of Madrid, sister of the one of Paris (was performed using the same carton). At one point, at the end of the 18th century, the background was painted black. Someone did not want that we recognize the landscape.

            Those documents of Montserrat with destination to the official of the Court, Francisco de Zamora, or the Codex Madrid-II, or the picture known as Gioconda of Madrid, have something in common. The three were kept in the Palacio Real de Madrid. It is possible that someone on the Court did not want to make public the relationship between Leonardo and Catalonia. Because of that eliminated and manipulated documents; between them this painting. Which was the reason? From my point of view, given the -enthusiastic- collaboration of the archivist of Montserrat at that moment (Benet Ribas i Calaf), we should not rule out a religious motive. Leonardo was a famous freethinker, and Spain was known as a "hammer of heretics".

            Or, perhaps, the motivation is different. I leave it to the free and informed opinion of the reader.

 

A new case of censorship? 

          Look here: http://www.joseluisespejo.com/index.php/leonardo-da-vinci/343-ragona-aragona-taragona.

          See this image, taken from www.leonardodigitale.com:

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Folio 1006 (verso) of the Atlantic Codex. On top (on the left) of the map of Europe, there is a blank space, which has been deleted.

          Note that up this map (on the left) appears a space in white, deleted in any form. What there was in this space? Is it a new case of censorship? And in this case, what was hiding? See also that the letter A leading this map is distinguished with total clarity. It is really an A, not a scribble. And to the left, below, a perfectly profiled M.

          And now see this version of the map:


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The blank space is transformed into a nicely shaped box, with a darker band on the right.

          The blank space is transformed into a well shaped box. In short, there are two versions of this folio. Which is authentic? I believe that none of them. At one time "someone" deleted that box, or hid it, to cover something inconvenient. Then this empty space has been manipulated to make it visually more "acceptable". That is to say, this double handling is a tangible evidence of the will of hiding a secret, that perhaps alludes to the stay of Leonardo in Montserrat, or to the role of the secret society of the double A in the destiny of the world. Of both aspects we will find signs on this map.

          Either way, Italy and Spain are outlined. They are the only geographical entities that appear with their names, knowing that at that time neither Italy nor Spain were united national states (even if the patriotic folklore claims to the contrary).

          My friend David Vilasís sent me the image below:

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Opposite side of folio 1006 (recto). Here we see the same blank space, indicating that a piece of paper would have been "stuck" to the previously cut hole.

          According to David Vilasís, this space would have been previously trimmed, given its cumbersome nature. Certainly the concealment of the face "verso" (where the map is located) wouldn't have been enough to hide its content, since this one would have transparented on the opposite side. That is why a practice as "shoddy" as purely and simply crop the page was made. Although -insists David Vilasís- it would be necessary to see the original to check if this might be so. What is clear is that this empty "piece" would try to replace the original cut.

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