The Virgin of the Rocks with white lines indicating the underdrawing for the first composition
© The National Gallery, London

Londons National Gallery will present an “immersive experience” on Leonardos The Virgin of the Rocks, opening on 9 November. This will reveal the results of a scientific investigation into the painting, showing how the composition evolved.

Leonardo, who was notoriously slow in finishing his pictures, worked on Londons The Virgin of the Rocks in two campaigns, initially in around 1491-99 and later in 1506-08. An earlier examination in 2005 revealed that the pose of the Virgin had been changed, but there were then only hints about other alterations. Using the latest techniques (macro x-ray fluorescence maps and infrared and hyperspectral imaging), zinc in the drawing material now makes it possible to see more of the changes.

In Leonardos first composition, the infant Christ and the angel were originally higher up in the composition, with the angel looking more downwards at the baby Jesus. Why the artist abandoned this idea remains unclear, but a later underdrawing has also now become apparent. Although much closer to the eventual composition, Leonardo subsequently made final refinements. For instance, the angle of the infant Christs head was changed so that he is now seen in profile and parts of the angels curly hair have been removed.

The Virgin of the Rocks will be moved from the gallerys main floor to the lower level, where there will be an adjacent immersive presentation, organised by the company 59 Productions. This will take up all of the lower floor galleries, other than the room with the secondary paintings.

Caroline Campbell, the gallerys director of collections, says that “much of our research takes place in closed studios, laboratories and libraries”, so this project will offer the public a chance “to explore and engage wiRead More – Source


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