History of Art and Architecture

Patrizia Costa publishes "The Duke's Trees: Leonardo's Unfinished Masterpiece in the Sala delle Asse"

Patrizia Costa published the monograph The Duke's Trees: Leonardo's Unfinished Masterpiece in the Sala delle Asse. Costa's book is an expanded version of her dissertation work at the University of Pittsburgh which she completed in 2006. It tells the story of Leonardo Da Vinci's unfinished masterpiece in the Sala delle Asse in the Castello Sforzesco in Milan. It is his largest wall painting in a prestigious court setting.

At the time, Costa's work was the first book-length treatment of the Sala since Luca Beltrami's seminal 1902 monograph. It served as a catalyst for much of the important scholarship focusing on the Sala in recent years including the ongoing restoration work at the Sforza Castle.

One of the distinctions of Costa's study is its use of historiographical and archival information to show how the Sala delle Asse changed its symbolic significance while also replaying a nationalistic ideology at two different historical moments: the fifteenth-century, when Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, commissioned the paintings and the late nineteenth-to-early-twentieth century when the Sala was re-discovered.

The architectural and pictorial alterations ordered in 1893 to prepare the room for public view shifted attention away from the Sala’s fifteenth-century circumstances and transformed it into a key component of the ambitious restoration scheme that had been formulated for the Sforza Castle as a whole. This was a scheme that supported a nationalist agenda and post-Risorgimento cultural ideologies. In the fifteenth-century, Leonardo was similarly called upon to help shape a civic identity for the Sforza family through commissions such as the Last Supper, a twenty-four-foot equestrian horse and the Sala delle Asse. Although the Sala was never completed, it provides a fascinating window into the court’s commissioning practices, Leonardo’s interactions with a wider community of artists, and the role of Milanese art in the Renaissance canon.

To purchase The Duke's Trees: Leonardo's Unfinished Masterpiece in the Sala delle Asse, please visit The Duke Tree's website.