The Head of a Woman—also known as La Scapigliata is a painting in oil on wood by the Italian Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci, dating from around c. 1508 and housed in the Galleria Nazionale di Parma, Italy.
This unfinished portrayal of a young woman with disheveled hair (hence its nickname, scapigliata) is principally a brush drawing with some pigment, its treatment similar to other incomplete works by the artist. Yet the contrast between the sketchiness of the hair and neck and the refined modeling of the face must be intentional. It suggests that Leonardo was inspired by a passage (well-known during the Renaissance) by the ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder. Pliny remarked that the great artist Apelles left his last depiction of the Venus of Cos incomplete and that the work was nonetheless more admired than his first, finished painting of the goddess.
Leonardo da Vinci was doing more than just painting pictures of women. He was breaking through the firm grip of prejudices and social restraints placed on women for thousands of years prior to the sixteenth century. La Scapigliata portrayed women in a sense never before seen from an artistic standpoint and foreshadowed the many feminist movements to erupt throughout the world hundreds of years after Leonardo’s death.
As an instrumental and emotional piece of art, La Scapigliata acts as an advocate for women of sixteenth-century Europe and explores the deeper psychological realm of feminism. While Leonardo was most likely unaware of the long-term implications of his artwork, he was a true visionary whose work is still highly esteemed in our modern era. While La Scapigliata is only one of Leonardo’s many masterpieces, it presents a plethora of groundbreaking ideas regarding the treatment of women in society which are still being fought for in countries throughout the world today.