On 13th October 2009 newspapers reported about a newly discovered painting by Leonardo da Vinci. For the time being let's forget about the silly remarks about the finger print since we do not have any finger print of Leonardo's that we can be sure of. Nevertheless, this work was certainly made by the master himself. Because he "signed" it with one of his specific symbols, which can also be found in his emblem of the Academy of Milan which was founded by him in 1485 or 1486. However, the depicted is certainly not Bianca Sforza, whom, if the proponent had known about the history of the Sforza, would never have been proposed as a candidate. This portrait does neither exhibit any symbols, nor does it show the colours of the Sforza. However, the colours and the hair net allow the identification of the depicted. This painting is a portrait of the extraordinarily beautiful Angela Borgia Lanzol, cousin and lady-in-waiting of Lucrezia Borgia of Ferrara. She caused a lot of commotion at the court of Ferrara. Her portrait may have been commissioned by Cardinal Ippolito d'Este who was deeply in love with her. The Cardinal was a close friend of Leonardo da Vinci and helped him in his inheritance court case against Leonardo's half-brothers. The portrait has been painted in 1507.
Unbelievable ... how can art historians "sell" this nonsense as scientific work!
Around four weeks ago (in July 2012) I received an email from an art historian who sent me the following quotation made by Prof. Edward Wright regarding the Sforziada in Warsaw (Figure 1): "In addition, the groom's [Galeazzo da Sanseverino's] father held an Aragonese title, Roberto Sanseverino d'Aragona. Consequently, Birago painted a Sforza genealogy in the upper left and upper right corners. To the left, we find emblems of Francesco (unclasped dog collar), his son Galeazzo Maria (helmet, or galeas in Latin, with the initials G.Z.), Gian Galeazzo (crossed ox yokes, giovenco = bullock, with the initials G.N.). Just below these are the imprese of Galeazzo Sanseverino (Gideon's fleece being wrung out by a pair of hands), and of Bianca Sforza (three interlocked diamond rings). At the upper right, symbols of the three corresponding duchesses of Milan, Bianca Maria Visconti (three entwined diamond rings), Bona of Savoy (a pair of phoenixes), and the Aragonese coat of arms, for Isabella d'Aragona, and Roberto Sanseverino d'Aragona. Just below is a pair of wodewoses, hairy wild men noted for fierceness in battle: etc."
This is complete nonsense! You, Prof. Wright, should start reading history books about the Sforza and the Visconti dynasties and their symbols (often also called emblems), written by historians. I've been very distressed to see your footnotes under your article. You can impress your gullible readers, but not the experts of the Sforza. You hardly mentioned any relevant historical books and articles for this research, and when you do and they were of any relevance, you doubted them, because they did not fit in your self-constructed "how it had to be".
Therefore in the following I am now scrutinizing each claim that has been made in Prof. Wright's article:
1. "... the groom's [Galeazzo da Sanseverino's] father held an Aragonese title, Roberto Sanseverino d'Aragona."
Wrong, Prof. Wright. Roberto da Sanseverino (1418-1487) held the following titles: Count of Caiazzo, Count of Colorno, Margrave of Castelnuovo Tortonese, Lord of Lugano, Lord of Casabona, Pietrapaola and Cropalati, Crosia, Caloveto and San Morello, Lord of Campagnano and Viggianello, Lord of Corleto, Rossignano, Riletto and Albanella. The term "d'Aragona" is no title, but only an epithet or cognomen.1 Therefore Roberto da Sanseverino's specific colours were the colours of the Sanseverino dynasty, RED and WHITE, and not RED and GOLDEN/YELLOW. The colours RED and GOLDEN/YELLLOW are the specific colours of the Neapolitan dynasty of Aragon.2 Only their family members were allowed to use and decorate themselves with these colours.3 Consequently Roberto da Sanseverino did NOT have permission to use them!
2. "To the left, we find emblems of Francesco (unclasped dog collar), his son Galeazzo Maria (helmet, or galeas in Latin, with the initials G.Z.), Gian Galeazzo (crossed ox yokes, giovenco = bullock, with the initials G.N.)."
