FRANCESCO MELZI (Milan 1491/93-1570 Vaprio d’Adda)
Eight studies of fighting cats
pen and brown ink
534 x 312 in. (14.6 x 8.9 cm)
C. Pedretti, The Drawings and Miscellaneous Papers of Leonardo da Vinci in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle, II, London, 1987, pp. 123-124, fig. 157.
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Lot Essay

Francesco Melzi joined Leonardo’s workshop in Milan around 1508 and became his faithful pupil. The artist went with Leonardo to Rome and then followed him to France, where he stayed until the master’s death in 1519. It is largely due to Melzi’s efforts that Leonardo’s notebooks and drawings have survived. Melzi brought Leonardo’s material back to Milan and, according to Giorgio Vasari, kept everything as highly regarded relics. The studies of cats in these two sheets were copied after one of Leonardo’s most charming drawings in the Royal Collection at Windsor (inv. RCIN 912363; see C.C. Bambach, Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman, exhib. cat., New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003, no. 117, ill.). In his drawing Leonardo had studied the cats in pairs or alone in many different positions – lying asleep, playing and fighting – as he was interested in their flexibility and had planned to write a treatise on the movement of animals. The drawings are probably drawn at two different moments, as they are executed on different kinds of paper and with different pens. The drawing on the versoof the following lot could also be after one of Leonardo’s now lost sketches. We know that Melzi copied his master’s drawings as part of his artistic training, and other studies after Leonardo’s drawings have been attributed to him such as, for example, the drawing with A grotesque Couplein the Metropolitan Museum of Art (inv. 1975.96; see A. Manges in Bambach,op. cit., no. 121, ill.).
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