Scholars say they have discovered the second known portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, made just before his death. For years, the Old Master drawing of a previously unknown bearded man has belonged to the British Royal Family.
The three-quarter profile of a bearded man is believed to have been made by an assistant shortly before the artist’s death in 1519, and was first noticed by Martin Clayton, head of prints and drawings at the Royal Collection Trust. Clayton says that the features of the portrait bear strong similarities to the only other known drawing of Leonardo, one by Italian painter Francesco Melzi. “Leonardo was renowned for his well-kept and luxuriant beard at a time when relatively few men were bearded — though the beard was rapidly coming into fashion at this time,” says Clayton.
The drawing will go on display later this month as a part of the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, which opens 24 May at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace. The show is one of the headliners in a year of celebrations across Europe to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance man’s death.