When Leonardo Da Vinci was in Milan, painting his The Last Supper, he received as payment a large vineyard, measuring 52 mt. wide and 160 mt. long – from Ludovico Sforza, known as The Moor. It was located after Porta Vercellina, near the Borgo delle Grazie, close to today’s Via Grassi.
Such vineyard was already marked as belonging to him in 1498 and Leonardo was very proud and happy of it, so much so that in his notebooks we find notes about improving the quantity of wine produced there, even explaining to the farmer working on it how to adopt some new methods, already used in France, which should guarantee a larger output of wine.
When the French army with King Louis XII at its head invaded the Dukedom of Milan, forcing Ludovico to flee to Innsbruck, Leonardo moved to Mantua, Venice and then to Florence. In 1502 the vineyard was confiscated and assigned to a man named Leonino Biglia but then, in 1506, the French Governor, Charles d’Amboise, wanted Leonardo back to Milan and agreed to re-assign the vineyard back to him and the official act is recorded on 20 February 1507.
When Leonardo died, in May 2nd, 1519 at Amboise, with his testament he left half of the vineyard to his loyal servant Battista De Villanjs and half to Salai, his favourite disciple, who had already built a house on it.
In 1534 De Villanjs sold it to the nearby Monastery of San Girolamo. In 1788 it was part of the property of the Taverna’s family.
In 1919 Ettore Conti bought a house close to the vineyard and allowed Luca Beltrami, architect and brilliant historian of Leonardo, to visit and shoot some extraordinary photos there, which were later included in his essay dedicated to the history of Leonardo’s vineyard. Luca Beltrami had been instrumental, years before, in saving the Sforzesco Castle, reduced in ruins and using his influence together with the architect Cantaluppi, once more he was able to convince Ettore Conti to save at least a part of vineyard within his garden.
The photo above is a last shot of what remained of the vineyard, and it was taken around 1941. Unfortunately American bombs and a fire in 1943 destroyed the little that was left of it.
To know more about this and other subjects, in about 2 weeks my book on Leonardo will be published.