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THE SALA DELLE ASSE IN THE SFORZA CASTLE IN MILANbyPatrizia CostaB.S. Industrial Administration and Italian, Carnegie Mellon University, 1989M.A. History of Art, University of Pittsburgh, 1993Submitted to the Graduate Faculty ofArts and Sciences in partial fulfillmentof the requirements for the degree ofDoctor of PhilosophyUniversity of Pittsburgh2006

This dissertation was presentedByPatrizia CostaIt was defended onFebruary 10, 2006and approved byAnn Sutherland Harris, Professor of Italian Baroque ArtHenry Clay Frick Department of the History of Art and ArchitectureDavid Wilkins, Professor Emeritus of Italian Renaissance ArtHenry Clay Frick Department of the History of Art and ArchitectureH. Anne Weis, Associate Professor of Ancient Greek and Roman ArtHenry Clay Frick Department of the History of Art and ArchitectureKathleen Wren Christian, Assistant Professor of Italian Renaissance ArtHenry Clay Frick Department of the History of Art and ArchitectureFrancesca Savoia, Associate Professor of Italian Languages and LiteratureDepartment of French and Italian Languages and LiteratureDennis Looney, Associate Professor of Italian Languages and LiteraturesDepartment of French and Italian Languages and Literatureii

Copyright by Patrizia Costa2006iii

This dissertation is dedicated to my childrenEdoardo and Gianmarcostudio sapientia crescitiv

THE SALA DELLE ASSE IN THE SFORZA CASTLE IN MILANPatrizia Costa, PhDUniversity of Pittsburgh, 2006This dissertation deals with two periods in the history of a room in the SforzaCastle known as the Sala delle Asse: the fifteenth‐century, when Ludovico Sforza (1452‐1508) commissioned Leonardo da Vinci (1452‐1519) to paint it and the late‐nineteenth‐to‐early‐twentieth century when the Sala was re‐discovered and subjected to a majorrestoration by the Italian architectural historian Luca Beltrami (1854‐1933). Beltramiʹsparticipation in the Salaʹs re‐discovery in 1893, the architectural and pictorial alterationshe ordered in preparing the room for public view, and his monographic presentation ofthe Salaʹs fifteenth‐century history will be discussed here using new archival evidence.The author will argue that Beltramiʹs interventions ultimately shifted attention awayfrom the Salaʹs fifteenth‐century circumstances and transformed it into a key componentof the ambitious restoration scheme that Beltrami had formulated for the Sforza Castleas whole. This was a scheme that supported certain political and cultural ideologiesabout Milan at the turn of the twentieth‐century. In an effort to provide an alternativevoice for the Sala to that of Beltrami, the author will use new archival documentation todiscuss the participation of Paul Müller‐Walde, a German art historian who is creditedwith the actual re‐discovery of the Sala but whose contributions remained curiouslyabsent from all modern art‐historical literature dealing with the Sala. Acting on thev

premise that a more plausible and much needed interpretation for the Salaʹs fifteenth‐century history is needed, the author will offer a reconsideration of some of the Salaʹsmost basic problems such as dating, location and possible uses. The author will alsodeal with Leonardoʹs contributions and the perils of characterizing the Sala as yetanother work that sprang fully from Leonardoʹs imagination, with little interference ordirection from outside sources. Finally, the author will deal with Ludovico Sforzaʹsreasons for commissioning the Sala and lay the groundwork for an expanded andalternative interpretative discourse intended to broaden the avenue of investigation ofthis important and unique commission in Renaissance art. This dissertation concludeswith an extensive Register of Documents containing reproductions or transcriptions ofimportant fifteenth‐, nineteenth‐ and twentieth‐century documents for the Sala

