The facial proportions of a man in profile; study of soldiers and horses
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  • © Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali, Polo Museale Veneziano

The facial proportions of a man in profile; study of soldiers and horses c1490-95 - 1503

This sheet combines work from two different types by Leonardo, and illustrates how the artist was inclined to explore disparate interests on the same sheet, developing different ideas and concepts either in tandem or evolving new forms out of pre-existing ideas.

The pen and ink study of the proportions of a man’s face probably dates from c.1490-95 or sometime after the artist had set out to investigate the proportions and movements of the human figure around 1489-90. The disciplined precision of the pen and ink profile with its applied grid of lines contrasts markedly with the freely drawn, expressive studies in red chalk seen in the lower half of the drawing.

Two charging soldiers mounted on horses, relate to the cavalry in the little-known left part of Leonardo’s unfinished Battle of Anghiari, and as such reflect the early stages of the design process for that commission awarded to Leonardo in 1503.

The pen and ink profile head may have inspired the bald, nude figure seen on the right of the drawing, in which Leonardo’s knowledge of anatomy through repeated study of the life model is apparent. In the lower left corner of the sheet, Leonardo exploited the softness and light tonality of the red chalk to freely sketch a horse and rider, producing a powerful and dramatic sense of forward momentum.

  • Medium Pen and ink over traces of stylus, black chalk, or charcoal, and red chalk
  • Size 28 x 24.4 cm
  • Location Galleria dell’Accademia

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