The Louvre has in its possession 4 of Leonardo da Vinci’s known paintings, roughly a quarter of all his extant works. What greater pleasure could there have been for me but to gaze at so many of his works under one roof?
Madonna of the rocks would be well-known to readers of Brown’s “The da Vinci Code”. One of two versions (the other is in London), this has symbolism written all over it. Jesus apparently paying obeisance to John the baptist, the position and pose of Mary’s fingers and those of the angel have been commented on. For me, beyond these speculations, the angle of the lighting was fascinating; both Jesus and John seem illuminated with light emanating from Mary, as is the angel.
The virgin and the child with Anne. One of his lesser known works, with a tighter and seemingly unnatural composition. Mary seated in Anne’s lap is in a contorted position that seems hard to achieve, much less maintain. Mary’s face again seems the source of all illumination in the foreground. While the infant Jesus has an expression full of innocent pleasure and Anne one of maternal love, Mary’s face is more wooden, more contrived. If I didn’t know better I’d say her face was painted by one of his students; it’s highly unlikely though, that Leonardo would have entrusted the central part of such a monumental work to a student.
John the baptist. I was surprised to see this painting; it is so unconventional, so unlike anything you’d have imagined. For the era it was created in, it might have been almost blasphemous to portray a prominent religious icon in this sumptuous, vaguely homo-erotic, hermaphroditic manner. This is no gaunt prophet hardened by decades of life in the desert, this John is urbane, soft, with a trace of a gentle sarcasm to his face. The smile is reminiscent of the Mona Lisa, though more pronounced.