This study is drawn in metalpoint, specifically silverpoint, a popular medium with Early Renaissance artists. It is most suitable for detailed and careful drawings,. Metalpoint was a good method of training young apprentice artists as it required control and discipline. Here, the silverpoint line, which has turned grey in the atmosphere, is thin and delicate. The detail is extraordinary: the armour, the curls in his hair and the splendid elaborate helmet are even exceeded by the modelling of the man's face and the lion on his breastplate. Endless patience must have been required of the young Leonardo to produce the very fine shadows of the man's face, each a separate line.
The drawing shows Leonardo studying the art of his teacher, Andrea Verrocchio. Giorgio Vasari's biography of Verrocchio in his Lives of the Artists (1550 and 1568) mentions two metal reliefs with profile portraits of Alexander the Great, leader of the Greeks, and Darius, the Persian king. They were sent by Lorenzo 'il Magnifico' ('the Magnificent') de' Medici, ruler of Florence (1469-92), as gifts to the king of Hungary. This drawing is probably based on one of these lost works by Verrocchio.
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This is my first ever attempt to draw a bust. When I was a student a few years ago, taking free hand and architectural drawing classes I was always jealous of one thing! I was jealous of my classmates who were preparing for the Fine Arts School exams.
They had to train sketching busts. All shorts of Ancient Greek philosophers, poets and politicians were standing there on the selves ready to be drawn! It was so amazingly impressive how the students used to use charcoal and within minutes their white paper would turn into the face of a philosopher. The contrast between heavy black and plain light describing the sculptures’ surfaces would just amaze me. I wanted to be able to do this….and here I am! Starting with this first bust…not quite sure who this is but definitely a good start!
This ties in brilliantly with my Life Drawing classes. See sketches from the weekly life drawing classes I joined recently here:
“Busts is a collection of charcoal drawings which represents my first steps in the world of life drawing and drawing of human figures and faces in general. In these first drawings I am just trying to put in practice the theory that I read in sketching books or the instructions that our tutor gives during our life drawing classes. Hopefully, as I progress and practice more, the quality of my drawings will be improving with more confident lines and more powerful tone contrasts.”
Art is more fun when you meet the artists themselves. Meet the man behind the scenes. Visit THE ARTIST…
Love Sketching and Painting
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The Missing Left Eye
Immediately after the bust was found on 6 December 1912 Ludwig Borchardt ordered a search for the missing inlay from the left eye. In his initial publication of 1923 he notes:
[…] and in the left eye the inlay was missing. The debris, even that which had already been removed, was immediately searched, and some of it sifted. A few more fragments of the ears were found, but not the eye inlay. Only much later did I realise that it had never existed.
The definitiveness of this last remark in particular is the subject of critical discussion today. Nevertheless, we can safely assume that the eye inlay, if it ever existed, was not present at the time of discovery, any more than the gold leaf overlay from the bust of Akhenaten found in the same room, or the missing uraeus from the same sculpture.
The aforementioned examinations carried out by the Rathgen-Forschungslabor and the CT scans indicate that the bust is extremely fragile: there are air pockets between the limestone core and the applied stucco, which have been identified as highly vulnerable points. Portions of the painted decoration are also extremely fragile.
In addition, the rock crystal inlay must be considered highly sensitive. From a curatorial and conservational point of view the bust, like many other objects in the museum’s collection, has therefore now been classified as “non-transportable”.
Busts in Ancient Egypt
While we often encounter busts as a genre of portraiture from classical antiquity through the early modern period, they were seldom found in ancient Egypt. One reason for this may be that a bust, as a three-dimensional portrait of an individual that usually ends at the middle of the torso, is a “cut-off” and therefore incomplete representation. In ancient Egypt, however, it was extremely important that images appear complete and intact.
Nonetheless, a small number of sculptures that can be called busts do exist, primarily from the realm of ancestor worship. Aside from a few examples from the Old Kingdom (ca. 2570–2400 BC), busts appear relatively frequently from the Amarna period until the end of the New Kingdom (ca. 1350–1100 BC). Most of these can be assigned to the realm of private ancestor worship in the domestic sphere or in the context of burials, and are therefore often reminiscent of Egyptian death masks or the upper portion of a human-shaped sarcophagi.
The Busts of the Royal Couple
The few known royal examples include the bust of Nefertiti, which, as the excavator Ludwig Borchardt already quite rightly noted, is impossible to imagine without its counterpart, the bust of her husband. The bust of Akhenaten was found in the same room as that of the queen, but had been destroyed by iconoclasts.
Carved by a sculptor of exceptional talent, this exquisite portrait bust depicts an elegant Roman woman of wealth and distinction. The subject bears a solemn expression as she looks to her left, which affords a tantalizing glimpse of her intricate hairstyle. The wavy locks that frame her face are combed to the back, where they are woven into numerous braids, nearly all of which are wound into a heavy, multitiered bun worn at the upper part of the back of the head. This coiffure emulates a type worn by Faustina the Elder (d. AD 141), wife of Emperor Antoninus Pius (r. AD 138–61), suggesting that she lived during this period. A gem-encrusted diadem encircles the subject’s head, alluding to her elevated social standing. Her garments are similarly luxurious, including her crisply pleated, gap-sleeved tunic, which is so thinly carved that light passes through parts of the marble. Out of modesty she also wears an overgarment, its deep folds indicating a thick material, possibly wool. Draped low across her torso, the mantle reveals the gentle swell of her right breast, an unusual feature of Roman busts of this period.
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