View Full Version : "La Bella Principessa" after Leonardo Da Vinci

Nathalie Chavieve
09-09-2013, 03:01 PM
A couple of days ago I saw a tv programme about the artwork attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci " Portrait of a Young fiancee" or "La Bella Principessa". It was very interesting and fascinating story: how it was discovered and analized by the experts and, of course, who is the girl on this drawing. This programme and the art work itself inspire me ( as all works by Leonardo Da Vinci) and I decided to try to draw after a great master.

The original drawing made in coloured chalks ( red, black and white) and ink, on vellum , laid on oak panel. I do not have vellum ;), so I draw it on toned paper. I used red, black and white chalk and brown ink.

Comments and critique are welcome.


Nathalie Chavieve
09-09-2013, 03:03 PM
The original drawing attributed to leonardo Da Vinci :http://www.wetcanvas.com/Community/images/09-Sep-2013/189689-1165823-la-bella-principessa--15th-century-leonardo-da-vinci.jpg


09-09-2013, 05:06 PM
oh how fun Nathalie! This is one of my all time Leonardo favorites. There is a ton of yellow in the original, is that the yellow of the paper or the wood showing through? She looks somehow embossed, it is just a wonderful drawing in so many ways. And again, all the delicate details.

The original has so much texture in it, I almost wonder if it would be easier drawing on top of a canvas that is first washed in ochre and smudged and specs of umber coming through? So when he draws on all his details, like in her mesh thing on the hair, and all the etching lines in front of her profile... these details end up also somehow softer and more delicate. You have made all the details with a clean drawing on clean paper. So the contrast is too hight and all the details are there, but not quite so elegant, delicate. I do not know if this is important to you or not?

Her hair you have captured perfectly. It is almost as good as the original. Your face is also lovely - the soft blush on the cheek, the lips, the eye sort of just staring straight, probably daydreaming, same as original. Her eyebrow you have made too low, too close to the eye. (Actually, technically, his eyebrow is too thick and too high, yours is anatomically correct. However, you are copying him and he is not copying you. ;))

Lovely work. I've never tried colored chalk drawing. Only black charcoal and white chalk. Is there some yellow, red colors that are hard enough to make a sharp point and fine lines, but are still only chalk, not oil sticks...?

PS - I'd like to think about starting a new master painting copy when we are done with la bella ferroniere. So many choices. Maybe not Leonardo? What do you say? Maybe we could all offer a small list and see what everyone wants to paint?

09-09-2013, 07:11 PM
Amazing Nathalie!
If it were me, I'd say "perfect" but I know your high standards so I looked long and hard for subtle differences. (Before reading Allison's post 'cause I know how observant she is and didn't want to copy her:))

Where the bridge of the nose curves into the eye socket, the original is darker value, giving the entire eye more depth. Along the side of the nose yours seems to be a little darker making her nose more narrow than the original.

The upside down v on her upper lip in the original goes a little higher, raising her lips a bit.

I also feel like the chest of the original makes a sharper angle, and her back curves in sooner. Very subtle, but it gives her a slightly more delicate, feminine feel.

Those microscopic details aside, you blew it out of the water! Beautiful!

And I second Allison, I would love to attempt a master copy with you all from the beginning...perhaps a vermeer?

Nathalie Chavieve
09-10-2013, 05:48 AM
Thank you, Allison and Adam Rice, for your comments and critique :thumbsup:

Allison : The original drawing is executed on vellum which is a calf skin or something similar and , as you can imagine, it has a completely different surface and behavior with a chalk and ink. I belive so, it was toned with Yellow ochre or similar color, but I also think, that the vellum has a tendency to yellow with age ( please, remember, this drawing is a few hundreds years old ) and now it looks even more yellow ( well, it's only my assumption ). Also, this work marked as "restored" ( at least in Wikipedia) which means it was ,probably, cleaned and retouched and even repainted in some places. Once I saw a programme about restoration of 14-15 century Flemish paintings and it says that in some cases paintings has so bad damages of the paint and surface that it resulted in to repaint them up to 80% . So, sometimes the paintings we see in the museums, reworked and retouched by other artists. I wonder, if my drawing will survive a few hundreds of years, how it will look like ? :lol:
After all , it was a try and great exercise and I did enjoy the process.

Adamrice: I know I have made some mistakes like: her neck is too long, the back and the chest ( as you mentioned ) is not 100% correct and some other small details, but I can live with that :). It was somehow spontaneous decision to draw this portrait and I made it almost in one breath. One other thing : I didn't want to over do the shadows, I wanted to keep the face soft and young ( as I read, the girl was only 13 years old - just a child ). I also think that the dark area over the eye wasn't so big and it is a result of age, condition and restoration. While I was drawing , I referenced to other Leonardo's drawings like "Portrait of Isabella d'Este" and I didn't find there such a big dark areas.

Good idea about starting a new master copy. Personally I like alot Leonardo Da Vinci, but not depending if it's going to be his work or some other great artist work, I decided for myself that I'll do more copies after Leonardo Da Vinci in oil and in chalk .
Anyway, there is so many masters we can copy. May be it can be Caravaggio ?

ianos dan
09-11-2013, 06:19 AM
Wonderful copy copy Nathalie! l have to say that it's much better than "la Belle Ferroniere" copy .it has all the elegance of a good Renaissance drawing .Relative good proportions ,good observations of volumes.
l saw also some documentary about this drawing ,and there is a lady that makes a copy also ,with some brown ink and the same material that Leonardo used( l have to search it on you tube and post it here) ,and the result is astonishing .
Small critique ,because this helps more: the overall expressions of this drawing(attributed to Leonardo) is more relaxed ,the eyebrow has a an interesting curve ,pointing upwards somehow ,like a subtle curve in diagonal ,giving to the portrait a relaxed look.Yours ,has a curve that is not in that perspective.it will be interesting to post a work in progress picture ,so we can see how you observe the from ,and your steps of building up the volumes.
And also and advice: l am also a great admirer of both Leonardo and Michelangelo ,and l tried to put all my knowledge learned from copy them in my own drawings,so ,try to make a self portrait or a friends portrait in this style and you will see some improvement ,because it's easier to draw from a plane surface ,but harder to make it from life.Just put a girl to stay from profile ,and draw it in this style ,and you'll see the difference.
Great job !

