- Museum number
A kneeling angel, turned to front, his right arm raised
Pen and brown ink, over leadpoint
- Production date
Height: 124 millimetres
Width: 61 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The drawing was sold at the Wilcocks sale in 1913 as by Leonardo's Milanese pupil Cesare da Sesto. The attribution to Leonardo was first suggested by Laurence Binyon, and the drawing was registered as by Leonardo. The fragmentary nature of the drawing has prevented any convincing interpretation of the angel's action, his right arm (studied in two positions) outstretched and twisting around from a kneeling position to look to his left. A number of opinions have been expressed about the dating of the drawing, ranging from Dodgson's connection with one of the angels in Verrocchio's 'Baptism' of around 1476 (Uffizi, Florence) to Berenson's suggestion that the 'contrapposto' and the hatching place this to Leonardo's first period in Milan (1482-99). Popham and Pouncey were more inclined to a dating to the years immediately preceding the artist's departure to Milan, a view supported by Kemp. The latter points out that the figure's complex turning motion and the dense penwork are most closely paralleled in drawings from the early 1480s, such as the BM study of a child and cat (1857,0110.1; Popham & Pouncey cat. 99). The sketchy outline study below of a figure swinging both arms across and upwards in a gesture of prayer is most likely a revised idea of the pose of the angel studied above.
The discovery of the drawings and the request for funding to buy them is recorded in Campbell Dodgson's Report to the Trustees dated 5 April 1913.
Lit: B. Berenson, 'The Drawings of the Florentine Painters', Chicago, 1938, II, no. 1034A; C. Dodgson, "Vasari Society", First Series, IX, 1913/14, 1; A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I. no. 102 (with previous literature), II, pl. XCVII; A.E. Popham, in exhib. cat., London, Royal Academy, 'Leonardo da Vinci quincentenary exhibition', 1952, no. 3; M. Kemp, in exhib. cat, London, Hayward Gallery, 'Leonardo da Vinci', 1989, no. 76, p. 149; A.E. Popham, 'The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci', London, 1994 (revised edition by M. Kemp of 1946 edition), no. 29B
Popham & Pouncey 1950
In his 1. hand the angel holds some object or objects; his r. arm (drawn in two different positions) is raised and the hand droops from the wrist; below is a rapid sketch of an angel (?) turned to the 1. and, in the bottom l.-hand corner, two studies in lead-point the subject of which is obscure.
Attributed in the Wilcocks Sale to Cesare da Sesto. The attribution to Leonardo was first proposed by Laurence Binyon.
Bodmer regarded it as a first idea for the angel in the 'Virgin of the Rocks'. Berenson finds the 'contrapposto' and the hatching suggestive of the early Milanese period; neither point seems conclusive: the 'contrapposto' is no more violent than, for example, in the obviously early 'Aristotle and Campaspe' (Bodmer 110), while the shading is like that in the 'Hanged Bandini' of 1479 (Bodmer 116). The drawing, in fact, seems to belong to the first Florentine rather than to the Milanese period.
Dodgson ('Burlington'), followed by Valentiner, suggests that it may be a study for one of the angels in Verrocchio's 'Baptism'. He sees the plants as rushes, and thinks that the angel is pouring water (indicated by vertical strokes) with his r. hand; there is, however, nothing about the plants themselves to show that they are rushes, while it is iconographically improbable that the angel, whose function in a 'Baptism' is to hold Christ's garments, would be pouring water. Valentiner counters the latter objection by suggesting that the lines falling from the angel's hand and elbow indicate a piece of drapery "connected with a larger piece falling upon the ground in a half-circle"; but the line from the elbow is merely the edge of the wing, while the "half-circle" is made up of part of the angel's own robe, trailing on the ground, and two of the "rushes". That the angel may be connected with the 'Baptism' does not seem to us unlikely; but we must stress that there is no positive evidence of this.
Literature: BB 1034A; Comm. Vinciana, i (1928), 6; Bodmer 150; Popham 29B; C. D(odgson), Vasari Society, First Series, ix (1913/14), 1; the same, Burlington, xxiii (1913), p. 264; Poggi, pl. 45; B.M. Guide, 1914, no. 1 a; W. R. Valentiner, Art Quarterly, iv (1941), pp. 14 ff., fig.10; Giglioli, p. 93, pl. XLV; Venturi, pp. 83 f.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1952, London, Royal Academy, No. 3
1989, London, Hayward Gallery, No. 76
2006 Sep-Dec, Munich, Alte Pinakothek, Leonardo: Madonna of the Carnation
2011/12 Nov-Feb, London, National Gallery, Leonardo da Vinci
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Acquired at the Wilcocks sale at Sotheby's through Agnews: two drawings in one lot as by Cesare da Sesto for £126 (with 1913-6-17-2). Dodgson had obtained authorisation to bid up to £500 (see report dated 5 April 1913).
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number