Milan after Leonardo around 1500
Leonardo da Vinci’s presence in Milan between 1482 and 1499 as court painter to the ruling Sforza family generated a demand for his works that Leonardo alone could hardly meet. His notoriously low output of paintings was compensated for by a large group of Lombard artists commonly referred to as the Leonardeschi, or followers of Leonardo. These artists included Bernardino Luini, Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Giovanni Ambrogio de Predis, Giampietrino and Marco d’Oggiono.
Luini’s Christ among the Doctors was for long considered one of Leonardo’s more celebrated works. We know that Leonardo was approached by the demanding Renaissance patron Isabella d’Este (1474–1539) to supply a painting of this subject. The influence of Leonardo is even more overt in Luini’s Virgin and Child with Saint John, whose composition is inspired by Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks.
The paintings of Boltraffio, who worked in Leonardo’s studio, stand out for their delicately modelled flesh tones. This feature, combined with dramatic lighting (or chiaroscuro) gives Boltraffio’s figures an almost sculptural character, as is evident in his commanding Virgin and Child.