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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

Studies of a baby c.1490-92

Red chalk | 13.8 x 19.5 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 912568

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A sheet of various studies of babies: on the left two studies of a baby, sitting in profile to the left; in the centre an infant standing in strict profile to the right. Above this is a baby's hand, roughly drawn. On the right is a baby's left leg and groin, viewed from the front. Melzi's 207.

These studies can be related to several of Leonardo’s compositions of the Madonna and Child over a period of more than a decade; the largest, at upper left, is of a child suckling – the action, if not the pose, of the Christ Child in the Madonna Litta (St Petersburg, Hermitage), executed by an associate of Leonardo (probably Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio) to the master's designs. This sheet and RCIN 912569 may be first studies towards that painting. The study at the centre of an infant standing erect in strict profile, is related to Leonardo’s proportion studies of around 1490, when he started surveying the body systematically.This is one of Leonardo’s earliest drawings in red chalk. He is using the chalk in a linear way, with little feel as yet for the tonal possibilities of the medium.


Text adapted from Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing, London, 2018