An Interpretation of 'La Scapigliata' by Leonardo da Vinci

Updated on June 13, 2016
La Scapigliata, meaning "disheveled"
La Scapigliata, meaning "disheveled"

Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci is considered one of the greatest and most influential artists of all time. Accompanying his impressive artistic talent was a vast knowledge in the fields of mathematics, biology, anatomy, physics, engineering, and architecture - all areas in which Leonardo contributed greatly. His discoveries constantly pushed the boundaries of modern thought and paralleled the new beliefs that emerged from the Renaissance.

Among Leonardo’s many famous pieces of art, La Scapigliata (commonly referred to simply as Female Head ) is one that could be considered slightly unorthodox for its time. Critics argued that Leonardo was not simply sketching a woman with uncombed hair; instead, they suggest he was creating a work of art that depicts the natural beauty and power inherent in women. La Scapigliata maintains a sense of equality between men and women in a time when such equality did not exist.

da Vinci's self-portrait
da Vinci's self-portrait | Source

Artist Background

Leonardo was born in 1452 in the town of Vinci, Italy. His name literally means “Leonardo from the town of Vinci”. For this reason he is referred to by his first name instead of his surname. The Museum of Science in Boston, Massachusetts explains of Leonardo’s early life:

Growing up in his father's Vinci home, Leonardo had access to scholarly texts owned by family and friends. He was also exposed to Vinci's longstanding painting tradition, and when he was about 15 his father apprenticed him to the renowned workshop of Andrea del Verrochio in Florence. Even as an apprentice, Leonardo demonstrated his colossal talent.

Leonardo’s unique talent allowed him to leave his apprenticeship and move on to paint for himself.

Leonardo da Vinci's birthplace - Vinci, Italy
Leonardo da Vinci's birthplace - Vinci, Italy | Source

Social and Political Environment

Leonardo finished La Scapigliata in 1508 in Italy. This is not surprising, as the beginning of the sixteenth century in Europe was a time of extraordinary change. The discovery of the New World in the beginning of the century set the stage for further world exploration and significant economic, scientific and technological development.The Renaissance, which began in Italy roughly two centuries earlier, was beginning to expand its grasp even further into Europe.

The political scene in Italy at this time was far from unified. Italy was broken into many different provinces and states, all with a different governing chapter. This lack of unity between states most likely influenced the cultural and societal demand for change. Philosophers took the “classical” knowledge of which they had been taught for hundreds of years and completely re-evaluated it, changing it and forming new ideas and concepts that better fit their new understanding of the world.

During this time Italy was also experiencing a broader shift of power as the Roman Catholic Church’s influence was spreading more and more into Europe and across the Atlantic. The French invasion of Italy in 1494 spurred roughly four decades of wars that added to the political and social unrest in the Italian city-states. Overall, though, the economy at this time was stable enough for most people to live comfortably.

Leonardo, being a master of his time, internalized the great amount of change in the atmosphere around him and turned it in to a tangible and groundbreaking piece of art. In 1503 Leonardo reportedly began working on his famous Mona Lisa, a painting that also depicts a female in a uniquely curious light.

da Vinci's Vitruvian Man
da Vinci's Vitruvian Man | Source

Impact of La Scapigliata

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.

The Renaissance was the beginning of a change in the way women were viewed in society. Typically, women were viewed as objects - as simply wives and mothers with little to no power in the home, let alone in society. Men were the dominant social and political figures of this time period. Through La Scapigliata , Leonardo is suggesting there is much more to the female race than society understands and appreciates. His use of soft lines and gentle shading in this sketch illustrates how women are so naturally beautiful, and in doing so Leonardo challenges viewers to be appreciative of this beauty. The concept of untamed hair suggests a raw power in the female sex that is not often revealed on a day-to-day basis. The basic, innate power and magnificence of women is a concept Leonardo hoped his contemporaries and his fellow citizens would begin to embrace and respect.

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.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Lorenzo Gallus 

      2 months ago

      Halfway between panel painting and preparatory drawing, La Scapigliata or Testa di fanciulla is one of Leonardo's most mysterious works: we do not know exactly what it represents, when it was made and for whom, or how many hands it passed through throughout its history.

      According to some testimonies, his first destination was the room of Margherita la Paleologa, wife of Federico Gonzaga and daughter-in-law of Isabella d'Este. At the beginning of the nineteenth century we find it in the home of the Parma painter Gaetano Callani, whose son sold it to the Academy of Fine Arts, then the National Gallery of Parma.


      Whose face is not known. There are those who think it is a Madonna, those who lead it to a study for Leda with the swan. The most varied hypotheses have also been made regarding dating, from youthful work to full maturity.

      The beauty of a young woman with very sweet features remains, with half-closed eyelids and soft lips posed with a slight smile, her vibrant hair broken into curls. The wise use of chiaroscuro brings out the face from the background as a sculptural relief, giving concrete realization to the studies on the movements of the soul to which Leonardo devoted himself with passion.

    • profile image

      Suzanne Bouisses 

      23 months ago

      Hi there I have this beautiful piece and it’s on very old wood just a long shot but i was just wondering if there could have been two as it looks so real ?????

    • theactorsinger profile image


      2 years ago

      In Your research of "La Scapigliata" did You find the name and information about the model who Leonardo had pose for the painting?

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      This is an exceptional work of art and really fascinates me, as well. Despite all the research I have done I still am left pondering who the woman in this painting is? Any thoughts?


    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This page helped so much! I had to do a research paper on this painting and I cited your Hub several times! :) I don't know what I would have done without your Hub. Thank you so, so much for doing a Hub on this subject!!!

    • janesix profile image


      6 years ago

      I love that one. Don't think I've ever seen it before. Beautiful.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I saw the original La Scapigliata by Leonardo in Parma's national gallery it was tucked away in a corner,a tiny portrait,but so Beautiful it gave me goose we are planning to see Leonardo's The Last Supper in Milano.a much more grand painting but I AM SURE La Scapigliata will alway's remain my favourite of Leonardo's works

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      My painting analysis would have been the bane of my existence... or my grade, anyways... but then I found this, and all was right in the world.

    • Better Yourself profile image

      Better Yourself 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Great hub! It's been years since all my art history classes so it was nice to catch back up with the history of a great artist and the influence of his work! Thanks for sharing!

    • Rebekah  Nydam profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebekah Nydam 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      You're welcome! I noticed while writing this paper that there's really not much information out there about this particular piece of art. It fascinates me!

    • profile image

      rema c. (student) 

      8 years ago

      thank you so much for all this! i really needed help now i found it ;)

    • Rebekah  Nydam profile imageAUTHOR

      Rebekah Nydam 

      9 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you very much!

    • Obscure_Treasures profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Very good hub! I am interested in Paintings so I have liked your hub a lot!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)