Figure studies for an Adoration of the Magi 1481

This sheet is one of the most striking group of studies for the Adoration of the Magi, begun by Leonardo in Florence in 1481 and left unfinished when he departed for Milan either late in 1482 or early in 1483.

A significant amount of preliminary work has been carried out with a stylus prior to the use of pen and ink. The lines of the pen-work do not always follow the stylus lines, but re-define the poses of the figures in relation to each other.

The multiple changes indicate an experimental approach in an attempt to capture the figures in lively interaction as they consider or debate the arrival of the Christchild, as illustrated in the Adoration of the Magi painting.

The pen-work is heavy and reinforced in places, as Leonardo seeks to clarify the pose of some figures or indicate the fall of light on their bodies. Areas of parallel diagonal hatching may be related to intended areas of shadow in the painting. This suggests that Leonardo had already planned the composition before he started this drawing.

Only the figure seen at the lower left and again at lower centre was used in the Adoration of the Magi painting, where it appears on the extreme left in the foreground.

  • Medium Pen and ink over stylus
  • Size 17.9 x 26.3 cm
  • Location École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts

< Back to list