Allegory with a wolf and an eagle

Allegory with a wolf and an eagle c1516

In this highly finished drawing, Leonardo conjures up a composition entirely from the imagination to create a charming enigmatic allegory the meaning of which is not entirely clear.

A wolf is seated in the stern of a boat, the mast of which is a growing olive tree, with a compass in his right paw and his left on the tiller. The compass is pointing straight at an eagle, which is perched on a globe on the shore.

The subject has been variously interpreted, but the most likely reading is an allegory of the Papacy. The wolf was a traditional symbol of the pope, while the eagle on a globe of the earth is thought to symbolise the political aspirations of the King of France. The olive tree traditionally represents peace. It therefore seems likely that the allegory refers to an alliance made between Pope Leo X and Francis I in December 1515.

  • Medium Red chalk
  • Size 17 x 28 cm
  • Location The Royal Collection

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