The Leonardesques

Leonardo da Vinci's influence on the artists of his time

Vecchio seduto visto di profilo (1495 circa) by Allievo di Leonardo da VinciMusei Reali

In this section we will look closely at some of the drawings belonging to that group of artists called Leonardesques who were followers, in different ways, of Leonardo da Vinci's style.

Testa di giovane (1470/1480) by Bottega di Andrea del VerrocchioMusei Reali

Head of young man. Study of angel for (or from) Verrocchio's Baptism of Christ

This drawing depicts the ethereal angel of the Baptism (Florence, Uffizi Gallery): the work shows the sublime features of a study from Verrocchio's workshop, a workshop in which Leonardo da Vinci himself trained.

The angelic creature is portrayed according to the unconventional view from behind, in the act of offering the viewer, thanks to the twisting of the neck, the face with sweet and delicate features.

The eyes look upward, enraptured by the vision that totally catalyzes her attention.

The features of the face, tiny and graceful, are further emphasized by the long, fair, curly hair, described in strokes of white lead given at the tip of the brush: the hair spills loose over the shoulders in a thousand barely held volutes, displaying a typically Verrocchioesque graphic stroke, a prelude to later Leonardo studies.

The touches of white lead also enhance the robe, puffed out over the shoulders and embellished by decoration with precious stones.

The beauty of the drawing lies precisely in this: the ability to render the texture of the silk, the brilliance of the precious stones, the curls of the hair and the delicacy of the ageless angelic face whose redness of the cheeks even seems to be revealed through small brush strokes.

Testa di vecchio (1500-1525 circa) by Seguace di Leonardo da VinciMusei Reali

Head of an old man

The attribution of this drawing is uncertain and has received much critical attention. Because of its subject matter and technique, the sheet is undoubtedly related to some drawings made by Leonardo around 1510 and is therefore attributable to one of his followers.

Beyond doubts about the attribution, the Royal Library study demonstrates great attention to the rendering of physiognomic features and expression.

The face of the man, elderly and almost bald, is striking for the intensity of the frowning gaze, fixed on the observer, and for the mouth bent in an almost caricatured smirk.

The folds of floppy skin and hooked nose are mercilessly portrayed

The physiognomic study aimed at capturing the "motions of the soul" is one of the main themes of Leonardo's artistic research, in drawing as in painting. The head's proportions, actually quite altered, have led critics to assign the Head of an Old Man to a follower of Leonardo active in the early 16th century.

Busto di giovane con corona di spine e foglie di vite (1495 circa) by Giovanni Antonio BoltraffioMusei Reali

Bust of young man with crown of thorns and vine leaves

The drawing, with an incisive stroke made pictorial by the use of a blue-gray primed paper, is attributed to Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio.

It depicts a young man portrayed in a half-length, three-quarter view, with a jerk of the head toward the viewer that makes it almost frontal.

The long hair is wrapped in a crown of thorns intertwined with vine leaves.

The presence of the thorns in the crown has led some critics to identify the figure as the young Christ, a theme treated with some frequency by painters in Leonardo's circle: the iconographic ambiguity is perhaps intentional and should be read in parallel with the gender ambiguity that runs from Leonardo to Boltraffio, whose drawn faces often display androgynous features.

The rotation of the bust is still typical of Leonardo's portraiture, but here Boltraffio emphasizes the realism of physiognomic features.

His female faces-more frequent in the drawings-are characterized by large, etched, dreamy eyes; in the Turin sheet, the expression is piercing and vaguely frowning, although the open mouth softens the aggressiveness.

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