Section 1
Mathematics, Geometry and Art

C. A. Folio 786 recto
Pyramid in Perspective and Female Profile

pen and ink with brown wash, drypoint and black pencil, paper watermark “eight-petal flower”, circa 1510s?
©Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana/Mondadori Portfolio

Folio 786 recto
This sheet raises some interesting questions of dating and attribution. The page is mostly occupied by the perspectival drawing of the pyramid, displaying component triangles and a projection of the quadrilateral plane onto the floor. To the left is a sketched profile of a female face, with a partial replica directly below. The two studies are divided by a black charcoal line running just below the chin of the profile face, serving to partition off the upper half. The figural and geometric images represent very different draftsmanship techniques. While the pyramid has been extremely carefully prepared, with the main lines first incised in drypoint and then gone over with pen and ink and wash, the woman’s face is drawn in black charcoal, with a few strokes for the profile and her hair, and then is partially redrawn below; the profiles of both faces are identical, which points to the existence of an original drawing that was being copied. An inscription also runs across the female face, written in a normal left to right manner that is therefore not by Leonardo. Its sense remains unclear because the last deciphered word ‘damasanate’ has no meaning; the text translates as “my dearest (in masculine form) how much/ many ‘[unknown word] ….”, apparently the beginning of a student’s draft note or dedication. Whether by a pupil or by the master, the two drawings softly drawn in charcoal are skillfully done, demonstrating a full mastery of perspective as well as of a female profile. Rinaldi (Catalogue 7, p. 28), looking more at the verso, has proposed a tentative date of the first decade of the 16th century.

 

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