The hidden Leonardo

Discovering a hidden drawing

The hidden drawing is of a kneeling woman (presumably the Virgin Mary) with her face in near profile and one hand across her breast.

In fact, two sets of underdrawings were found - one for the abandoned picture (Composition A) and another for the current one (Composition B). These have given art historians a new insight into Leonardo's working technique.

Tracing of Leonardo's unused underdrawing for 'The Virgin of the Rocks' superimposed onto an image of the painting
Tracing of Leonardo's unused underdrawing for The Virgin of the Rocks superimposed onto an image of the painting 

 

In order to obtain the clearest possible image of the hidden design, the Gallery contacted an expert team in Florence through the EU-ARTECH project.  

Infrared reflectogram revealing the unused underdrawing
Infrared reflectogram revealing the unused underdrawing 

 

Teams from the INOA (Istituto Nazionale di Ottica Applicata) and the OPD (Opificio delle Pietre Dure) came to London with a high-resolution digital infrared scanner, which is part of the EU-ARTECH project's mobile laboratory.

Intensive collaborative study yielded spectacular images of Leonardo's concealed drawing beneath the paint layers.

Next: Why Leonardo changed his mind

 
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