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Leonardo’s mysterious painting shows the Virgin Mary with Saint John the Baptist, Christ’s cousin, and an angel. All kneel to adore the infant Christ, who in turn raises his hand to bless them. They are crowded in a grotto overhung with rocks and dense with vegetation. The painting was part of a large, elaborate altarpiece made for the church of San Francesco Grande, Milan to celebrate the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. It replaced a similar picture Leonardo made earlier (now in the Louvre, Paris). Leonardo has used innovative painting techniques to give the impression that the figures are emerging from the darkness of this shaded setting. For example, he has blurred the edges of their forms to indicate the shadows that envelop them.
The Virgin of the Rocks (The Virgin with the Infant Saint John adoring the Infant Christ accompanied by an Angel)
Oil on wood
H 189.5 x W 120 cm