Study of Grotesque Heads (c. 1490) by Leonardo da Vinci

Study of Grotesque Heads - Leonardo da Vinci - c.1494

Artwork Information

TitleStudy of Grotesque Heads
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
MediumInk on Paper
Dimensions26.1 x 20.6 cm
Art MovementHigh Renaissance
Current LocationThe Royal Library, Windsor Castle
Location Created Milan, Italy

About Study of Grotesque Heads

The artwork “Study of Grotesque Heads,” created by Leonardo da Vinci circa 1494, is a remarkable piece executed in ink on paper that belongs to the High Renaissance art movement. Measuring 26.1 by 20.6 centimeters, this drawing can be classified as a sketch and study, reflecting the period’s heightened interest in the human condition and character. The artwork is currently housed in The Royal Library at Windsor Castle, and it was created during da Vinci’s time in Milan, Italy.

The artwork displays a series of heads, each bearing exaggerated and varied expressions that capture the essence of grotesqueness. Da Vinci’s deft use of hatching and cross-hatching imbues the figures with a vivid sense of three-dimensionality, as though they are emerging from the paper. There’s a dynamic interplay of light and shadow, which accentuates the furrows, lines, and contortions of the faces. The subjects range from an open-mouthed figure in the top left, possibly in mid-speech or shock, to more subdued and contemplative profiles. This collection eloquently demonstrates da Vinci’s fascination with physiognomy and his mastery in rendering the human features with exceptional attention to detail, depth, and character.

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