The socha of Leonardo Da Vinci
On 23 April 1519, the 67 years old Leonardo Da Vinci decided to draw up his testament. He had a strong feeling that his life was slipping away from him, since he had been very sick for months and more than one year earlier he had suffered a stroke, which had impaired the use of his right hand. He called a French notary working at Amboise, Guillaume Boreau, to record his last will before witnesses. The document starts with the usual formula used for those documents: “Considering nothing to be more certain than death and nothing more uncertain than the hour…”
It is a long and meticulous list, containing instructions on where to bury his body, how to organize his funeral and how to distribute his properties. There is no mention of the Mona Lisa and the other pictures he had been keeping in his studio at Cloux, possibly because he had already donated them to his beloved disciple, Giacomo Caprotti from Oreno, known as Salai, who had quickly resold them to King Francis I, getting a huge sum as payment.
There is small clause in his testament, a very minor one, which had puzzled his biographers, a donation to a French lady servant working for Leonardo, called Mathurine, who Leonardo mentions in his last will,
…dona a Maturina sua fantesche una veste de bon pan negro foderata de pelle, una socha de panno et doy ducati per una volta solamente pagati: et ciò in remuneratione similmente de boni servitii ha lui facta epsa Maturina de qui inanzi.
Here is the English translation,
he donates to Mathurine, his servant, a dress of good black cloth lined with leather, a socha of fabric and two ducats paid in one go: and this as compensation for her good work made to him from now on.
Possibly this lady took good care of him while he was laying sick in bed, and by giving her two gold ducats and some clothes he wanted to thank her for the trouble, further to paying her a salary.
But what is that socha mentioned by Leonardo? It is not in the Italian vocabulary and has since puzzled his biographers. It is often translated as a woolen cloak, as Serge Bramly do.
But in reality, socha in the Milanese dialect stands for a lady skirt, and it is often used to our days as plural ‘i socks’ the skirts, as I myself remember my parents using that term.
This is a sign that the years Leonardo spent in Milan, surrounded by his Milanese disciples, like Salai and Melzi, had somehow enriched his Florentine vocabulary.