Piazza dei Miracoli, Pisa

Leonardo described or mentioned Pisa several times in his notebooks, and clearly viewed it as one of the most important cities in Tuscany in terms of his own biography (his father, Ser Piero, practiced as a notary lawyer in Pisa from 1449 to 1451) and artistic formation. Leonardo’s brother Lorenzo, who was a wool merchant and the author of a Confessionario datable to before 1527, himself lived for a period in Pisa (as well as Leghorn).
Pisa played a central role in the projects that Leonardo drew up between 1503 and 1504 for the diversion of the waters of the Arno River. In the tumultuous period that saw Florence engaged in a long war against Pisa, beginning with the 1494 revolt in which Pisa declared itself an independent republic, Florence thought that it might bring the rebellious city to its knees not by flood or firepower, but by diverting the Arno towards Stagno di Livorno and thus depriving its inhabitants of water. Studies for such a hydro-engineering project can be found on maps RL 12683 and 12277, in the Codex Madrid II (ff. 1v and 52r) and in the Codex Atlanticus (ff. 127r and 305r).
Leonardo furthermore mentions the cathedral and bell tower of Pisa around 1487 on a loose sheet that once formed part of Ms. B (Ash. 2037, f. 5v, from the artist’s first period in Milan) and again around 1515 when he notes that he is looking for a map of the Pian di Pisa (Codex Atlanticus, f. 225r).
In maps such as RL 12685 and 12279 the city is simply marked by a circle with no name, since its identity would have been perfectly clear to Leonardo from its position just after the meander in the Arno near the village of Riglione.
Leonardo’s grandson, the sculptor Pier Francesco Da Vinci (known as Pierino), settled in Pisa and died there in 1553. He carved a statue of Dovizia for the Piazza dell’Abbondanza (today Piazza Cairoli) and the bas relief Cosimo de' Medici che scaccia i vizi da Pisa today in the Vatican Museums.
Leonardo produced detailed maps of the area around Pisa, above all on folios 52v-53r in the Codex Madrid II.

Texts by
Alessandro Vezzosi, in collaboration with Agnese Sabato / English translation by Lisa Chien
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