- Museum number
Studies of military tank-like machines; including one at the top with horses pulling a contraption with revolving scythes
Pen and brown ink, over stylus (some drawn with a ruler or a compass)
- Production date
- 1485 (circa)
Height: 173 millimetres
Width: 245 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The present drawing dates from the mid-1480s during the artist`s first period in Milan at the court of Duke Ludovico Sforza. In a famous letter from the early 1480s Leonardo offered his services to the Duke as military engineer, architect, sculptor and painter; the order in which he lists his achievements showing a shrewd understanding of the martial concerns of his future patron. This drawing shows that Leonardo was indeed willing to turn his creative genius to warlike ends, yet in common with almost all of his inventions these fearsome but impracticable machines were never built. Starting from the chariot in the upper part of the drawing they read as follows: `when this travels through your men, you will wish to raise the shafts of the scythes, so that you will not injure anyone on your side`. The view of the `armoured car` with its roof off showing its mechanism is labelled: `the way the car is arranged within - eight men operate it, and the same men turn the car and pursue the enemy`. The study on the right showing it in operation with guns blazing is inscribed: `this is good for breaking the ranks, but you will want to follow it up`.
The drawing resembles other military chariots studied in drawings by Leonardo in Windsor (RL 12653; Popham, 1946, no. 309); Biblioteca Reale, Turin (Popham 310); École des Beaux-Arts, Paris (EBA 423; reproduced in colour as no. 50 on p. 388 in the 2003 Metropolitan Leonardo catalogue); in the Codex Atlantico in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan (f.40va/113v; Popham 311) and in Manuscript B in the Library of the Institut de France, Paris. Popham dated this group of drawings to the period soon after Leonardo`s arrival in Milan, 1485-8.
Lit.: B. Berenson, `Drawings of the Florentine Painters`, Chicago, 1938, II, no. 1030; A.E. Popham, `The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci`, London, 1946 (and later editions), no. 308; A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, `Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries`, London, 1950, I, no. 107, II, pl. CIV (with previous literature); A.E. Popham, in exhib. cat., London, Royal Academy, `Leonardo da Vinci quincentenary exhibition`, 1952, no. 173; M. Kemp, in exhib. cat., London, Hayward Gallery, `Leonardo da Vinci`, 1989, no. 68; C. Van Cleave, `Master Drawings of the Italian Renaissance`, London, 2007, p. 88, illustrated p. 96; H. Chapman and M. Faietti, exhib. cat., BM, London, `Fra Angelico to Leonardo: Italian Renaissance Drawings`, 2010, no. 54, pp.212-3 (cat. entry by H. Chapman).
Popham & Pouncey 1950
The present sheet, which must have been cut down, forms part of a series of similar studies of instruments of war:
i. Windsor, no. 12653. Two drawings of a car armed with revolving flails, a horseman with three lances, and an archer with a shield attached to his bow (20X27.8 cm.; `Comm. Vinciana`, iii (1934), 79).
ii. Turin, ex-Royal Library. Two types of chariot armed with revolving scythes (20X28 cm.; `Comm. Vinciana`, iii (1934), 80).
iii. Paris, École des Beaux-Arts. Studies of shields for protecting foot-soldiers and of a bomb exploding (20x27.3 cm.; `Comm. Vinciana`, iii (1934), 77).
The drawing of a halberd also suggests comparison with a sheet of similar weapons in the Venice Academy (`Comm. Vinciana`, iii (1934), 72). It seems possible that this sheet, though upright in format, formed part of the series already mentioned. The style of these drawings points to a date soon after Leonardo`s arrival in Milan: about 1483.
Literature: BB 1030; Comm. Vinciana, iii (1934), 78; Popham 308; Clark, Windsor, under nos. 12651, 12653; Müller-Walde, pp. 206f.; E. McCurdy, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, London, 1938, ii, p. 212 (repr.); Nicodemi, pl. 141 ; Giglioli, pp. 165 f., pl. CCV.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1952 London, Royal Academy, No. 173
1972 BM, 'The Art of Drawing', No. 118
1989 London, Hayward Gallery, 'Leonardo', no. 68
1990 Apr-Aug, BM, Treasures of P&D (no cat.)
2003 Oct-Dec, Tokyo, Metropolitan Art Museum, Treasures of BM
2004 Jan-Mar, Kobe, City Museum, Treasures of BM
2004 Apr-Jun, Fukuoka, City Museum, Treasures of BM
2004 Jun-Aug, Niigata, Prefectural Mus of Fine Arts, Treasures of BM
2010 April-July, BM, 'Fra Angelico to Leonardo', no.54
2011, March-June, Uffizi, Florence, 'Figure, Memorie, Spazio: Disegni da Fra'Angelico a Leonardo', no.54
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Purchased through Tiffin at the Woodburn sale for £36 15s. Previously in the Lawrence and (according to the 1860 catalogue) Mariette collections.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number