- Museum number
Head of a balding man in profile to right
- Production date
Height: 101 millimetres
Width: 73 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- A.E. Popham dated this to around 1490 during Leonardo's first period in Milan (1481/3-1499). The physical type represented in this drawing with a prominent acquiline nose and jutting chin is a recurring one in Leonardo's work, as can be seen from the similarities with the BM's silverpoint 'Warrior' from the 1470s. The almost bald, jowly man of advanced years shown in the drawing can be found in other Leonardo drawings from the same period, such as a red chalk study in the Louvre (Inv. 2249; Popham 1946, no. 139B; reproduced in colour Bambach (ed.) 2003, no. 76) and a pen and ink drawing squared to study the proportions of the face in the Galleria dell' Accademia, Venice (Inv. 236; ; Popham 1946, no. 191; reproduced in colour Bambach (ed.) 2003, no. 86). While it is possible that these drawings are based on a particular model, it is perhaps more likely that they are a fusion between his observations of nature and his artistic imagination that idealised the forms. The pure profile view adopted here evokes images of classical rulers found on coins, a connection that is strengthened by the commanding physical presence of the figure in Leonardo's drawing.
Lit: B. Berenson, 'Drawings of the Florentine Painters', London, 1903 (and later editions), II, no. 1034; A.E. Popham, 'The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci', London, 1946 (and later editions), no. 140B; A.E. Popham, A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 111, II, pl. CV (with previous literature); A.E. Popham, in exhib. cat., London, Royal Academy, 'Leonardo da Vinci quincentenary exhibition', 1952, no. 83; J. Bean, 'Bayonne, Musée Bonnat: les dessins italiens de la collection Bonnat', Paris, 1960, under nos 49-50; F. Viatte, in exhib. cat. (ed. C.C. Bambach), New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 'Leonardo da Vinci Master Draftsman', 2003, under no. 76, p. 466
Popham & Pouncey 1950
Berenson thinks that the profile was drawn in connection with the 'Last Supper' and that it is at any rate of that time. We may accept the latter part of his statement and date the drawing about 1490. The type, verging on caricature, is one that recurs throughout Leonardo's career.
Literature: BB 1034; Bodmer 221; Popham 140B; B.M. Guide, 1901, no. A6; E. McCurdy, Vasari Society, First Series, i (1905/6), 4; Malaguzzi Valeri, La Corte di Lodovico, ii, 1915, p. 505, fig. 544.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1952 London, Royal Academy, No. 83
2005 April-July, Seoul Arts Centre, 'BM Treasures...'
2005 July-Oct, Korea, Busan Museum, 'BM Treasures...'
2005/6 Oct-Jan, Daegu, Keimyung Univ. Museum, 'BM Treasures...'
2007 Mar-June, Beijing, Palace Museum, Britain meets the World
2011/12 Nov-Feb, London, National Gallery, Leonardo da Vinci
2018-2019 5 Oct-6 Jan, Haarlem, Teylers Museum, Leonardo da Vinci as a physiognomist
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number