If you wish to go to the top of a building you must go up step by step; otherwise it willbe impossible that you should reach the top. Thus I say to you, whom nature promptsyou to pursue this art, if you wish to have sound knowledge of the forms of objectsbegin with the details of them, and do not go on to the second [step] till you have thefirst well fixed in memory and in practice. And if you do otherwise you will throwaway your time, or certainly greatly prolong your studies. And remember to acquirediligence rather than rapidity.— Leonardo da Vincivii

TABLE OF CONTENTSLIST OF FIGURES . . xiPREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS xii1. INTRODUCTION . p. 1A. The Sala delle Asseʹs place in art‐historical literatureB. Factors pointing to a pattern of scholarly disinterest: public accessibility,physical condition and the interpretative framework forged by the Italianarchitectural historian, Luca BeltramiC. Arrangement and scope of the chapters in this dissertationD. The archival sources used in preparing this dissertationPART I ‐ THE SALA DELLE ASSE IN THE LATE 19th‐ AND EARLY 20th‐CENTURIES2. IN SEARCH OF LEONARDO AT THE SFORZA CASTLE: LUCA BELTRAMIAND PAUL MULLER‐WALDE STEP UP TO THE CHALLENGE p. 26A. Who was Luca Beltrami?B. Beltramiʹs ideas and philosophy on conservation and restorationC. Beltramiʹs political crusade for the Sforza CastleD. Paul Müller‐Walde at the Sforza Castle: a partially‐censored contribution?E. In search of Müller‐Waldeʹs personal archivesviii

3. FATTI E DISFATTI: THE SALA DELLE ASSE ACCORDING TO LUCABELTRAMI .p. 63A. The 1902 transformation of the Sala delle AsseB. The reactions of art critics and scholarsC. Making sense of the Sala delle Asse in the context of Beltramiʹs ambitions forthe restoration of the Sforza CastleD. Beltrami looks to documents in building a defense for his work on the Saladelle AssePART II ‐ THE SALA DELLE ASSE IN THE 15TH CENTURY4. LAYING THE GROUNDWORK FOR A FEASIBLE HISTORY OF THE SALADELLE ASSE: PROBLEMS AND CONSIDERATIONS . p. 93A. Physical description of the Sala delle AsseB. Interpreting the term ʺasseʺ in the name Sala delle AsseC. The location and function of the Sala delle Asse under Ludovico SforzaD. The four plaques in the ceiling of the Sala delle AsseE. Establishing a time‐line for the Sala delle AsseF. The Saletta Negra and the Sala delle Asse as parts of a unified programG. Payment for the Sala delle Asse5. LEONARDO AND THE SALA DELLE ASSE: PROBLEMS INATTRIBUTION .p. 125A. Leonardo da Vinci, painter and designer(?) of the Sala delle AsseB. Leonardoʹs reputation in late‐nineteenth‐century MilanC. Future considerationsix

6. TOWARD AN INTERPRETATION OF THE SALA DELLE ASSE . .p. 145A. The Sala delle Asseʹs treesB. The Sala delle Asseʹs golden cord and knotsC. Beyond mulberries and knotsD. Ludovico Sforzaʹs goals as patronREGISTER OF DOCUMENTS . . p. 186BIBLIOGRAPHY . . p. 251x

LIST OF FIGURES1.1Aerial view of the Sforza Castle, Milan . p. 231.2Leonardo da Vinci, Sala delle Asse, ca. 1498, Sforza Castle, Milan p. 241.3Portrait of Ludovico Sforza p. 252.1Luca Beltrami in a photograph from 1930 . .p. 624.1General plan of the Sforza Castle, Milan . .p. 1224.2Reconstructed ground plan of the first floor of the Ducal Court, Sforza Castle in the fifteenthcentury . .p. 1234.3Reconstructed ground plan of the second floor of the Ducal Court, Sforza Castle in the fifteenthcentury p. 124xi

PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis dissertation grew out of a research paper for a graduate seminar ondomestic room decoration in the Renaissance taught by David Wilkins in the spring of1992 when I was still an M.A. student. In the company of such works as Raphael’s VillaFarnesina (1511), Giulio Romano’s Palazzo del Te (1527), and Andrea Mantegna’s CameraPicta (1465), the Sala delle Asse presented itself as an anomaly: it was attached to a no‐less‐famous artist, Leonardo da Vinci, yet only a handful of studies had been publishedon it. Hopeful and, in retrospect, naive that I would somehow determine the symbolicsignificance of this complex work in one short semester, I dug as deep as I could into itsfifteenth‐century circumstances. When my efforts in iconographic interpretation failedto be fruitful, I shelved the project and returned to my usual scholarly concerns inseventeenth‐century painting and drawing.A year later, John Williams suggested to me that the Sala delle Assemeritedadditional attention. He had just finished reading Richard Turner’s intriguing bookInventing Leonardo and could see —even before I did— that the Sala could lead to afascinating Ph.D. topic and new understandings about Leonardo’s role in the history ofxii

art. I started asking myself the simple question of why the Sala had not enjoyed all ofthe attention of Leonardo’s other known works. It was in satisfying this curiosity that adissertation started to take form.I am profoundly grateful to my doctoral committee (Ann Sutherland Harris,David Wilkins, Anne Weis, Kathleen Christian, Francesca Savoia and Dennis Looney)for having faith in me, for offering direction when needed, and for their ample doses ofgood cheer and friendship. Ann Sutherland Harris showed me the importance ofreading works of art with sharpness of mind and eye. It has been a privilege for me toexperience the intellectual and artistic richness of Italian art through her teachings.She took me under her wing as a Ph.D. student and taught me —with diligence,affection and much patience— one of the most important lessons in my graduate‐school training: that critical evaluations are more intimately connected with thehistorically specific than it is popularly supposed, and that inadequacies inmethodology can only be overcome through the disciplined practice of balancing both.In the spring of 2004, sensing that I was about to abandon my graduate studies, shetook me out to lunch and ordered me to write. For this, I wish to extend heartfeltthanks.xiii

For as long as I have known David Wilkins, my co‐advisor, he has worn hiserudition about Italian Renaissance art lightly. Through him, I came to realize that theRenaissance is not about a single history, as countless textbooks have alleged, but that ithas, instead, many different histories. Patrons, artists, politics, social identities, andideologies have all paraded through his lectures with due attention and were met withchallenging questions. He supported my leap of faith into late fifteenth‐century Milanand I thank him for his crucial recommendations on organization and priorities. He canonly be credited with having inspired whatever is positive about the Renaissancearguments in this dissertation. Any errors in fact or interpretation are fully my own.Deepest gratitude also goes to Anne Weis whose wisdom and clarity inspired meto trust my own intuition and abilities. She encouraged me to explore“unconventional” paths through the thrill of research. Her elegance of mind helped meto make the transition from a mess to something worthy of ink and paper on more thanone occasion.Francesca Savoia and Dennis Looney welcomed me into their seminars in theItalian Department even as an undergraduate at another university. Their commitmentand enthusiasm for Italian studies is nothing short of contagious and they’vegenerously sustained my efforts to examine art in an interdisciplinary context. Becausexiv

of them, Italian is not just a language I was fortunate to be born with ma uno strumentoper comunicare con l’arte e la cultura.Kathleen Christian graciously agreed to join my Ph.D. committee when thedissertation was already in an advanced stage. She encouraged me to expand myinterpretation of the Sala delle Asse as a showcase for the Italian nation after theRisorgimento and the dissertation is now better than it would have been because of hersuggestion. She also saved me from several infelicities in style and argument.Due thanks go to Amedeo Bellini in the department of Architectural History inMilan’s Politecnico and the insightful editorial staff at the Archivio Storico Lombardofor inviting me to write an article on the Sala delle Asse in 2002. Professor Bellini’skindness and generosity in sharing his impressive knowledge of Milan and the work ofLuca Beltrami made many parts of this dissertation possible.The following fellowships and travel grants enabled me to conduct preliminaryresearch in Italy: the University of Pittsburgh Nationality Room Scholarship, theFriends of Frick Fine Arts Travel grant, and the Art History Fellowship in Memory ofDr. J.H. Dwyer and in Honor of David Wilkins. Hospitality and assistance wasplentifully offered by the staff at the following institutions: the Archivio Storico inxv

