Leonardo and Milan

Santa Maria delle Grazie (internal view)

Santa Maria delle Grazie (internal view).

You may wonder why Leonardo, aged around 30, decided to move to Milan at all. At the time (1480s) he was living in Florence, the city of the Medici Family renowned for their art patronage which in turn attracted the most talented artists of the time such as Michelangelo and Botticelli. Florence was however an essentially humanist city celebrating the rediscovery of the antiques and classical culture.

Milan was instead characterised by a more pragmatic approach representing therefore a cultural environment more conducive to Leonardo’s aspirations and more supportive of his experiments. The Duchy of Milan, ruled at the time by Ludovico il Moro, was wealthy, modern and industrious but not so firmly established and with a consolidated power. The ruling house of Sforza had only come to power in 1450 and Milan was still at war with Venice and coveted by other European States. Hence, Ludovico il Moro was much interested in all of Leonardo’s war machines and other inventions which could strengthen the city as well as in his artistic skills since the Italian city-states were in constant struggle to establish their cultural supremacy.