Whether due to his need to satiate an exacting nature or having arisen from the desire to please the viewer, the fact of the matter is that few artists before or since can match such realism.
This is particularly the case when referring to pieces created with a technique referred to as metalpoint. A sketch known as Profile of a Warrior in Helmet is a perfect example of such stellar precision. Let's take a closer look at this piece.
Leonardo da Vinci was known to recognise the influence of his peers and teachers over the year. We should therefore first mention that this work is actually thought to be based off of two previous paintings. Andrea Verrochio taught da Vinci at an early age and was a source of great inspiration.
Verrochio created two metal reliefs; one of Alexander the Great and the other of Darius (a powerful Persian king). Contemporary historians believe that da Vinci utilised a combination of these two reliefs to create Profile of a Warrior in Helmet.
One of the most interesting points to mention is that this relief if thought to be a self-portrait of da Vinci himself while he was studying under Verrochio. Indeed, we can see the very same crooked nose and pronounced chin which are present in later da Vinci works.
If we were to ignore for a moment that da Vinci himself is the subject of this relief, images of Roman soldiers and Spartan levels of discipline would certainly come to mind.
The profile itself is rigid. The chest is puffed out, the shoulders are held back and the eyes remain fixated towards a point in the immediate distance. Indeed, the countenance of the subject has almost taken on a meditative pose.
This same sense of control can be seen when we turn our attention to the headdress and the armour. The helmet itself is particularly ornate; hinting at one used for ceremony as opposed to battle.
Its flared edges and bird-like peak certainly hint at confidence and even a sense of measured aggression. A pair of dragon wings illustrates the imaginative nature of da Vinci and yet, he has still kept his vision in accordance with the overall theme of the relief.
We also should take note of the breastplate and what appears to be a lion's head with its mouth agape. Once again, we return to the theme of bravery and an unwavering focus towards the completion of a task.
It is interesting to note that da Vinci chose this method to portray himself under the tutelage of Verrochio. Was he attempting to convey his respect for the man?
Perhaps his intention was instead to highlight his own commitment to the pursuit of perfection. Regardless of his perspective, the fact of the matter is that Profile of a Warrior in Helmet is an example of how precise da Vinci could be.
As staggering as this work is, we should never forget that it was completed when da Vinci was a mere 20 years old (he was born in 1452). It clearly displays talent at a young age and we can see the very same attention to detail throughout the life of this great artist.