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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The head of an old bearded man in profile c.1517-18

RCIN 912499

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A drawing of the head of an old man, in profile to the right. He has a long pointed nose, a long, flowing curly beard and moustache and hair that seems to be twisted into two plaits. Though the profile is Leonardo's usual toothless old man, he is here far from pitiful. The neck is vigorously muscular, the beard luxuriant, and the long hair is twisted into plaits reminiscent of the Leda of the previous decade. The hair suggests that Leonardo intended a certain exoticism, as if the man were an oriental magus and the conspicuously hooked nose would be in keeping with such a conception. The drawing can be dated to the last decade of Leonardo's life. We know that Leonardo had a full beard at this time and an old bearded man drawn by an old bearded man cannot have been oblivious to an element of self-portraiture. Text adapted from 'Leonardo da Vinci: the Divine and the Grotesque'