09-11-2013, 06:32 AM

Nathalie Chavieve
09-11-2013, 06:58 AM
Ianos dan : Thank you for your comments and advice. Unfortunately I did not made any photos while I was working on this drawing, but I can describe the process : I started with pencil drawing . When the pencil drawing was complete, I draw the contour only and the details of the hair net with brown ink ( now I have a doubt if I should do that at all ? ). I added some ink lines and shadows in the hair too . Then, I started to apply red and black ink on the face, and later on the hair. When almost every face features , hair , the hair decoration was complete , I started to add gradually the white chalk, until I was pleased with all the forms , hair and the rest.
I have to say that I am quiet satisfied with this drawing ( accept only a few details and wrong proportions of the neck and back). The only thing I regret, is the paper: I should choose different tone - darker and, probably, more yellowish. The darker tone of the paper would make more contrast with a white chalk and make the skin tone more luminous . Well, next time.....

I saw this program on Dailymotion. Here is the link ( the movie is in French ):


Nathalie Chavieve
09-11-2013, 10:46 AM

Thank you, maryinasia !

09-12-2013, 03:42 AM
OK I have been searching all over the net. I watched the film "La Belle Princesse" in French, though I do not understand a word. I can see from the film her using egg whites and such, but do not understand. Further searches - the film is only in French. Even tried to find in Russian, as that would have subtitles instead of being dubbed, but no luck. Finally found the film in english, called "Mystery of a Masterpiece" on PBS, but it will not let me view because of my european region. However, I did find the full transcript - here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/mystery-masterpiece.html click on transcript icon.

It is absolutely beautiful. And no I feel inspired to do perhaps the drawing or even as a painting. Maybe. I am in charge of the january challenge in the oil forum, maybe I will use this, see how many want to join in in that forum.

ianos dan
09-12-2013, 06:28 AM
I got inspired by Nathalie's attempt ,and l will post a drawing ,made last night ,after my digital working ,and the model was my girlfriend.it's always good to have someone to inspire you !

09-12-2013, 11:08 AM
I got inspired by Nathalie's attempt ,and l will post a drawing ,made last night ,after my digital working ,and the model was my girlfriend.it's always good to have someone to inspire you !

If your girlfriend is half as beautiful as your sister, then you should have a lovely drawing. :)

I may try it as well, next time I get to the art store I will see if they have some red and yellow chalk.

09-12-2013, 03:33 PM
Such a beautiful drawing. In some ways I like yours better Nathalie, perhaps because the colors are fresher, or the form less idealized...i'm not sure. Can't wait to see yours, ianos. This would be a good challenge, Allison...by january i may be ready to try!

09-12-2013, 06:44 PM
Great drawing of this!
I think Ive seen the same documentary a few months. Showed a lady recreating it and that was cool.

ianos dan
09-13-2013, 07:56 AM
l don't have time to do a copy after this master ,and to be sincere,courage ,because is such a beautiful drawing ,and mine will be a pale copy :).
l made mine ,it was a portrait of my girlfriend ,and it's called "my own Principessa" ,and it was made after l saw this thread ,of Nathalie's .
l have to work digital now ,lots of paintings and covers ,so no time for traditional ,what l can do ,is only some drawing sessions ,in my spare time.
l wish you success in your copies guys!Keep the other thread alive ,l will be there ,with replies :)

Nathalie Chavieve
09-13-2013, 09:38 AM
Thank you, dear fellow artists, for you comments and posts , I do appreciate it !

Thank you, Allison, for the link ! I was looking for this movie in English, but couldn't find .

Ianos dan : I think it always a good practice for your hand and head to copy after a masters. If you have had a courage to copy "Mona Lisa" or "La belle ferroniere", why not this drawing too :evil:? ( Just teasing you ;)) .
Looking forward to see the portrait of your girlfriend !

ianos dan
09-16-2013, 07:12 AM
l know Nathalie ,but if you tease me more ,l will do it :)
Now ,seriously,it's just to good ,to perfect ,to magic ,for me . l found myself unable ,for the moment ,to make it :)

10-12-2013, 04:07 PM
Here is another photo "color restored", I think interesting. Unfortunately, I can no longer find who made this color corrected version.


I also was so inspired by your drawing, and reading the transcript that now I also want to draw La Bella Principessa. I have made a freehand drawing, just to study and learn what I actually was drawing. (Copying Charles Bargue plates has helped my drawing skills!) Now I am making a second drawing, to size, and am measuring. I love her head net thing. Oh his delicate details - this is what I want to concentrate on, though I can tell now that I will never achieve that delicate, wavy hair, which you did so well with.

I am not sure if I will draw the whole thing on colored Canson paper, or if I will wash a gessoed wood panel with Burnt Umber and then draw on top of that. In any case, i will make a new thread when I get started, so I do not hog your thread!

Nathalie Chavieve
10-14-2013, 10:37 AM
Thank you, Allison, for this beautiful picture.

I don't mind if you post your drawing here or start your own thread. Looking forward to see your drawing !