The J. Paul Getty Museum

Studies for the Christ Child with a Lamb (recto); Head of an Old Man, and Studies of Machinery (verso)

Object Details

Title:

Studies for the Christ Child with a Lamb (recto); Head of an Old Man, and Studies of Machinery (verso)

Artist/Maker:

Leonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452 - 1519)

Culture:

Italian

Place:

Italy (Place Created)

Date:

about 1503–1506

Medium:

Black chalk, pen and brown ink

Object Number:

86.GG.725

Dimensions:

21 × 14.1 cm (8 1/4 × 5 9/16 in.)

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Object Description

Leonardo da Vinci did not finish many paintings, but he filled thousands of notebook pages with quick sketches, designs, plans, maps, and detailed anatomical drawings throughout his life. Often these pages contained a scattering of sketches on numerous unrelated projects, seemingly the contents of Leonardo’s thoughts poured onto the page. This sheet includes studies for a child with a lamb (on the recto, or front) and studies of machinery (on the verso, or back, or reverse), among other sketches. With limited formal schooling, Leonardo learned through close observation and an insatiable curiosity about how things worked.

Between 1503 and 1506, Leonardo used black chalk, pen and ink to draw a child and a lamb multiple times, trying out different poses for the figures. He began with many quick sketches in chalk. He then went over some of these in pen and ink, firming up his ideas, as at upper right. The most evolved study is that at center left, in which the child leans back on the lamb, the group rendered more completely in space. Sheets of drawings such as this allowed Renaissance artists to experiment with complex compositions, poses, gestures, and expressions before committing them to wood panel or canvas with paint. As such, drawings were rarely meant to be viewed as finished objects in their own right.

Leonardo probably made the drawing in preparation for a painting of the Virgin and Child with Saint John, now lost but known through copies. He inscribed some unrelated notes concerning a treatise on geometry at the top of the sheet in his characteristic backwards writing, legible only with the help of a mirror. Some speculated that this right-to-left writing was meant to conceal his ideas, but this is not in fact any kind of da Vinci code. Because he was left-handed, writing in the opposite direction saved Leonardo from smearing ink as his hand moved across the paper. Mirror-writing such as this is often found in left-handed children before they are “corrected.”

Leonardo was also an accomplished inventor and engineer, with a detailed knowledge of cranes, levers, pulleys, and gears, and sketches of machinery and parts are seen on the verso side of this sheet. A design for a press or early laminating machine, the adjacent notes concern the wear and tear on the machine, particularly the axel, and a possible solution: a replaceable axel. Some of Leonardo’s more ambitious conceptions, including early thinking about the possibility of tanks, helicopters, submarines, and other military weapons, were never realized in his time.

Explore annotated views of the front and back of this drawing

Provenance
Provenance
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Abbot Luigi Celotti, Italian, 1765 - 1848, (?).
Source: according to The Lawrence Gallery catalogue, Fifth Exhibition, February 1836, p. 24, lot 70.

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Sir Thomas Lawrence (L.2445, L.2446), British, 1769 - 1830, after his death, his whole collection was left to various representatives of the nation, but nobody accepted. The collection reverted in 1834 to Lawrence's executor, Archibald Keightley, who ceded the drawings the same year to the dealer Samuel Woodburn.
Source: at lower left corner (r), collection mark of Sir Thomas Lawrence (L. 2445).

1834

Samuel Woodburn (L.2584), English, 1786 - 1853, shown in the Fifth Exhbition of the Lawrence Gallery (February 1836) and probably selected by King William II of Holland.

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King William II of the Netherlands, Netherlandish, 1792 - 1849 [sold, Het Paleis, The Hague, August 12-20, 1850, part of lot 136, to his grand-son in law, the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach]
Source: Catalogue of William II of Holland's sale, 1850, lot 136.

1850

Grand Duke Charles Alexander of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Thuringia, German, 1818 - 1901 (Granducal Collection, Weimar) [according to Trutty-Coohill and Pedretti 1993, sold in 1929]
Source: handwritten notes on a copy of the Catalogue des Tableaus Anciens et Modernes [...] formant la Galerie de feu Sa Majeste Guilliaume II, Amsterdam, 1950 (p. 22, no. 136) kept at the Getty Research Institute Library (classmark: 1850.Aug.12.HaDeW)

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S. Schwartz
Source: Sotheby's sale catalogue, November 17, 1986, lot 3

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John R. Gaines, American, 1928 - 2005 [sold, Sotheby's, New York, November 17, 1986, lot 3, bought by the J. Paul Getty Museum.]
Source: Sotheby's sale catalogue, November 17, 1986, lot 3.

Exhibitions
Exhibitions
Italian Master Drawings (May 5 to July 19, 1992)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), May 5 to July 19, 1992
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (May 24 to August 8, 1993) (recto)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), May 24 to August 8, 1993
Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994) (recto)
  • Royal Academy of Arts (London), October 29, 1993 to January 23, 1994
Master Drawings from the J. Paul Getty Museum (December 16, 1997 to February 22, 1998) (recto)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to February 22, 1998
Mise-en-Page: The Art of Composing on Paper (December 17, 2002 to March 2, 2003) (recto)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 17, 2002 to March 2, 2003
Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman (January 21 to July 14, 2003) (catalogue by C. Bambach et. al. Louvre Catalogue: Léonard de Vinci, Dessins et manuscrits, no. 81)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), January 21 to March 30, 2003
  • Musée du Louvre (Paris), May 5 to July 14, 2003
Drawings from Leonardo to Titian: A North Italian Itinerary (December 6, 2005 to February 26, 2006) (both)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 6, 2005 to February 26, 2006
Leonardo da Vinci and the Art of Sculpture: Inspiration and Invention (October 3, 2009 to June 20, 2010) (both)
  • High Museum of Art (Atlanta), October 3, 2009 to February 21, 2010
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 23 to June 20, 2010
Sainte Anne de Leonard de Vinci (March 25 to June 26, 2012) (recto)
  • Musée du Louvre (Paris), March 25 to June 26, 2012
Drawing: The Art of Change (October 4, 2016 to January 1, 2017) (recto)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), October 4, 2016 to January 1, 2017
Leonardo da Vinci: 500 Years (April 30 to June 2, 2019) (both)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), April 30 to June 2, 2019