The Virgins of the Rocks

Virgin of the Rocks" was actually painted twice. There is some controversy as to how much influence he had on the second version but it's now thought he could have painted quite a bit of it. There is also some confusion about why there even is a second version. It's thought that he helped some of his associates paint the London version to fulfill a previous commission. Why he didn't or couldn't use the first painting is not clear. It could be that he sold it privately or his commissioners weren't happy with some of the potentially controversial details in the painting. Whatever the reasons we now have two very very similar paintings to compare and contrast with each other.

Although there are some differences what's even more interesting is how similar other parts are. There are some parts that they must have gone to great lengths to keep as mirrored as possible.

This may very well be one of the first examples ever of the "Spot the differences."

The first is called the "Louvre version" the second is called the "London version" - because of where they are now kept.

  • Louvre Version (on the Left) 
  • 1483-1486. 
  • Oil on panel transferred to canvas. 
  • 199 cm x 122 cm (78.3 x 48 in) 
  • Louvre, Paris 

  • London Version 
  • Leonardo and Associates. 
  • 1495-1508 (1503-1506). 
  • 189.5 x 120 cm – 74.6 x 47.2 in. 
  • National Gallery, London. 

Comparison between the London and Louvre version.

The face of the woman in the center is nearly identical. A cross has been added to the child to the left. The angel's pointing hand has been removed and the color of her clothes has changed from red and green to yellow and blue. The direction of the angels gaze has also been re-directed.

There are/ were two angels that were thought to be part of the original composition and that would fit into the alterpiece. They are both in the National Gallery with the London version. It's thought they were painted between 1490 -1495. The Red Angel is probably by Ambrogio de' Predis. The one in green is by someone else, probably Francesco Napoletano.

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