The Most Beautiful Drawing in the World

Leonardo da Vinci, Head of a Young Woman (Study for the Angel in the ‘Virgin of
Leonardo da Vinci, Head of a Young Woman (Study for the Angel in the ‘Virgin of the Rocks’), 1480s (courtesy of the Morgan Library & Museum, New York)

Thomas Micchelli blogs about Leonardo da Vinci's drawing Head of a Young Woman (Study for the Angel in the ‘Virgin of the Rocks’) on view in the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Treasures from the Biblioteca Reale, Turin at the Morgan Library, New York, through February 2, 2014.

Micchelli writes that "the drawing is imperfect, which is essential to its probing, critical, transporting beauty. Leonardo’s inquisitive hand never settles on a single way of seeing or doing: the cheek on the right is molded with an exquisite caress, with the artist’s distinctive left-to-right hatch marks cascading like sheets of water, while the shadow across the woman’s back feels bluntly swiped in, as if he saw no reason to spend time on it. The dancelike curls delineating the locks of hair trailing down her spine are rendered minimally, almost abstractly, even as the minute strokes of white gracing her nose, cheeks and eyelid return the drawing to a moist, porous realism."