LEONARDO da Vinci
(b. 1452, Vinci, d. 1519, Cloux, near Amboise)
The Ermine Huntc. 1494
Pen and brown ink over traces of black chalk on paper, diameter 91 mm
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
In this drawing Leonardo depicted the motif of a hunter capturing an ermine. He possibly intended it as the design for the reverse of a medal. According to legend, ermines will protect their immaculately white fur from soiling, even at the risk of death. This is why the ermine served as the visualisation of the knightly motto about personal honour: Better dead than dishonoured.