Analyzing Changes in the ‘Virgin and Child with Saint Anne’ Painting

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A rendition of the renowned painting found in the Louvre that was created by Leonardo da Vinci himself, the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Gian Giacomo Capriotti or Sali was painted in the workshop of Leonardo under his direct supervision. Changes done to the painting, such as inclusion of undergrowth, trees, rendering of light, color and alterations of figures, were made purposefully to bring to life Leonardo’s various ideas for the painting that he left unfinished or hidden in the original painting.

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Taking great interest in landscapes, Leonardo da Vinci frequently used rocks and motifs (Delieuvin 144). In his painting, the Annunciation, the artist was attentive in producing a persuasive illusion of the nature features of the painting using light and dark oil paints to create dimension (Brown … ). Leonardo’s intent was to juxtapose his figures in an environment that illustrated the diversity of the world. In his original painting, Leonardo paints a mountain range using a mixture of light blues to add perspective to the painting that allows the mountain range to fade into the distance and diminish into the sky.

Leonardo employed a nuanced and uneven gradient of blues to integrate linear perspective into the artwork, making the colors diminish in contrast as they faded into the sky (Delieuvin 145). While Sali remained faithful to Leonardo’s painting techniques, his replica featured more defined and heavier brushstrokes, using deeper blues for the mountains. Leonardo, on the other hand, used quicker, less precise brushstrokes in his original work. Sali added elements like flowers, trees, and plants to frame the figures of Saint Anne, the Virgin, the Child, and the lamb.

For instance, in the copy, Saint Anne is positioned under a cluster of plants, with the Child and the lamb situated to her right (Delieuvin 146). In the original painting housed in the Louvre, only a single tree is depicted, and horizontal and diagonal lines are employed to conceal the valleys present in the copy. The absence of underbrush and additional flora in the original was due to Leonardo’s difficulty in framing the figures without hiding the mountain range or making the scene too cluttered (Delieuvin 146). Sali recreated the original work by replicating the obscured elements to capture Leonardo’s initial artistic intent.

In terms of painting, the styles between the copy and the original are slightly different. In the painting found at the Getty Museum, extra décor is added. For example, more intricate details to the embroidery was added onto the clothing of the Virgin and Saint Anne and sandals and more colored drapery were incorporated onto the figures. Based off of an analysis of paint cross-sections, there was shown to be a build-up of paint layers in the copy, which added more dimension to the drapes whereas in the original copy the drapery seemed to be more flat (Delieuvin 170).

While Leonardo da Vinci utilized a blend of light and dark hues in his initial artwork to establish shape and depth, Sali took it a step further in the replica by intensifying the characters’ facial features through the use of richer, more defined shades and tones. Under Leonardo’s guidance, Sali deliberately amplified certain aspects of the original painting to enhance its overall effect.

In the Burlington House Cartoon, Leonardo created a composition that included Saint Anne, the Virgin, Saint John, and the Child. This original sketch of the composition represented Leonardo’s intent on displaying a situation that is able to unify figures of different sizes in a pyramid form. An interesting aspect of the sketch is that in the copy and original painting, a lamb replaces Saint John. This seems to be purposeful because Leonardo da Vinci believed that the incarnation of God (through the Child) took place on Earth. In order to incorporate this story into the real world, Leonardo added symbolic elements of the water and lamb to symbolize baptism, trees to symbolize Saint Anne’s family tree, and the mountains to symbolize Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

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Analyzing Changes in the 'Virgin and Child with Saint Anne' Painting. (2019, Mar 10). Retrieved from