Wrong again, Prof. Wright! The symbol (or emblem) of the unclasped dog collar with the white dog and the conifer tree with the large cones – the white dog, the conifer tree with the large cones and the unclasped dog collar are ONE single symbol – were used only by Galeazzo Maria Sforza and his eldest son Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza. In contrast to his son, Galeazzo Maria Sforza used also the symbol of a clasped dog collar with a white dog.4 The colour of the unclasped dog collar and the clasped dog collar, used by Galeazzo Maria Sforza, was RED. The colour of the unclasped dog collar, used by his son Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza (nowadays often only called Gian Galeazzo Sforza), was GOLDEN (like the one seen in the middle of the top in the Warsaw Sforziada (Figure 1) and the one seen on the upper left side of the Paris Sforziada (Figure 3). The "helmet" was NO Sforza symbol and therefore not a specific symbol of Galeazzo Maria Sforza, who by the way did not use only the initials "GZ", but also "GM" (for Galeazzo Maria).5 The "crossed ox yokes" – did you really find this expression in a contemporary historical source or did you invent it? – is NOT a Sforza symbol! It was NOT used by Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza. His initials were NOT "GN". You made an embarrassing mistake – instead of reading "GZ" in the top left corner of the Warsaw Sforziada (Figure 1) you are reading "GN". The initials, used by and for Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza, seen on different medals of him, were "IOGZ", "IOG","IO" or "GZ". The initials "IO" or "IOG" were mainly used for him by his uncle Lodovico il Moro Sforza. The initials "GZ" – which show the father-son-relationship between the two Milanese dukes Galeazzo Maria Sforza and Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza very clearly – was used for him by his wife Isabella of Aragon, who passionately hated Lodovico il Moro Sforza. And please, Prof. Wright, stop fantasising: the Latin term for "helmet" is galeas, therefore according to you this has to be a symbol for Galeazzo Maria Sforza. This is pure speculation on your part for which you cannot produce any historical evidence. And I have to tell you, this assumption is wrong. The members of the famous Sforza dynasty did NOT think like you! Also, a juniper tree does not stand for the name "Ginevra"6, and an ermine not for "Gallerani"7.
3. "Just below these are the imprese of Galeazzo Sanseverino (Gideon's fleece being wrung out by a pair of hands), and of Bianca Sforza (three interlocked diamond rings)...."
Galeazzo da Sanseverino did not use or decorate himself with specific symbols. Is your description of Galeazzo's alleged symbol as "Gideon's fleece" another invention of yours? You certainly did not find it in any contemporary historical source! This symbol of a cloth belongs to the SFORZA. It is NOT a symbol of the Sanseverino! It was used by Lodovico il Moro Sforza, his wife Beatrice d'Este (to show that she was married to a Sforza), and especially by Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza. And Bianca Sforza was never decorated with the very important Sforza symbol of the three interlocked diamond rings, which by the way are symbolizing the friendship between the Sforza, the Visconti and the Borromeo. This specific symbol was used by Francesco Sforza, his wife Bianca Maria Visconti, his eldest son Galeazzo Maria Sforza, his famous granddaughter Caterina Sforza and his grandson Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza. But NEVER by Bianca Sforza!
4. "At the upper right, symbols of the three corresponding duchesses of Milan, Bianca Maria Visconti (three entwined diamond rings), Bona of Savoy (a pair of phoenixes), and the Aragonese coat of arms, for Isabella d'Aragona, and Roberto Sanseverino d'Aragona."
WRONG again, Prof. Wright. Bona of Savoy did not use a symbol of a pair of phoenixes for herself. And Isabella of Aragon and Roberto da Sanseverino d'Aragona did of course not use the same specific colours. They were not related! Roberto da Sanseverino was NO member of the Neapolitan dynasty of Aragon and was not even enfeoffed by the Aragonese. He had no right to use these colours!
5. "Just below is a pair of wodewoses, hairy wild men noted for fierceness in battle". Oh, Prof Wright, you can't really stop fantasising!
And now we want to deal with the historical facts regarding the Sforziada of Warsaw (Figure 1). The Sforziada or its full title "La Historia delle cose facte dallo invictissimo duca Francesco Sforza"8 was written by Giovanni Simonetta (1420-1490/91), a servant of high renown of the Milanese Dukes Francesco Sforza (1401-1466) and Galeazzo Maria Sforza (1444-1476). It tells the story of the astonishing life and the political successes achieved by the first Sforza Duke, Francesco Sforza, and it was part of the enormous and mighty propaganda machinery of the latter and his wife Bianca Maria Visconti in order to secure Milan for the next generations of the Sforza dynasty.9 Giovanni Simonetta was not on friendly terms with Lodovico il Moro Sforza, because the latter had executed his brother Francesco, called Cicco, who tried to prevent Lodovico il Moro Sforza from taking over power in Milan.10 Giovanni Simonetta wrote the Sforziada in Latin. The Florentine humanist Cristoforo Landino (1424-1498) translated this Latin version into Italian in 1489 and it was finally printed on vellum by Antonio Zarotto (1450-1510) in Milan in 1490.11 We know of three well-known copies of this Sforziada, one can be found in London (Figure 2), the second one in Paris (Figure 3) and the third one in Warsaw (Figure 1). I've heard that they found a fourth one in Pavia some years ago. Altogether there had to be at least five copies: one for Lodovico il Moro Sforza (1451-1508) (Figure 2), one for his brother Filippo Maria Sforza (1446/48-1492), one for his brother Cardinal Ascanio Maria Sforza (1455-1505), one for his nephew Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza and one for a descendant of the latter. We are able to tell for whom these Sforziadae were specifically commissioned and when they were beautifully decorated by the miniaturist Giovan Pietro Birago (active from 1471/74-1513) by looking at each frontispiece of them.