Milan, the Archivio Storico in Mantua, the Biblioteca d’Arte and the ArchivioFotografico in the Castello Sforzesco, Milan’s Soprintendenza dei Beni Architettonici,the Archivio Luca Beltrami and the library of the Ente Raccolta Vinciana. A specialthanks is due to Teri Fields in the University Library at Texas Tech University and toRay Ann Lockard and Marcia Rostek in the Henry Clay Frick Fine Arts Library. Allthree patiently helped me with countless interlibrary‐loans and worked their magic forfinding the unfindable. Barbara Götze, head archivist at the Zentralarchiv StaatlicheMuseen in Berlin, provided invaluable assistance in locating of letters by Paul‐MüllerWalde and Giovanna Ginex, director of the Collezione Fotografica della RaccoltaBeltrami, gave me permission to work in the archive before it was officially opened tothe public so that I could move forward with my research. I also wish to acknowledgeCornelie Piok Zanon for her expertise in solving my German translation problems.Last but never least, I thank: my husband Eldo whose love and support made thegrueling experience of writing all the more tolerable; my parents Paolo and Nancy andmy grandmother Maria whose unshakable faith in me strengthened my spirit throughthick and thin; and my children Edoardo and Gianmarco —to whom this dissertation isdedicated— and whose love of learning has been a great joy to watch.xvi

CHAPTER 1INTRODUCTIONThe Sala delle Asse's place in art-historical literature Factors pointing to a patternof scholarly disinterest: public accessibility, physical condition, and theinterpretative framework forged by the Italian architectural historian, Luca Beltrami Arrangement and scope of the chapters in this dissertation The archival sourcesused in preparing this dissertationThe Sala delle Asse's place in art-historical literature:The debt incurred by art historians in trying to shed new light on most works byLeonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is enormous. So much literature has been devoted tothis artist that his must constitute one of the largest bibliographies in the history of art.I am careful to say "most works" and not "all works" because we can still, surprisingly,refer to at least one exception: Leonardo's wall-paintings for a room in the Sforza Castlein Milan known from fifteenth-century documents as the "Sala delle Asse" (Figure 1.1and Figure 1.2). The wall paintings were commissioned in the mid-to-late 1490's byLudovico Maria Sforza (1452-1508), then Duke of Milan (Figure 1.3). In spite ofLeonardo's extraordinary fame, the rarity with which the medium of wall paintingappears in his oeuvre, and the ingenuity of the Sala's composition, the bibliography onthe Sala's fifteenth-century circumstances remains comparatively small.1

