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Researchers at the National Gallery of London have used cutting-edge techniques to reveal a hidden drawing beneath Leonardo da Vinci's The Virgin of the Rocks. It shows that the great artist and his assistants, after laying out the original design, elected to take the biblical-themed painting in a completely different direction, to say the least. First, know that there are two versions of The Virgin of the Rocksone hanging in the Louvre and one in the National Gallery of London.
In April ofthe Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception commissioned Leonardo to paint the Virgin of the Rocks as part of an altarpiece for its chapel in the church of San Francesco Grande in Milan. The painting was done on a wooden panel which was meant to be placed within a larger sculpted altarpiece for the chapel. Oil paints were used for the pigments.
Leonardo da Vinci always impressed on his students the importance of depicting nature accurately. Five centuries on, scientists and art historians are trying to work out to what extent Leonardo had a hand in both versions of Virgin of the Rocks — the one in the Louvre, in Paris, and the replica in the National Gallery in London. Doubts have long been cast over whether the Renaissance master made the London painting.
The first work that Leonardo executed in Milan is the so-called Virgin of the Rocks, which actually expresses the theme of the Immaculate Conception, the dogma that affirms Mary was conceived without original sin. The name of the picture reflects an iconographical peculiarity: the religious figures are depicted in a rocky grotto, in which they are sitting on a stone floor. The figures are subjected to a strict spatial arrangement called a pyramidal composition.
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All kneel to adore the infant Christ, who in turn raises his hand to bless them. They are crowded in a grotto overhung with rocks and dense with vegetation. The painting was part of a large, elaborate altarpiece made for the church of San Francesco Grande, Milan to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary.
Painted by Leonardo between and originally on wood, the painting was later transferred to canvas in by Francois-Toussaint Hacquin, a skilled master restorer. With this painting Leonardo was the first in Italy to experiment with oil paint, although in Northern Europe artists had been using oil for some time. The Virgin of the Rocks Louvre was the first picture Leonardo painted in Milan, after his move there in This fine painting that was to become known as the Virgin of the Rocks was commissioned in by the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception in Milan.
This masterpiece is one of the major works on display at the Louvre. The oil on panels was intended to be the centerpiece of a triptych. Another, later version of the painting also exists and is on view at the National Gallery of London.
The Virgin of the Rocks sometimes The Madonna of the Rocks is the name used for two Leonardo da Vinci's paintings, of the same subject, and of a composition which is identical except for two significant details. Both paintings show the Madonna and Christ Child with the infant John the Baptist and an angel, in a rocky setting which gives the paintings their usual name. The significant compositional differences are in the gaze and right hand of the angel.