Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

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The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne

Rebecca Townsend

Hum2235

Dr. Hoover

Edison College

Fall 2012

Townsend 1

The painting of The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne took more than a decade to complete. It was created in the 16th century, in Florence Italy. A young master artist declined the original commission for The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and suggested Leonardo da Vinci. The monks who commissioned the painting, an artifact of Christ’s family tree, gave Leonardo a workroom. The figures in the picture are of Saint Anne representing the grandmother, the Virgin as mother (Mary/Madonna), the Child as Christ, and the lamb as the future sacrifice of Jesus. They are closely intertwined in the painting showing their tight bond in Christian History. Da Vinci could not separate Christianity from his work. Leonardo in his painting as well as in his life seemed to cultivate a sense of mystery (Capra XIX).

The monks of the Florentine Santissima Annunziata commissioned Leonardo to paint The Virgin and Child with St. Anne as an altarpiece for their high altar. In his typical fashion, Leonardo did not complete the work on time. The monks, eager for their altarpiece had to commission another artist to complete the work. The monks approached Filippo Lippi to complete the work Leonardo had started. Filippo Lippi was the artist that painted Madonna and Child with Two Angels in 1465. Lippi was the artist who had initially rejected the commission suggesting the monks give the project to Leonardo. Lippi considered Leonardo to be a superior artist. Lippi agreed to finish the project but died before its completion. After Lippi died, the monks had a young Florence artist named Perugino finally complete the piece. At last, the monks of the Santissima Annuziata in Florence had their painting for their high altar. Some consider the painting to be a treasure of esoteric and occult wonders. Some are fascinated by the sight of St. Anne supporting her heavy daughter on her knee, with no visible means of support (Budny36).

Townsend 2

It’s hard to find any evidence of Leonardo’s beliefs in his paintings, since there are no written records that have survived if they ever existed. Leonardo believed that a good artist must also be a good scientist in order to best understand and describe nature. The humanistic, naturalistic, and scientific aspects of Leonardo’s life and work are not always clear because he was an original Renaissance man [Leonardo’s art, scientific investigations, technological inventiveness, and humanistic philosophy were all bound] together.

During the 16th century he made numerous drawings and sketches with different themes that eventually lead to this famous artifact The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne. Various designs still exist of the version painted in 1510. Leonardo could not fuse the two qualities he desired: an abstract formula and the immediacy of life. The final painting now hangs in the Louvre in Paris. The painting is a complex and masterful synthesis of his previous variations (Capra 105). In some research it is stated that this artifact is unfinished, even though he had worked on this painting possibly for eight or nine years (Bramly 321). Leonardo had a habit of never finishing his work. Leonardo had drawn many different cartoons painting and sketches leading up to the final painting of The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne. One of his cartoon sketches had St. John the Baptist kneeling next to Christ (Capra 105). Leonardo switched St. John to a lamb in the final painting. The lamb (sacrificial animal) represents passion suffering in Christ’s destiny. It is not known why Leonardo replaced St. John, who was Christ’s cousin, with a lamb. He painted the Christ child as being about a year old. It looks as if he is slipping out of his mother’s hands and trying to grab hold of his destiny, the...
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