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Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

The head of Judas


Creator: Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519) (artist)
Creation Date: 
Materials and techniques: 
Red chalk on red prepared paper
18.0 x 15.0 cm
RL 12547
P(L) 201
Acquirer: Charles II, King of Great Britain (1630-85)
Bequeathed to Francesco Melzi; from whose heirs purchased by Pompeo Leoni, c.1582-90; Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel, by 1630; Probably acquired by Charles II; Royal Collection by 1690

A study of the head and neck of a man, with the head slightly averted from the spectator, in profile to the right. He has a hooked nose, close-set lips and a strongly-modelled muscular neck. This is a study for the Judas in the Last Supper, refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan.

Leonardo did not conceive of Judas as facially repulsive, but subsequent copyists of the head and later restorers of the mural exaggerated the stereotypical semitic/criminal features of Judas to an increasingly grotesque degree, hooking his nose down almost to meet his chin. The head in this drawing registers mild surprise rather than evil intent. While the modelling is handled with great subtlety, the outlines of the profile may well have been strengthened by a later hand.

Further details

Unframed Drawings / Watercolours