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  • The drawings

Recto: Horses' fore-legs, including one raised and bent. Verso: A sketch of Leonardo, the head of a youth, and a horse’s legs


RCIN 912300

Both sides of the sheet contain studies by Leonardo of a horse’s leg, for his late equestrian monument (cf. RCIN 912303). The sheet was then used by an assistant to sketch two heads, a handsome smiling youth and a pensive old man with a full beard (and Francesco Melzi’s placing of his number 23 indicates that he considered that to be the most important study on the sheet). Comparison with the formal portrait of Leonardo by Melzi (RCIN 912716), which must be close in date, strongly suggests that this too is a depiction of Leonardo: the long straight nose, the line of the beard rising diagonally up the cheek to the ear, a ringlet falling from the moustache at the corner of the mouth, and the long hair falling from the back of the head are all exactly as in RCIN 912716. Other than Melzi’s portrait, this is the only contemporary likeness of Leonardo, here aged about 65. He seems perhaps a little world-weary, but the presence of the sketch alongside studies for yet another grand equestrian monument shows that his ambitions were undimmed.

Text adapted from Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing, London, 2018
  • stamp, ER VII, crowned, in oval: Lugt 901

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