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COMPLETE ANALYSIS OF THE ART WORK

The work is officially known as The Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist and sometimes is also referred to as the Burlington house cartoon. This work is done by one of the most prestigious and well remembered artists of his era, Leonardo da Vinci. This work was started in 1508, unfinished and is now displayed for appreciation in national gallery, London.

Eight sheets of tinted paper glued together to form the base. Materials used for painting are charcoal and white and black chalk. The dimensions of the painting are measured to be141.5 x 104.6 cm.

This piece of art is basically a sketch done using specific materials mentioned above. It depicts mother Mary with Jesus as an infant in her lap. Beside her is depicted St. Anne, Mary’s mother and there is another infant portrayed standing beside St. Anne with her support, who is known to be St. John the Baptist and Jesus’ cousin. A lot of emphasis is given on the expressions of the four figures. Mother Mary is shown looking at Jesus evoking her motherly affection for him and at the same St. Anne simply looking at her daughter. Mary’s expressions are portrayed to be of peace, calmness and contentment whereas St. Anne facial depiction predicts subtle observation of Mary’s state. The two figures appear to be overgrown on the same body which seems like a conscious attempt to create a more intensified focus on the upper half of the 2 female figures. The rest of the two infant figures are in a playful mood unaware of the silent communication between the two women and assurance of the feelings. Another noticeable feature of the art piece is the St Anne’s hand fixation with her index finger stretched outwards, pointing upwards towards the heaven

Leonardo merely tried to depict the pain of mother Mary of knowing the fate of her only child which evokes her motherly feelings of loosing him but also her state of contentment after realizing that it’s the god’s will and an inevitable fact. This strongly highlights her state of acceptance and strength as a mother and a woman. The effort to create an artistic reality of the whole idea, main focus is given on the facial expression with a more natural depiction of curves and lines on the face reflecting the inner feelings of the figure.

St. Anne’s depiction stands secondary in the sketch but equally important. She seems to be aware of her daughter’s feelings and inner trauma and assuring her to have faith in god and heaven, this expression is clearly conveyed through her strong and subtle expression in comparison to Mary’s, her faint smile and her one finger pointing upwards in the sky pointing towards god.

The four figures are mostly delineated but seem to merge at some ends. There is a color contrast between the two female figures, Mary’s being more highlighted. The whole painting reflects the inter relation between the 4 characters by means of emotions and body language. The declining emphasis is seen in the lower portion of the bodies with least effort given to their details. The whole effect is evident when one observes the different characters closely with vigilance and interpretation and the whole art work comes into effect.

This work doesn’t relate to any direct incident of Leonardo’s life but merely his interpretation and perspective about Mary’s feelings about the known fate. If this painting is compared to his famous work “The last supper”, the similarity that strikes the observer in both the works is Leonardo’s style and desire of depicting his own idea or perception about something. Also his ideas are reflected in both the works through portrayal of facial expressions, body language and variation in contrast among the different characters. Throughout his active years, Leonardo took paintings as a potential platform in depicting his ideology about various themes.

If we try and predict the mood of Leonardo while designing this work, a sense of inclination towards human sensitivity is felt, he appears to be at a high state of regard for sensitive emotions and his appreciation for the same is finely reflected. Not much color variations to explore due to the use of chalks and charcoal. The only variation that can be observed is in the intensity of different figures in terms of visual depiction. The outlines in the work have never been pricked or incised during the sketching process indicating that it was intended to be developed into a painting later but was never achieved. The feature of the finger pointing upwards recurs in two of his other paintings that are also known to be his two last paintings.