Leonardo Da Vinci is nearly as famous for many of his drawings and sketches as he was for his completed paintings. The difference of course is that his completed works are much less in number and often took him years to complete. His drawings, often found in his notebooks, ranged from simple sketches of arms for use in the Last Supper to fully featured sketches of paintings he would eventually alter or never painted at all.
Because he was such an incredibly apt draftsman, there are infinitely more journals of small sketches than completed works of art. In fact, it is often said that between Leonardo Da Vinci’s studies and paintings, he preferred his studies and painted rarely because of the demands of his other studies. Regardless, he was one of the greatest artists who ever lived and it shows even in the simplest of sketches.
The earliest Da Vinci illustration, dated back to 1473, is that of a Landscape of the Arno Valley. This sketch is an incredibly detailed depiction of the river, mountains, Montelupo Castle, and farmlands beyond the castle of the valley. From here, he would go on to sketch numerous other drafts.
The most famous of his many drawings is that of the Vitruvian Man. Kept now carefully guarded, the Vitruvian Man is one of the most famous single images in history and depicts the carefully crafted proportions of the ideal male body. Another incredibly famous and largely used drawing is that of the Head of an Angel, a sketch utilized for The Virgin of the Rocks.
The most impressive of Leonardo Da Vinci’s classical drawings would have to be the 160×100 cm rendering in black chalk of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist. Using the same techniques developed in the Mona Lisa of sfumato and shadowy corners, the drawing was never made into a painting. The closest painting to this image is that of The Virgin and Child with St. Anne.
Leonardo’s drawings consist of numerous other creations, many of which include what were once considered caricatures. However, after close studies of the heads and bodies drawn, it has been largely agreed upon that they were real models with deformities of some kind. Additionally there are numerous sketches of a certain man whose “Grecian Profile” was greatly appreciated by Leonardo during his career. The sketches often show the young man dressed in fancy costumes, possibly related to the pageants for which Leonardo occasionally worked.
There are numerous sketches devoted solely to the effects and depiction of fabric as seen in draperies. Leonardo worked extensively to do so in his early career. There is one particular sketch that exists as an early example of likely hired work. Leonardo sketched the death from hanging of Giuliano Baroncelli. He political conspiracy aside, Leonardo wrote casually of the deceased clothing.
One final famous sketch that has been tied to Leonardo and mentioned repeatedly when studying his other works is the Leonardo Da Vinci self portrait. The portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci is a simple rendition of himself in the latter years of his life. However, the controversy surrounding that picture of Leonardo Da Vinci’s face arises from the direct connection between the facial structures of the self-portrait and the Mona Lisa and St. John the Baptist. It has lead to much speculation that the Mona Lisa might in fact be Da Vinci himself or another woman. However, as there are no other pictures of Leonardo Da Vinci, there is no real way to know.