Mysterious Virgin

The commission

The Virgin of the Rocks was commissioned in 1483 by the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception as part of a large altarpiece for their church, San Francesco in Milan. It wasn't delivered until 1508, and even then it wasn't finished - the angel's hand resting on Christ's back is only sketched in.

The delay in this case was due to an argument over money. Leonardo was promised a set fee, plus a bonus when the painting was finished.

Leonardo, 'The Virgin of the Rocks', 1491-1508
Leonardo, The Virgin of the Rocks, about 1491/2-9 and 1506-8

 

 However, the bonus he was offered was so paltry that he angrily sold the work to a private client. (That version is now in the Louvre, Paris.) The confraternity finally managed to patch things up with the artist, and he began work on a second version of the painting, which is now in the National Gallery.

 

Associate of Leonardo, 'An Angel in Green with a Vielle', before 1506
Associate of Leonardo da Vinci (Francesco Napoletano?), An Angel in Green with a Vielle, about 1490-9
Associate of Leonardo, 'An Angel in Red with a Lute', probably 1490-9
Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, An Angel in Red with a Lute, about 1495-9

These two angels, which also belong to the Gallery, were made by associates of Leonardo. They were hung on either side of the painting.

Next: Light and shade

 
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