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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The bust of a man, and the head of a lion c.1505-10

RCIN 912502

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A drawing of the head of a clean-shaven man, facing the viewer. He has a down-turned mouth and a mass of curly hair interspersed with leaves (Hedera helix). In the top left corner is some illegible writing, and below, to the right, a lion's head is lightly sketched as if to suggest a skin worn by the man. The lion's head appears to have been something of an afterthought, sketched as an addition to an already complete and carefully worked frontal study of Leonardo's favourite type of old man with beetling brow and strongly downturned mouth. It may be part of a skin worn by the man. The use of a lion's head as a shoulderpiece was a common motif in classicising costume of the Renaissance, especially armour or in any context where lion pelts were worn such as depictions of Hercules or wild men. Here the extravagant mass of hair and the wreath of ivy leaves would support the idea that a wild man was Leonardo's ostensible subject - he had designed costumes of wild men for a festival in 1491 although this drawing dates from over a decade after that event and cannot be related. Text adapted from 'Leonardo da Vinci: the Divine and the Grotesque'