The artist and science

Excerpt from the book 'Leonardo da Vinci - The Complete Paintings and Drawings' by Frank Zöllner

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From all appearances, it would seem that during this period- roughly the years 1494 to 1496-neither the annual salary due to the artist and his workshop, nor individual fees relating to particular projects, were paid regularly or in full. This is confirmed by Leonardo's private accounts, as far as they can be reconstructed. By 1492 the artist had accumulated around 200 ducats (811 lire) and by 1493 had boosted his reserves to 300 ducats-an increase of 50 per cent. This percentage growth was not matched over the following years, however. Thus although Leonardo's cash savings totalled 600 ducats (2400 lire) by 1499, this actually translates into a lower annual growth rate and is possibly a clue that Ludovico Sforza had been feeling less generous towards him. In the spring of 1499, in fact, Ludovico expressly remarked that he had not paid Leonardo enough and that he intended to remunerate him better in future. That same spring he made the artist a gift of a vineyard just outside Milan, whose market value a few years later was taxed at 1100 lire imperiali, an amount three or four times higher than the annual salary of a senior official or a university professor. If Leonardo complained about being badly paid, he was still better off than most. Without a relatively solid financial basis, he could not have afforded to keep going without payment, nor would he have had time to spare for his "scientific" studies. Even if it was often late in being paid, it was the income he earned from his many activities as court artist that made it possible for Leonardo to strive towards the universal knowledge for which he would subsequently become famous.
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Head of Leda, c. 1505 - 1510