Art seen up close #5: the panel of Giovan Paolo Lomazzo
Giovan Paolo Lomazzo (1538-1592),
Grotesque head of a woman turned to the right, c. 1560
Oil and tempera on panel, 26 × 18 cm
On the verso illegible inscription in pencil 
Milan, private collection
The painting was attributed to Giovan Paolo Lomazzo by Roberto Longhi when it was in a private collection in Paris. It was derived from a drawing by Leonardo held in the collection of the Duke of Devonshire at Chatsworth.

Giovan Paolo Lomazzo’s painting Grotesque Head of Woman Facing Right by Giovan Paolo Lomazzo shows some variation from Leonardo’s original (Chatsworth, inv. OMD 822 A) and all its derivations: the flower in the woman’s bodice is missing, the head is stockier, the lips are more elongated, and the breasts are much more prominent. Two other paintings traceable to the Lombard area of the second half of the 17th century, reproducing Leonardesque grotesque heads, are to be juxtaposed, an indication that the circulation of copies from Leonardo’s originals was not limited to the execution of drawings and engravings, but also extended to painted copies, which protracted over the following centuries and went on to cross over into the genre of “comic” and pauperistic paintings. The effects of physiognomic deformation offered by this painting by Lomazzo, perhaps more evident than in Leonardo’s original drawing, allow one to go further and, in agreement with the interpretation of his grotesque heads provided by Ernst Gombrich, according to whom the theme of the unconscious and autobiographical depiction would surface in them, to see in a painting of this genre, so animalistic and obtuse, a foreshadowing of the psychoanalytic and visionary themes treated by Bacon in his portraits, one of which, the Triptych in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, offers the rare presentation of the head in profile as in the present painting.
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