- Museum number
Head of an elderly man, to front
Metalpoint, heightened with white (partly discoloured), on blue prepared paper
- Production date
Height: 200 millimetres
Width: 138 millimetres
- Curator's comments
This was regarded in the nineteenth century as a masterpiece by Leonardo and illustrated as such on a number of occasions. It is by a right-handed draughtsman and therefore cannot be by Leonardo, although it is almost certainly based on one of his inventions. The physical type studied here can, for example, be found on the verso of a Leonardo drawing in the BM (1875,0612.17; Popham and Pouncey 108) and at Windsor (12502 and 12503). A pen and wash drawing of a very similar model with the addition of shoulder-length curly hair is also at Windsor (12501). For the attribution to the Master of the Pala Sforzesca, see Pp 1-34.
Lit.: G. Waagen, 'Treasure of Art in Great Britain', I, London, 1854, p. 225 (as Leonardo); A.E. Popham and P. Pouncey, 'Italian drawings in the BM, the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries', London, 1950, I, no. 125 (with previous literature), II, pl. CXV (as Follower of Leonardo); K. Clark and C. Pedretti, 'The Drawings of Leonardo da Vinci in the Collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle' (2nd revised edition), London, 1968, I, under nos 12501 and 12571
Popham & Pouncey 1950
This famous drawing, repeatedly reproduced as the most important Leonardo in the collection, is by a right-handed draughtsman and does not show Leonardo s touch. There can, however, be little doubt that it is directly or indirectly based on a Leonardo type approximating to Windsor no. 12502.
There is also at Windsor (no. 12501) what is practically a copy of the present drawing except for the fact that the man has long curly hair falling to his shoulders (photo. Braun 79208).
This drawing and Pp,1.34; 1895,0915.485; 1895,0915.475, similarly executed with meticulous precision in metal-point on carefully prepared grounds, may be by the same hand, which, it has been suggested, is that of Boltraffio. There is not enough evidence to substantiate such a connection. The Master of the 'Pala Sforzesca' (see 1861,0810.1) also draws in this technique but rather more clumsily.
Literature: "Waagen, Treasures, i, 1854, p. 225; B.M. Guide, 1895, no. 42; W. von Seidlitz, Vienna Jahrbuch, xxvi (1906), pp. 25, 46, fig. 23; G. Morelli, Die Galerien Borghese und Doria Panfili, Leipzig, 1890, p. 250; Müller-Walde, p. 48.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2018-2019 5 Oct-6 Jan, Haarlem, Teylers Museum, Leonardo da Vinci as a physiognomist
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number