The first —and for many reasons indispensable— historical account of the Saladelle Asse was published in 1902 by a Milanese architect and architectural historiannamed Luca Beltrami (1854-1933).1 His monograph summarized the events leading tothe Sala's re-discovery in 1893 and led historians through a consummative discussion ofpertinent fifteenth-century documents, including ones that linked the Sala to Leonardo.2Studies by Joseph Gantner (1959), Eva Börsch-Supan (1967), Volker Hoffman (1972) andMarie G. Aggàzy (1978) —although less than satisfying in their attempts to deal withthe known documentation— marked the beginning of scholars' suspicions that acomplex symbolism may have been featured in the Sala.3 They represent a courageous,but unsustained, attempt to refute Carlo Pedretti's claim in 1956 that the Sala's originaliconography was "lost to us."4 Most other scholars and art critics have dismissed theSala as an insignificant, decorative landscape. One critic even labeled it as an amusing1L. Beltrami, Leonardo da Vinci e la Sala delle 'Asse'nel Castello di Milano, Milan 1902.The first time documents securely place Leonardo at work in the Sala delle Asse is in 1498. Theinformation comes from a letter dated April 21, 1498 written by an assistant named Gualtiero Bescapè toinform Ludovico Sforza that "Magistro Leonardo" promised to finish the room "per tuto Septembre."(Archivio di Stato, Milan, Classe Belle Arti, Autografi, 102, fasc. 34. This letter was first transcribed andpublished by Gerolamo Calvi in 1869 but is mostly known from Beltrami, 1902, pp. 24 and 26). There hasbeen considerable disagreement among scholars, however, on whether the date marks the beginning or amore mature stage in the commission.2J. Gantner, "Les fragments récemment découverts d'une fresque de Léonard de Vinci au Château deMilan," Gazette des Beaux-Arts, vol. 53, January, 1959, pp. 27-34. E. Börsch-Supan, Garten-, Landschafts- undParadies-motive im Innenraum, Berlin, 1967, pp. 244ff. V. Hoffman, "Leonardos Ausmalung der Sala delleAsse im Castello Sforzesco," Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Instituts in Florenz, vol. 16, 1972, pp. 51-62.M. G. Aggàzy, "Locus amoenus et vinculum delictorum dans l'art de la Renaissance," Bulletin du MuséeHongrois des Beaux-Arts, vol. 51, 1978, pp. 55-62.34C. Pedretti, Leonardo: a Study in Chronology and Style, Berkeley, 1956, pp. 76-77.2

"capriccio" on the part of Leonardo.5 It was only in the 1980's and 1990's that scholarssuch as Pietro Marani, Martin Kemp, Dawson Kiang, John Moffit and Evelyn Welchbegan to view the Sala delle Asse as the product of a carefully calculated, programundertaken by Leonardo and his patron.6 Their interpretations differed, but all werebased on a common assumption: the Sala was painted to evoke complex political, socialand intellectual meanings to discerning viewers living in the fifteenth century. Anunprecedented interest and curiosity in the Sala's fifteenth-century circumstances beganto grow —slowly, but steadily— throughout the general art-historical community. Bythe mid 1990's, the Sala could boast a brief mention in two popular university textbookson Italian Renaissance art: Alison Cole's Virtue and Magnificence - Art of the ItalianRenaissance Courts (1995) and John T. Paoletti and Gary M. Radke's Art in RenaissanceItaly (1997).7In 1981, Jurgis Baltrusaitis declared that the Sala delle Asse "c'est tout d'abord, un exercise d'addresse surdes formes pures, un jeu d'esprit." J. Baltrusaitis, Le moyen age fantastiques. Antiquités et exotisme dans l'artgothique, Paris, 1981, p. 86.5P. Marani, "Leonardo e le colonne ad tronconos," Raccolta Vinciana, vol. 21, 1982, pp. 103-120. M. Kemp,"The Exercise of Fantasia," Leonardo da Vinci. The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man, Cambridge,Massachusets, 1981, pp. 152-212; D. Kiang, "Gasparo Visconti's Pasitea and the Sala delle Asse," AchademiaLeonardi Vinci, vol. 2, 1989, pp. 101-108; J. Moffit, "Leonardo's Sala delle Asse and the Primordial Origins ofArchitecture," Arte Lombarda, no. 92-93, 1990, pp. 76-90; E. Welch, Art and Authority in Renaissance Milan,New Haven and London, 1995.6A. Cole, Virtue and Magnificence. Art of the Italian Renaissance Courts, New York, 1995, pp. 114-115 and J.T. Paoletti and G. M. Radke,

Ann Sutherland Harris, Professor of Italian Baroque Art Henry Clay Frick Department of the History of Art and Architecture . I am profoundly grateful to my doctoral committee (Ann Sutherland Harris, David Wilkins, Anne Weis, Kathleen Christian, Francesca Savoia and Dennis Looney) for having faith in me, for offering direction when needed, and for their ample doses of .

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