A star-of-Bethlehem and other plants

Leonardo da Vincic.1506-12

Royal Collection Trust, UK

Royal Collection Trust, UK
London, United Kingdom

The focus of this drawing is a clump of star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum L.), whose swirling leaves are seen in the studies for the kneeling Leda and in most copies of the painting, where it softens the edge of the rock on which the swan stands (the same device is seen by the infant Baptist’s legs in the St Anne cartoon, of a similar date). Flanking the star-of-Bethlehem is wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa L.), and below is sun spurge (Euphorbia helioscopia L.) with details of its seedheads. Although the star-of-Bethlehem is somewhat stylised, the blades of grass growing untidily among and behind the anemones suggest that Leonardo observed these plants in the wild. Melzi's number 130. Text adapted from Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing, London, 2018


  • Title: A star-of-Bethlehem and other plants
  • Creator: Leonardo da Vinci
  • Date Created: c.1506-12
  • Physical Dimensions: 19.8 x 16.0 cm
  • Provenance: Bequeathed to Francesco Melzi; from whose heirs purchased by Pompeo Leoni, c.1582-90; Thomas Howard, 14th Earl of Arundel, by 1630; probably 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: Red chalk, pen and ink

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