Leonardo Da Vinci's Virgin of the Rocks painted between 1483 and 1486, exists in two versions, the earliest of which is housed in the Louvre and the other in the National Gallery, London. As the first completed work after his arrival in Milan, Da Vinci's painting is a figurative reproduction of the Immaculate Conception, the Biblical dogma that purports that Mary was conceived without original sin. The pyramid-like composition has fascinated historians, art critics, and viewers for centuries and greatly influenced the iconography of the artists of Da Vinci's day. The work, like many of Da Vinci's others, was commissioned as a central panel to adorn a sculpted altarpiece, this one in the Milanese Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception for their oratory in San Francesco. The project was assigned to Da Vinci who was instructed to include the Virgin and Child in the centre and two Angel-Musicians for the sides. The painting subsequently found itself in France, perhaps given by the artist himself to King Louis XII of France as thanks for settlement of a particularly
Many believe that Virgin of the Rocks is the first painting in which Da Vinci achieved the unique intellectual balance between human figures and the natural world which would come to characterise his work. Without any architectural structures to direct the line of sight, the eye is instead directed by the rock formation of the grotto, the still waters, and the hypnotic array of green hues. This vivid and illusionistic reproduction of a Biblical scene centres around the serene, smiling face of the Madonna, as the whole of nature surrounds the figures in an attempt to play an equal role in the conception.
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