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Vigna di Leonardo

Leonardo's Vineyard

From the Florence of Lorenzo the Magnificent, Leonardo moved to Milan, to the court of Ludovico Maria Sforza, “Il moro”, in 1482. At the time, he and Ludovico were both 30 years old.

In 1495 Ludovico commissioned him to paint a Last Supper in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the church that he was considering transforming into a mausoleum for his family, the Sforzas. In 1498, delimited behind the Borgo delle Grazie area, Ludovico gave Leonardo a vineyard consisting of nearly sixteen poles, and over a hectare of land. It was a rectangular plot, measuring 60 metres wide by 175 metres long, extending over a hectare of land.

It’s not hard to imagine Leonardo, at the end of a hard day at work on his Last Supper, crossing the Borgo delle Grazie area and, on his way back to Casa degli Atellani, going to check on the state of his vineyard. However, it didn’t last long: in April 1500 the troops of the King of France defeated and imprisoned Ludovico and Leonardo left Milan, but not before leasing the vineyard to the father of his favourite pupil Gian Giacomo Caprotti, known as Salaì.

Leonardo never forgot his vineyard: he won it back after the French confiscated it and in 1519, on his deathbed, he cited it in his will, he asked that it be divided into two lots: one for a servant and the other for Salaì, who lived a small house on the plot and was killed in the very same district five years later in circumstances that never became clear, leaving a mountain of historic paintings behind.

Leonardo’s vineyard fell into obscurity until1919, when the architect Piero Portaluppi began his work of transforming Casa degli Atellani. It was during this period that the architect and Leonardo expert Luca Beltrami, using Renaissance documents, determined the possible location of the vineyard He photographed the vineyard, which was incredibly still intact, in order to confirm his findings. It was just at the bottom of the garden of the Casa degli Atellani. This was before it was destroyed by fire and the pressing needs of urban planning. Before its rebirth on occasion of EXPO 2015.

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