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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The drapery of a kneeling figure c.1491-4

RCIN 912521

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This drawing is a study for the drapery worn by the angel in Leonardo's painting of The Virgin of the Rocks, which is now in the National Gallery in London. Two different versions of this painting exist, and this study demonstrates that the pose of the angel was changed for the later painting. Many renaissance artists made drapery studies by drawing with a brush on linen. However, in this case the drawing is on paper which results in a greater variety of brush strokes being seen. A number of studies in this technique survive that are reasonably attributable to Leonardo. The present study is in the same manner but the forms are more voluptuous than the rather hard and sometimes sharply angled folds of the early group on cloth. It is drawn on paper rather than linen, and the smoother surface allows one to see the range of Leonardo's brushstrokes, from sweeping outlines and broad shading to meticulously fine hatching and cross-hatching in both black and white. The paper was prepared with a single thin layer of pale blue ground, of the type used for metalpoint drawing but here adopted to provide a coloured, mid-tone ground that enhances the effect of the white highlights.