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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

Two heads of grotesque animals c.1490-95

Pen and ink over black chalk | 13.8 x 17.4 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 912367

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Two studies of the heads of grotesque animals; one with a long mane and drooping folds of skin; the other, on the right, is like an Afghan wolfhound but with big teeth and an under-lip hanging like a tongue. The head on the right is canine, a hound with the grotesquely hanging lower lip that was an accepted sign of inanity. The other head is less easy to characterise: it has a mouth like a pug dog, a lion's mane, ears like a shaggy bear, and strange wrinkled flaps from the brow hanging down the cheeks. The bit and bridle that emerge from its mouth suggest that it was an idea for a fantastic mask, to be worn by a costumed servant pulling a chariot or float in some procession.