The Virgin of the Rocks (1483 to 1503-1506) by Leonardo da Vinci

The Virgin of the Rocks - Leonardo da Vinci - 1483 - c.1505

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Artwork Information

TitleThe Virgin of the Rocks
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
Date1483 - c.1505
MediumOil on Panel
Dimensions189.5 x 120 cm
Art MovementHigh Renaissance
Current LocationNational Gallery, London
Location Created Florence, Italy

About The Virgin of the Rocks

“The Virgin of the Rocks” is a seminal artwork by the illustrious High Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci. Painted between 1483 and c.1505, this oil on panel measures 189.5 x 120 cm. The piece typifies religious painting of the era and is currently housed at the National Gallery in London. The artwork was created in Florence, Italy, reflecting Leonardo’s deep engagement with both the technical and thematic complexities of the period’s art.

The artwork presents a sacred and enigmatic scene set within a rocky grotto. At its center, the Virgin Mary is depicted with an ethereal grace, her gaze softly lowered. She is clothed in a richly draped blue robe, a color traditionally associated with her purity and divinity, which stands out against the muted earth tones of the setting. Her right hand gently rests above the infant Saint John the Baptist, who is shown kneeling in prayer, his small hands devoutly clasped. This placement signifies her protective role and maternal care.

To her right stands an angel, with a delicate, almost contemplative expression, one finger pointed towards John, possibly signifying the importance of his future mission as the herald of Christ. The angel’s elegant pose and detailed, flowing locks showcase Leonardo’s mastery over depicting form and movement.

On the left, one can observe the infant Jesus, also portrayed with a nimble grace characteristic of Renaissance portrayals of sacred youth. He is shown reaching out towards John, which may symbolize the established connection between them, as both are central to the Christian narrative. A distant, almost mystical landscape unfolds in the background, featuring Leonardo’s signature use of atmospheric perspective and a predilection for depicting nature in its manifold forms.

The artwork is imbued with symbolic elements, such as the presence of halos above the holy figures, signifying their sanctity and the divine nature of the scene. Moreover, the flora in the foreground, with its careful attention to botanical detail, may carry religious connotations. The painting’s overall composition, with its complex interplay of figures and nature, reveal Leonardo’s innovative approach to religious iconography and his experiments with chiaroscuro, which defined his work and contributed vastly to the development of Renaissance art.

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