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Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

A study of a Star of Bethlehem with starry flowers and long, thin, twisted leaves. To the left are leaves of crowsfoot, and to the right, wood anemone. Behind, to the right, are grasses. Below is a tall spray of sun spurge in bloom, and individual drawing

Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa) and sun spurge (Euphorbia helioscopia) ©

Leonardo’s finest botanical drawings were studies for his destroyed painting of Leda and the Swan, which had a verdant setting echoing the fertility inherent in the myth.

The focus of this drawing is a clump of star-of-Bethlehem, flanked by wood anemone. Although the swirling leaves of the star-of-Bethlehem are elegantly stylised, the blades of grass growing untidily among the anemones suggest that Leonardo observed these plants in the wild. Below is a study of sun spurge with details of its seed heads.

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