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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

Recto: A branched bur-reed (Sparganium erectum). Verso: A lesser reed-mace (Typha angustifolia) c.1505-10

Recto: Red chalk, touched with a wet brush, on pale red prepared paper. Verso: Red chalk | 20.1 x 14.3 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 912430

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Recto: a study of flowering rushes, showing a group of leaves and a spray of star-like seed vessels. Verso: a study of a bulrush, with one seed-vessel. The bur-reed and the reed-mace (drawn on the other side of this sheet) are found growing at the edges of lakes and rivers throughout Europe. From around 1504 Leonardo worked on a composition of Leda seduced by Jupiter in the form of a swan. This was to have a foreground teeming with plants and flowers, for which Leonardo made a number of detailed studies including this one, whose accuracy goes far beyond what could be found in any contemporary herbal.