This drawing depicts a lily (Lilium candidum L.), a symbol of purity in depictions of the Virgin. The technique is unusually elaborate, and the outlines of the lower part of the lily were pricked through with a needle, to transfer the design to another support by pouncing charcoal dust through the holes. The upper part of the flower was probably drawn after the pricking, for the unpricked stem does not join convincingly to the central branching. In the lower part of the sheet is an unrelated perspectival construction. Although the drawing formed part of the Leonardo group inherited by Francesco Melzi, it is unlike any other sheet in style and technique. The thick, deliberate pen line bears close comparison to several of the few known drawings by Leonardo’s early associate and probable master, Andrea del Verrocchio, and the sophisticated spatial presentation of the lily echoes Verrocchio’s mature style; the lily is close in character (if not in detail) to that in his Madonna in the National Gallery. While the mechanical nature of pricking was uncongenial to Leonardo and used only rarely by him, it is often found in Verrocchio’s sheets. An attribution to the older artist therefore seems plausible: Leonardo presumably came by the sheet while in Verrocchio’s workshop, and it must have been both an inspiration and a challenge when he was to make his own acutely observed flower drawings 30 years later (RCIN 912419 - 912422, 912424, 912427, 912429, 912430). Text adapted from Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing, London, 2018


  • Title: A lily
  • Creator: Attributed to Andrea del Verrocchio
  • Date Created: c.1475
  • Physical Dimensions: 31.4 x 17.7 cm
  • Provenance: Bequeathed to Francesco Melzi; from whose heirs purchased by Pompeo Leoni, c.1582-90; Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel, by 1630; pobably acquired by Charles II; Royal Collection by 1690
  • Type: Drawing
  • Rights: Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019
  • External Link: Royal Collection Trust website
  • Medium: Stylus, pinpointing, leadpoint, pen and ink, brown wash, ochre wash and rubbing, white heightening (partly discoloured), pricked through.

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