Leonardo Composition

Great compositions from Leonardo da Vinci:

John the Baptist

Great dynamism in this portrait of John the Baptist by Leonardo– I love the gesture of the finger in the air, and the coy look of John the Baptist:


Let’s break down what makes this portrait great:

Let’s crop it in first, and examine the hand gestures:

Looking in different directions:

Dynamic directions with faces, moves your eyes around the frame:

What makes a great portrait? Lessons from Leonardo da Vinci:

I’m trying to understand what makes a great portrait. Or how to capture someone’s soul in an image.

I came across this drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, and was compelled. It looks like she is staring into my soul. I can also feel her soul, through her gaze.

But what makes the image so compelling? Is it her eyes, her nose, her lips, or something else?

Let me break down some ideas:

Head of a girl

What makes the look of the girl so intriguing? To figure it out, I cropped out certain details.

For example, is it her eye that is intriguing?

Not really, the eye by itself doesn’t say much.

Is it both eyes?

Not really.

Is it her eyes, and her lips?

I don’t think either — it can either belong to a man or a woman.

Honestly, I think beauty is a combination of everything. You cannot call someone beautiful, just based on their eyes, their lips, or other details.

Capturing the soul of someone then must include all their attributes of their face:

How to look coy

How do you make someone look coy? Have them look down:


Check out this study for the Last Supper; how he created his composition based on a circle.

Perhaps this has something to do with the ‘Golden Rule’ — or the ‘Divine Proportion.’

Working Title/Artist: The Annunciation Department: Drawings & Prints Culture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: 08 Working Date: ca. 1522-25 photography by mma 1982, transparency #2B scanned by film and media (jn) 6_26_02

Digital Photo File Name:DP136370.tif Online Publications Edited By Michelle Ma for TOAH 10_27_15