Nativity by various followers of Leonardo da Vinci - Salai, Cesare da Sesto, Fernando Yanez de la Almedina and Anonymous

Leonardeschi is a term for a large group of artists who worked in the studio of or under the influence of Leonardo da Vinci. In 1472 da Vinci joined the Guild of St Luke and at the end of 1477 he left the studio of Andrea del Verrocchio as an independent artist. In 1482 Leonardo came to Milan where he stayed with Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, Evangelista de Predis and their four brothers, who all were artists of different kinds. Both Predis brothers are known for having collaborated with Leonardo da Vinci in the painting of the Virgin of the Rocks for the altarpiece in the chapel of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception at the Church of San Francesco Grande, Milan. In 1490 Leonardo earned recognition and a breakthrough at the court of Ludovico Sforza and because of the scale of works commissioned he was permitted to have assistants and pupils in his own studio.

Madonna by Andrea del Brescianino held in Naples, based on Leonardos sketch, held in Royal Library, Windsor


Among Leonardo’s pupils at this time were Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Ambrogio de Predis, Bernardino de' Conti, Francesco Napoletano, Andrea Solario, Marco d'Oggiono, and Salaì (known as Giacomo Caprotti or Andrea Salaino). In a letter to Ludovico in 1496 Leonardo claims he was having to maintain 6 people at the time. Along with these original pupils of Leonardo, during his second stay in Milan in 1508 Leonardo had relationships with other Milanese artists, such as Il Sodoma (Giovanni Antonio Bazzi) and Giovanni Francesco Rustici and young Francesco Melzi, whose parents had a manor house at Vaprio, Milan. Such artists as Giampietrino, Bernardino Lanino, Cesare da Sesto, Cesare Magni, Martino Piazza da Lodi and Bernardino Luini are also regarded as members of the circle of Leonardo, while Giampietrino and Cesare da Sesto are represented as pupils in monument to Leonardo at Milan.


Fernando Yáñez de la Almedina and Leonardo da Vinci. Christ Resurrected (Cathedral of Valencia) and drawing of nude St John the Baptist (Windsor Royal Collection)

During the first decades of the 16th century a number of Spanish painters visited Florence. Fernando Yanez de la Almedina and Hernando de los Llanos are documented as collaborators with Leonardo on the Battle of Anghiari. Both artists continued their artistic association on returning home to Spain.

Northern Europe

Same composition of Madonna and Child used by various followers of Leonardo da Vinci, both Milanese and Flemish (Marco d'Oggiono, Anonymous follower of Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent Selaer (?), anonymous Flemish painter).

In 1494 - 95 and again in 1505 - 1507 the German artist Albrecht Dürer traveled to Venice, Italy. It was in Bologna that Dürer was taught (possibly by Luca Pacioli or Bramante) the principles of linear perspective, and evidently became familiar with the geometrical construction of shadows, a technique of Leonardo's. Several Dürer engravings show a clear interest in the works of Leonardo, for example The Small Horse is based upon the Sforza Horse by da Vinci. During the second stay in Venice Dürer was influenced by Leonardo's cartoon of Christ among the Doctors, which was commissioned by Isabella d'Este, while Dürer made a version of the subject, now in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid. This is the only painting of Dürer directly influenced by Leonardo, however, Dürer introduced new subjects developed by Leonardo in his art (e.g. the figure of young St. John the Baptist into his composition of Madonna with the Siskin in 1506, which was not familiar to Venetian art at the time). Despite the regard in which he was held by the Venetians, Dürer returned to Nuremberg by mid-1507, remaining in Germany until 1520. His reputation had spread throughout Europe and he was on friendly terms and in communication with most of the major artists including Raphael, Giovanni Bellini and — mainly through Lorenzo di Credi — Leonardo da Vinci.

It is also believed that Quentin Matsys had known the work of Leonardo da Vinci in the form of prints made and circulated among northern artists (his Madonna and Child with the Lamb, inspired by The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, and also A Grotesque Old Woman (or The Ugly Duchess) which reflects da Vinci's influences). This is regarded as evidence that Matsys was greatly influenced by Italian Renaissance artists and that he most likely travelled to Italy for at least a brief period.

In 1516 or 1517 Leonardo da Vinci joined the court of Francis I of France. Coincidentally, a Flemish portrait painter Joos van Cleve was also summoned to the French court, where he painted the king, queen, and other courtiers. It is thought that Joos van Cleve also spent some time in Italy as well as France on this trip. Like Quentin Massys, a fellow artist of Antwerp, Joos van Cleve appropriated some themes and techniques of Leonardo da Vinci. Joos van Cleve is often called Leonardo of the North, and paintings by the Italian Renaissance artists Giampietrino (Madonna of the Cherries) and Marco d’Oggiono (The Infants Christ and John the Baptist Embracing, known as The Holy Infants Embracing), both assistants in the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci, were a major influence on the Antwerp master. Joos van Cleve produced numerous versions of his own paintings after these models, adapting them to his own style and so creating some of the most successful compositions of the time in northern Europe. His son Cornelis van Cleve continued an artistic interest in Leonardo, producing several copies of his father's work and the Madonna of the Yarnwinder himself.


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