Leonardo Study for a Soldier A5 Notebook

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A5 hardcover notebook with blank pages and Leonardo's red chalk sketch on its cover. Leonardo's drawings are probably the most precious items in the Prints and Drawings collection of the Museum of Fine Arts (Budapest). These works can only be seen by the public in the course of temporary exhibitions due to their sensitivity to light. This sketch is a study for the head of a warrior for the fresco Leonardo was commissioned to make for the wall of the Council Hall of Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. The central part of this composition portrays the most desperate struggle for the flag.

Leonardo was already over fi fty when he was commissioned to decorate one of the long walls in the great hall in the Palazzo Vecchio, the Florentine town hall. Th e specifi ed subject was the victory gained at Anghiari over the old rival Milan in 1440. Although such a prestigious commission must have been fl attering to the painter, and his younger rival Michelangelo was working on a pair to the fresco, Leonardo once more began to work only after prolonged hesitation. Rather than the traditional fresco technique he experimented with a special slow-drying method, but met with failure. He had not yet fi nished the central scene when, in the poorly heated dank room the fresco began to decay. After this Leonardo abandoned the work completely, and a year later left Florence for good. While the fresco, which fell victim to subsequent alterations to the hall, is known through several contemporary reports and copies, barely half a dozen drawings for the work in Leonardo’s own hand survives.

Made in the last stage of the preparations, these head studies, with their vividness for being done from a live model, their dramatic expression, the highlights and deep tones creating the characteristic Leonardine chiaroscuro contrasts, count as some of the master’s most excellent drawings. Th ey also faithfully convey the staggering horror of the soldiers’ cruel warring fury as they rush at each other with unbridled ferocity in the heat of battle, a state Leonardo called pazzia bestialissima, the most bestial madness.

Leonardo da Vinci: Study for the Head of a Soldier ca. 1504- 1505 ©   Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest

More Information
Weight 0.30 kg
Material paper
Size 210 mm x 148 mm
Back Terracotta
Pages 200
Paper Offset

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