The most conspicuous of his earlier works were: - A History of Civilization in the First Five Centuries of Christianity, Recollections of Italy, Life of Lord Byron, The History of the Republican Movement in Europe, The Redemption of Slaves, The Religious Revolution, Historical Essays on the Middle Ages, The Eastern Question, Fra Filippo Lippi, History of the Discovery of America, and some historical novels.
One of the two may have been a picture of the Virgin appearing to St Bernard, which we know he was commissioned to paint in that year for a chapel in the Palace of the Signory, but never finished: the commission was afterwards transferred to Filippino Lippi, whose performance is now in the Badia.
Here Leonardo undertook to paint an altar-piece for the Church of the Annunziata, Filippino Lippi, who had already received the commission, courteously retiring from it in his favour.
The preparation in monochrome for this picture, a work of extraordinary power both of design and physiognomical expression, is preserved at the Uffizi, but the painting itself was never carried out, and after Leonardo's failure to fulfil his contract Filippino Lippi had once more to be employed in his place.
The frescoes in the choir, with scenes from the life of St John the Baptist and St Stephen, are by Fra Filippo Lippi (1456-1466) and are his best work; the dance of Salome and the lying in state of St Stephen are the finest of the series.
In spite of the universal praise of his cartoon, Leonardo did not persevere with the picture, and the monks of the Annunziata had to give back the commission to Filippino Lippi, at whose death the task was completed by Perugino.
Exquisite as he is in his special mode of execution, he undoubtedly falls far short, not only of his great naturalist contemporaries such as 1Vlasaccio and Lippo Lippi, but even of so distant a precursor as Giotto, in all that pertains to bold or life-like invention of a subject or the realization of ordinary appearances, expressions and actions - the facts of nature, as distinguished from the aspirations or contemplations of the spirit.
In the choir and on the half dome of the apse, are the finest frescoes of Fra Filippo Lippi (scenes from the life of the Virgin) completed after his death by Fra Diamante: his tomb, erected by Lorenzo de' Medici, with the epitaph by Politian, is on the left of the choir.
The presence of the university attracted many distinguished artists, as Giotto, Lippo Lippi and Donatello; and for native art there was the school of Squarcione (1394-1474), whence issued the great Mantegna (1431-1506).