Virgin of the Rocks, Madonna of the Rocks
very largely by Leonardo da Vinci
Description of Original:
Oil on panel (transferred to canvas)
199 cm 122 cm (78.3 in 48.0 in)
Location: Louvre, Paris
The Virgin of the Rocks (sometimes the Madonna of the Rocks) is the usual title used for both of two different paintings with almost identical compositions, which are at least largely by Leonardo da Vinci. They are in the Louvre, Paris, and the National Gallery, London.
This version is in the Louvre painted around 1483-1486, or earlier. Most authorities agree that the work is very largely by Leonardo, and is the earlier of the two works. It is about 8 cm (3 in) taller than the London version. The first certain record of this picture is in 1625, when it was in the French royal collection, but it may well have been initially produced to fulfill the 1483 commission in Milan which the London version eventually fulfilled. This painting is a perfect example of Leonardo's "sfumato" technique.
The paintings seem to draw on a legend of the meeting between the baby Jesus and John the Baptist on the flight into Egypt. According to the standard interpretation of the paintings, they depict the Madonna in the centre ushering John towards Jesus, who is seated with the angel Gabriel. Jesus is blessing John, who holds out his hands in a gesture of prayer. In this version, Gabriel points towards John while looking out at the viewer.
LEONARDO DA VINCI
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, April 15, 1452 May 2, 1519, was an Italian polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer. Leonardo has often been described as the archetype of the Renaissance man, a man whose unquenchable curiosity was equaled only by his powers of invention. He is widely considered to be one of the greatest painters of all time and perhaps the most diversely talented person ever to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent and "his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, the man himself mysterious and remote" Marco Rosci points out, however, that while there is much speculation about Leonardo, his vision of the world is essentially logical rather than mysterious, and that the empirical methods he employed were unusual for his time.
Born the illegitimate son of a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant woman, Caterina, at Vinci in the region of Florence, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter, Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice and spent his last years in France, at the home awarded him by Francis I.
Leonardo was and is renowned primarily as a painter. Two of his works, the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, are the most famous, most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious paintings of all time, respectively, their fame approached only by Michelangelo's Creation of Adam. Leonardo's drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on everything from the euro to text books to t-shirts. Perhaps fifteen of his paintings survive, the small number due to his constant, and frequently disastrous, experimentation with new techniques, and his chronic procrastination. Nevertheless, these few works, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, and his thoughts on the nature of painting, compose a contribution to later generations of artists only rivalled by that of his contemporary, Michelangelo.
Leonardo is revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, the double hull and outlined a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or were even feasible during his lifetime, but some of his smaller inventions, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded. As a scientist, he greatly advanced the state of knowledge in the fields of anatomy, civil engineering, optics, and hydrodynamics.
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