365 Days of Art: December 28 – Leonardo Sketches Hanged Corpse

December 28, 2014

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of the Hanged Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli, assassin of Giuliano de Medici, 1479

Leonardo da Vinci, Study of the Hanged Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli, assassin of Giuliano de Medici, 1479

December 28, 1479

Leonardo sketches the hanging of corpse of Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli, who is executed for last year’s murder of Giuliano de Medici.

That murder is organized by the Pazzi family, in a power grab, as they hope to replace the incredibly influential Medici family as political and civic leaders. A gang of assassins surround Giuliano in the Duomo, with Baroncelli being the first to strike at him with a dagger. Giuliano dies, but the plot goes wrong, and Baroncelli has to flee to Istanbul. Unfortunately for him, Istanbul has very lucrative trade agreements with Florence, and they’re happy to extradite him back to Florence upon request.

Remember also that the Medici family is one of the biggest supporters of the arts, which may explain Leonardo’s marking of the event in his journal. Or perhaps he’s there only as a native Florentine, interested in current events; this would surely be big news and a well-attended public occasion.

Accompanying the drawing, Leonardo takes stock of Baroncelli’s clothing:

A tan colored skull-cap, a doublet of black serge, a black jerkin, lined and the collar covered with a black and red stippled velvet.
A blue coat lined with fur of fox’s breasts.
Black hose.
Bernardo di Bandino Baroncelli.

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