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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

A standing masquerader c.1517-18

RCIN 912576

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A drawing of a standing figure seen full length, facing the spectator, wearing an elaborate corselet with a bodice of interlaced ribbons, beribboned sleeves, and a diaphanous skirt. The left hand is on the hip, and the right hand holds a palm. The head is turned three-quarters right. For more than half of his career Leonardo was employed as a salaried court artist, in which capacity he would have been called upon to provide not only paintings and sculpture but also designs for architecture, pageants and stage plays. This is one of a number of costume studies probably made towards the end of Leonardo's life, when he was in the service of the young French king Francis I in the Loire valley. Federico Gonzaga (1500-40), the future Duke of Mantua, was at this time completing his education at the French court, and during January 1518 the King held a number of entertainments for his guest at the palace of Romorantin, described in detail by the secretary Stazio Gadio in letters back to the Mantuan court. On 11 January Federico was dressed as a lansquenet, with half-boots, one completely dark, the other less dark, edged with a white and yellow riband cut in the German manner, a tunic half of satin, the edge of silver cloth and golden cloth made into scales, with a German-style shirt worked with gold, and over this a cape of dark cloth fitted with a riband of gold and silver cloth made in the French manner. This description corresponds closely with another of the costume studies at Windsor, and as three further studies are on paper bearing a French watermark it seems certain that the whole series dates from Leonardo's last years. The precise function of each drawing is a little more elusive, as the highly atmospheric treatment of the chalk would not have been very helpful for the tailors and seamstresses of the court; perhaps the studies were no more than suggestions intended to convey the overall structure and desired richness of effect of the costumes. Catalogue entry from Royal Treasures, A Golden Jubilee Celebration, London 2002