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Leonardo da Vinci, The Burlington House Cartoon

Key facts
Full title The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and the Infant Saint John the Baptist ('The Burlington House Cartoon')
Artist Leonardo da Vinci
Artist dates 1452 - 1519
Date made about 1499-1500
Medium and support Charcoal (and wash?) heightened with white chalk on paper, mounted on canvas
Dimensions 141.5 × 104.6 cm
Acquisition credit Purchased with a special grant and contributions from the Art Fund, The Pilgrim Trust, and through a public appeal organised by the Art Fund, 1962
Inventory number NG6337
Location Room 17a
Collection Main Collection
Previous owners
The Burlington House Cartoon
Leonardo da Vinci

The Virgin Mary sits on her mother’s lap, her attention focused on the wriggling Christ Child. Her mother, Saint Anne, looks intently at her through deep-set eyes and points upwards to the heavens, indicating the child’s divinity. Christ’s cousin, Saint John the Baptist, leans against Anne’s lap as the baby Christ tickles his chin.

This is a cartoon, a large drawing made in preparation for a painting. Often known as ‘The Burlington House Cartoon’, it is the only surviving large-scale drawing by Leonardo.

Parts of the drawing are densely shaded and contrasted with lighter areas to give a three-dimensional effect, for example the figures' faces and elements of the draperies such as sections of the Virgin’s sleeve and the folds of fabric which cover Saint Anne’s knees. Other areas, such as the women’s headdresses and feet, and Saint Anne’s pointing hand, are simply indicated with outlines.

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