Leonardo da Vinci was a renowned artist, inventor, and scientist of the High Renaissance era. Among his works are several drawings of grotesque heads that capture the unusual features of old, ugly, senile, and ridiculous characters. These drawings include “Five Character Studies”, which is dated around 1493 and considered one of the most compelling.
What sets these drawings apart from others is their focus on the skeleton structure as a basis for capturing the essence of grotesque faces. This reliance on anatomical knowledge likely reflects Leonardo’s diverse interests in art, science, and engineering. Other works in this style by Leonardo include “A Bald Fat Man with a Broken Nose” and “Grotesque Head of an old Woman”.
The grotesque head studies show Leonardo’s ability to move beyond traditional standards of beauty to capture human expression through form and proportion. They represent examples from his extensive collection of human anatomy studies that focused on character types not typically seen as aesthetically pleasing subjects for art. Despite their unusual nature, these drawings showcase Leonardo’s ability to masterfully render any subject matter he pursued throughout his illustrious career.