Leonardo Da Vinci's Life


Da Vinci's Life



Books & Movies

Subscribe to out YouTube Channel

Madonna of the Rocks Keeps on Rocking the Art World

Leonardo or not Leonardo?  That is the question still on the minds of art experts today.

Madonna of the Rocks (sometimes known as The Virgin of the Rocks) is not simply one painting under debate but two. Historically, it is suggested that Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to deliver an alter-piece comprising three panels for the church of San Francesco Grande in Milan.  The monks wanted the piece to be on display for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception so Leonardo received a deadline, to his distaste, and in typical Leonardo fashion, refused such confinement of artistic expression. 

Some believe that the de Predis brothers were asked to help Leonardo with the piece in order to meet the deadline.  A political debate ensued which was brought to peaceful ends by King Louis XII’s interjection.  The piece, ‘Madonna of the Rocks, Louvre’, was offered as a gift to the King for his aid in the matter, which left the Milan requirement unfulfilled. So, a second painting was later created which now resides in the National Gallery in London and is so named ‘Madonna of the Rocks, London’.

However, the London version has long been considered as a piece untouched by Leonardo’s hand until the National Gallery announced that there was a possibility that he painted the entire piece.  There has since been an ongoing debate on its authenticity.  Geologist, Ann C Pizzorusso, studied the paintings of Leonardo and found that the geology of the rock formations in the Louvre piece to be accurate. Leonardo was deemed a master of realism and he went to great lengths to depict the world of his paintings with the meticulous details and loyal accuracy that only a brilliant scientist could understand.  Upon studying the London version, Pizzorusso found no loyalty to geology in the rocks surrounding the Madonna.

Despite the National Gallery’s claims that Leonardo changed his style, paintings by the master of post 1506, when this version is said to have been painted, show no differentiation in style, and the constancy in painting natural elements was more refined.  The National Gallery further claimed that the London piece models the work of Leonardo’s students; the allegation was also shunned by Pizzorusso.  Leonardo’s students, Boltraffio and d’Oggiono, show an allegiance to their teacher’s commitment in depicting the accuracy of natural forms in their own paintings.

Within the Louvre painting, Leonardo’s sfumato technique (the shading method he used to bring about the realistic texture of rock formations) is evident. Leonardo’s intense passion for the world around him somewhat justified his criticism of what he considered to be the “very bad landscapes” of Boticelli

It is believed that the debate arose because Leonardo had not been paid for the production of the Louvre painting of 1486.  Furthermore, some deem the Louvre version to have an unorthodox style which may be further reason for the debate, and hence the agreement to create a second piece, and a piece that the church would not object to.  The King influenced the return of the painting to Leonardo who then gifted it to the King in thanks.  During this period of debate, the dePredis brothers had prepared the groundwork for the second painting which Leonardo gave to the monks with a promise that he would finish it in two years.  It is further believed that, due to Leonardo’s tendency towards failing to meet the terms of his agreements, he never touched the London piece. 

Despite the difference in colour density, geological accuracy, height, age, and the fact that the angel Gabriel is shown pointing in the Louvre version only, both paintings succeed in depicting the purity of the Madonna.  And, whether or not famous artist Leonardo da Vinci painted one, part or both of these paintings, Madonna of the Rocks will continue to intrigue the art world for years to come. 


Da Vinci's Life - Leonardo Da Vinci - Biography 1452-1500 - Biography 1500-1519 - The Leonardo Timeline - Rebuttals

Paintings - The Mona Lisa - The Last Supper - Vitruvian Man - Mona Lisa History

Works - Paintings - Inventions - Behind the Inventions - Sculptures - Parachute - Tank - Drawings - Books - Quotes - Videos

Books & Movies - The Da Vinci Code Book - The Da Vinci Code Movie - Angels & Demons Movie

Articles - The Da Vinci Code Movie Stirs up Controversy - Angels & Demons Movie - Da Vinci Code Tour - Da Vinci Painting Technique

Museums - Site Map - About us