Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci (Louvre version)

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Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci (Louvre version) Leonardo executed very few works during his lifetime compared to other renaissance artists. A major reason is that, he was involved in way too much other works associated with science of human anatomy, botany, physics, armory, architecture and many others.

Painting NameVirgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci (Louvre version)
Painter NameLeonardo da Vinci
Completion Date1486
Size199 cm × 122 cm (78.3 in × 48.0 in)
MaterialPanel (Transferred to Canvas)
Current LocationLouvre Paris

But, on the other hand, his deep research and observation in each field helped him between his various fields at some points. The field of painting includes almost everything the nature has to offer and Leonardo just observed everything from fossils, mountains to the moon. Deriving information and hidden facts (for his time) from sources, mostly his every painting came out as a masterpiece from the artistic view point. His every new composition, color, style and new techniques were followed by the Leonardeschi.


After the prelude for the painting, here, we are looking at Leonardo’s masterpiece “Virgin of the Rocks (Louvre Version)”, which is called as the perfect example of his known technique Sfumato which helped Mona Lisa to smile mysteriously.

The virgin of the rocks, Louvre version is the prime version in the two similar paintings with same name. It took three years to complete the work from 1483 to 1486, commissioned by Prior Bartolomeo Scorlione. The Second version is resting in National Gallery, London. Having brighter colors, Louvre version looks more florescent than the London version. But, according to critics, the mixing of color tone and the ‘toning down’ method is used perfectly in the painting.

The Pyramidal Composition

The composition was revered by the contemporary artists and also copied for their works. The four figures in the painting are the Madonna, infant Saint John the Baptist on left, infant Jesus on right and the Angel Uriel sitting behind Jesus. The subject is a non-biblical event and is supposed to happen during the flight to Egypt. The setting of the characters is sometimes referred as the pyramidal composition, as all four figures could easily fit in an imaginary pyramid. The same composition is said to be used in Mona Lisa.

The Da Vinci Code Connection

There are various theories about why Leonardo needed to depict the second version. But, the most interesting one is that, the first version had some “un-christian” symbolism (speculations are about Phallic symbolism) added secretively which were interpreted by the commissioners of “Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception”. The organization is said to be the bearer of a big secret from the 11th century guarded by the Priory of Sion. The same secret which is fictionally revealed in the controversial book titled The Da Vinci Code.

Though, such facts could have some legitimacy in them, but most of the historians are undecided if Leonardo attempted to stuff such secret in his paintings, he derived from the Confraternity.


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