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Scientific analysis of Leonardo's drawings

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The head and shoulders of a woman, almost in profile c.1485-90

Metalpoint on pale blue prepared paper | 16.5 x 12.4 cm (sheet of paper) | RCIN 912512

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A drawing of the head and shoulders of a young woman, almost in profile to the left. She wears a cap on the back of her head and a square-cut bodice. The drawing is the work of two different hands. The bust and the back of the head are drawn with great freedom and assurance, and are so similar to the equivalent areas of RL 12505 that they must be by Leonardo; the face, by contrast, is densely hatched and the outline deadened by overemphasis. It seems that a pupil worked up an outline sketch by Leonardo as a drawing exercise. It was primarily the followers of Leonardo who, in drawings like this, created the frozen Leonardesque type that was for centuries afterwards thought of as the epitome of the master's work. Text adapted from 'Leonardo da Vinci: the Divine and the Grotesque'