The Sforziada copy from London (British Library) (Figure 2) for example shows – like all Sforziadae – to whom this book was dedicated: Francesco Sforza, the first Sforza Duke of Milan. His portrait is shown in all three well-known copies on the left side of the Sforziada. The copy in London was commissioned for Lodovico il Moro Sforza (or Ludovicus il Moro Sforza), the fourth son of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti, as his portrait tells us on the right side of this Sforziada. In the upper middle section of the frontispiece we see also the specific symbol of Lodovico il Moro Sforza: the Moor (here: a head of the Moor). The miniaturist did not sign this page, which is full of Sforza symbols. This Sforziada was made between 1491 and 1494, because we see the new Sforza symbol of the two towers with water flowing between them in the middle on the right side. This Sforza symbol was introduced into the already abundant collection of the Visconti and Sforza symbols in 1491, when Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza was enfeoffed with Genoa (with its large harbour) by the French King Charles VIII.12 On this occasion a second new symbol was introduced into the Sforza symbol collection: a boat with fully billowed out sails. In the upper right corner Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza (1469-1494), the real Duke of Milan, is looking down on the portrait of his mighty uncle Lodovico il Moro Sforza with a sweet smile on his face. He even touches it affectionately. Hence he was still alive at the time when this frontispiece was decorated by Birago. The two legitimate sons of his uncle Lodovico il Moro Sforza were not depicted. Therefore the illumination of this Sforziada copy had to be finished in 1494 at the latest.
The frontispiece of the Sforziada copy from Paris (Bibliothèque Nationale) (Figure 3) shows again on the left side the portrait of Francesco Sforza. But this copy was commissioned for the Milanese Duke Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza, whose portrait we find on the right side. The frontispiece, which was also decorated with many Sforza symbols, leaves no doubt who was the real ruler in Milan: Lodovico il Moro Sforza. Nephew and uncle are depicted together three times, on the right side as the two embracing trees (the big and strong tree symbolises Lodovico il Moro and the weak and thin one Gian Galeazzo), and twice at the bottom in the centre: first: on the right side we see Gian Galeazzo (left) in a kneeling and listening position and Lodovico il Moro (right), also kneeling and pointing to the written part of this page, telling his nephew about the life and deeds of his famous father Francesco Sforza, the grandfather of the young Duke, and second at the bottom left: Gian Galeazzo is sitting in the middle of the boat and is looking up and praying to Saint Ludovicus while his uncle Lodovico il Moro Sforza – shown by his specific symbol, the Moor – is steering the boat (as he governs Milan for his nephew). On the upper left and in the middle on the right side we see the initials: "IOG" for Gian Galeazzo. Through the O, which is depicted as a heart to show the allegedly harmony between uncle and nephew, runs the letter "L" for Lodovico il Moro. The symbol of the boat with its full sails (for Genoa) and the figures of Lodovico il Moro Sforza and Gian Galeazzo tell us that the illumination of this page was made between 1491 to 1494.
