Eleven Heads, Mostly Caricatures in Profile

WAG 1995.273


William Roscoe believed that these sketches of grotesque and caricatured heads were by the great Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), presumably because of the ink inscription on the drawing. Many of the heads are similar to, though not precise copies of, the faces found on drawings by Leonardo in major collections of his drawings in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle and in the Uffizi in Florence. Amongst the large library of texts and books of prints that Roscoe owned alongside his drawings was a copy of John Chamberlaine's 'Imitations of Drawings by Lionardo da Vinci, ... and other masters ...' in King George III's collection, which was published in 1795. Roscoe also owned two seventeenth- and eighteenth-century editions of Leonardo's 'Treatise on Painting', which has a whole section devoted to how to portray expression and character. More recently it has been pointed out that the chubby-faced smiling young man in the right corner of the drawing looks like a figure from a work by Anthony van Dyck (1599-1641). This suggests that the unknown copyist may have been a seventeenth-century artist.