Art Moment: “Head of a Bear” by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci needs no introduction. His place in the history of art is secured by the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and many other masterworks. The Renaissance genius was also an extraordinary draftsman, integrating his diverse roles as an artist, scientist, inventor, theorist, and teacher in a large body of sketches depicting the human anatomy, inventive flying machines and other contraptions. In the small sketch below, Leonardo demonstrates that his extraordinary skill extends to the portrayal of animals.

Leonard da Vinci (1452 -1519), ‘Head of a Bear’, silverpoint drawing on a pink-beige paper,
7 x 7 cm (2.25 x 2.25 in).

‘Head of a Bear’ is one of only a few surviving drawings by Leonardo in private hands and a prime example of a work that display great sensibility. In this small sketch – measuring just 7cm square – Leonardo brings the animal to life by the subtle positioning of the bear’s head and the treatment of the eyes, which gives the animal a disarmingly endearing look.

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