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Costume studies

The young King Francis held several lavish entertainments while Leonardo was working as his court artist. Contemporary letters give detailed descriptions of the costumes worn at these events, which correspond in their general effect and in many details to Leonardo’s drawings, suggesting that he was providing designs for the king’s seamstresses.

Leonardo clearly relished the opportunity to indulge his love of decorative elegance. He was aiming at a great richness and layering of textiles, with ribbons, scalloping, plumes, fringes, spotted furs, and quilted sleeves and breeches. Such clothing was associated with mercenary soldiers, fools, minstrels and prostitutes: the guests of Francis I were dressing up not just exotically, but in something risqué.

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

A standing masquerader

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

A masquerader on horseback

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

A standing masquerader

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

A standing masquerader

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The bust of a masquerader in profile

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

A design for a costume of an imaginary beast