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Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Various sketches of the head of a woman: on the right is a sketch of the head turned to the left, looking down three quarters left, with the hair elaborately coiled and braided. Beneath this is a drawing of a head seen from the back. On the left are three

The head of Leda ©

These are studies for the head of Leda in the lost painting of Leda and the Swan. The mythical Leda was seduced by Jupiter in the form of a swan. Leonardo worked on two compositions of the subject, finally executing a painting that was destroyed in the eighteenth century. In the four surviving studies of Leda's head, Leonardo expended little effort on her expression, simply adopting the usual downward glance; in the central two drawings he may even have left the face blank, for the faces there are of poor quality and may have been 'filled in' by a pupil. Instead Leonardo devoted all his attention to the most complicated of hairstyles, with dense whorls and woven plaits, even studying the head from the back - quite unnecessarily for a painted image.

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