Whilst on the subject of the interest in Leonardo amongst the early members of the Grand Lodge, I have checked that Thomas Coke, Earl of Leicester, who bought the Codex Leicester whilst on the Grand Tour, was also prominently involved with the freemasons during the 1720s. He was, including being Grand Master in 1731. Is there a connection or was it just part of the general milieu of those with scientific interests round Newton ? He certainly was pretty deeply knowlegeable about antique and Renaissance culture, having spent six years on the Grand Tour, departing in 1712 aged fifteen with a tutor, Thomas Hobart, who was a Fellow of Christ’s, and a valet, Edward Jarret, who kept detailed accounts. A year later, aged only sixteen, he described himself as ‘a perfect virtuoso, and a great lover of pictures’. He attended the Academy in Turin in 1715 and wrote how ‘one of the greatest ornaments of a gentleman or his family is a fine library’. The second part of the year he spent in France and Germany, but returned to Italy in 1716 ‘to confirm myself in the language and virtuosoship of that Country’. He acquired the Codex in 1717 from Giuseppe Ghezzi, whilst also employing Joseph Smith to act as his agent in Venice , learning about architecture from ‘Signor Giacomo’ and spending time in Naples with William Kent.
6 thoughts on “Leonardo and the Freemasons (2)”
Thanks. Coke’s experience and art education underline why the great UK collections, in the National Gallery, Dulwich, Edinburgh etc and the best National Trust collections, are so strong in French, German and Italian art and so relatively weak in Spanish, Scandinavian, Russian art : the route of the Grand Tour determined where collectors went, and scholars followed. This culminated in Kenneth Clark’s CIVILISATION which ignored Spanish, Russian and Nordic art , indeed asserted that European civilisation owed nothing to Spain – notwithstanding Goya`, Velasquez, El Greco etc and the amazing achievements of the Moors, and Islam, who dominated Southern Spain for more than 500 years and left if the Alcazar in Seville and the Alhambra in Granada.
Yes, good point. Charles
I’m reading your blog in the grounds of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan, having just had my 15 minutes with the Last Supper. It’s an unusually reverential experience in these days of mass tourism. Securing tickets is extremely difficult and requires advance planning; unless you are very well organised it needs a local intermediary; you visit as part of a small group of about 20; there are no crowds and no cafe, and barely adequate toilets of the squat variety. Perhaps it’s rather similar to 18th-century Grand Tourists’ experience?
No, I think in the eighteenth century it was much more casual. The big difference was that seeing a copy was regarded as a legitimate substitute in a way that we wouldn’t. Charles
Always thought much more should be done on Freemasonry and the arts.
Seems rather overlooked in the literature but was a powerfully informing context until well into the 19th century.
Yes, that’s why I was intrigued that it was now being discussed dispassionately as an aspect of Leonardo studies. Charles