The frontispiece of the Sforziada copy from Warsaw (National Library) (Figure 1) shows again on the left side the portrait of Francesco Sforza. On the right side we find for whom this copy was commissioned. In this case no portraits were used, but the specific colours of Isabella of Aragon – RED and YELLOW – and three very specific Sforza symbols of her first husband, Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza, the symbol of the cloth held with both hands (in the middle of the right side and of the left side), a quiver filled with arrows (above the cloth-symbol on the right side) and a white dog with a golden unclasped collar and the conifer tree with the large cones. This page is also decorated with other very important Sforza symbols like the three interconnected rings. At the bottom of this frontispiece we can see a remarkable political caricature. A little and fat enthroned Moor – the specific symbol of Lodovico il Moro Sforza – is surrounded by one black and six white dwarfs, some of them with swords (= the six white ones are the Sanseverino brothers, Gianfrancesco, Antonio Maria, Gaspare, Galeazzo, Federigo and Giulio, the black dwarf, embracing one of the Sanseverino, is Bianca Sforza the illegitimate daughter of "the Moor" who married Galeazzo da Sanseverino). The Sanseverino brothers who adore the Moor in this caricature, played an significant part in Lodovico's life and reign over Milan.13 This is the most important clue as to when this Sforziada copy was made: it was definitely commissioned after the fall and imprisonment of Lodovico il Moro Sforza in 1500 by Isabella of Aragon, the widow of Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza. She was the greatest adversary of Lodovico il Moro Sforza in Milan. Therefore we do not find the usual initials "IOG" for her husband, which Lodovico il Moro typically used for his nephew, but "GZ" for Galeazzo. These initials were also used by Gian Galeazzo's famous father, the Milanese Duke Galeazzo Maria Sforza, and by his most famous Visconti forefather, the Milanese Duke Gian Galeazzo Visconti. The illumination of this manuscript was even signed by the artist, Giovan Pietro Birago: "PSBR IO. Biragus fecit" (on the right side at the bottom). Therefore this Sforziada copy was decorated at the latest in 1513, the year when the miniaturist died. This copy was commissioned for the three children of Isabella of Aragon and Gian Galeazzo II Maria Sforza: Francesco il Duchetto (1492-1512), Bona Maria Sforza (commonly known as "Bona Sforza") (1493-1557) and Ippolita Maria Sforza (1494-1501). After the early death of Ippolita Maria Sforza and the fatal accident of Francesco il Duchetto in 1512 there was only the daughter Bona Maria Sforza left. She took this important book about her forefathers with her to Poland when she left Italy to be married to the Polish King Sigismund I (1467-1548) in 1518.
The newly discovered work of Leonardo da Vinci, on which the beautiful Angela Borgia Lanzol is depicted, and NOT Lodovico's illegitimate daughter Bianca, was NEVER part of the Warsaw Sforziada. Even if the beautiful young woman were not Angela Borgia Lanzol, but Bianca Sforza (only philosophically speaking!), the latter had nothing to do in a Sforziada copy of the children of the arch-enemy of her father, Isabella of Aragon.
- the family tree of the Sanseverino: www.sardimpex.com/sanseverino/SANSEVERINO1.htm
- the family tree of the Neapolitan dynasty of Aragon: http://www.kleio.org/en/history/famtree/sforza/507.html
- the vassals of the Aragonese dynasty in Naples were only using these colours, in addition to their own ones, on their coat-of-arms
- The Visconti-Sforza Tarot Pack Card: Love and Charity, in: New Haven, Yale University, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
- Francesco Malaguzzi Valeri: La Corte di Lodovico il Moro – Gli Artisti Lombardi, Milano 1917, p. VII
- have a look at: http://www.kleio.org/en/history/famtree/medici/421.html
- the ermine is a very important symbol of the Neapolitan dynasty of Aragon, have a look at: http://www.kleio.org/en/history/famtree/sforza/1490.html
- Renaissance Painting in Manuscripts – Treasures from the British Library, edited by Thomas Kren, New York 1983, p. 107
- read the following books: Maike Vogt-Lüerssen: Die Sforza I: Bianca Maria Visconti - Die Stammmutter der Sforza, Norderstedt 20083; Maike Vogt-Lüerssen: Die Sforza II: Caterina Sforza - Tochter einer Krieger-Dynastie, Norderstedt 2008; Maike Vogt-Lüerssen: Isabella von Aragon und ihr Hofmaler Leonardo da Vinci, Norderstedt 2010; these three books have all a very extensive list of books which help you to understand the Sforza and their propaganda machinery
- read the following books: Maike Vogt-Lüerssen: Die Sforza I: Bianca Maria Visconti - Die Stammmutter der Sforza. Norderstedt 20083; Maike Vogt-Lüerssen: Die Sforza II: Caterina Sforza - Tochter einer Krieger-Dynastie. Norderstedt 2008
- Renaissance Painting in Manuscripts – Treasures from the British Library, id., p. 107
- Maike Vogt-Lüerssen: Isabella von Aragon und ihr Hofmaler Leonardo da Vinci, id., p. 107
- Renaissance Painting in Manuscripts – Treasures from the British Library, id., pp. 111-112: "At the foot of this frontispiece appears a remarkable political caricature: an enthroned black child, surrounded by white children in attitudes of homage. It has been pointed out that this picture ... is an explicit condemnation of Ludovico and his courtiers, made on behalf of Giangaleazzo's children, Francesco and Bona, the rightful heirs of the Milanese duchy."