National Gallery Reveals Hidden Sketches Beneath da Vinci’s “Virgin of the Rocks”

New infrared imaging has revealed a first draft of the famous painting

London's National Gallery has uncovered hidden sketches, traced above, beneath Leonardo da Vinci's "The Virgin of the Rocks"
London's National Gallery has uncovered hidden sketches, traced above, beneath Leonardo da Vinci's "The Virgin of the Rocks"
By Bonnie Stiernberg / September 4, 2019 1:04 pm

Over 500 years after it is believed to have been painted, researchers at London’s National Gallery have uncovered a hidden drawing underneath Leonardo da Vinci’s “Virgin of the Rocks.” Using macro x-ray fluorescence that detected the zinc used in the original drawing material as well as new infrared and hyperspectral imaging, they have detected what appears to be an early draft of the famous painting.

The sketch has the figures in image — the Virgin Mary, baby Jesus, John the Baptist and an angel — positioned higher and looking in different directions. Mary appears to be looking towards Jesus and the angel instead of John the Baptist. “The angle of the Infant Christ’s head was changed so that he was seen in profile, while some parts of the angel’s curly hair have been removed,” the museum notes in a press release.

The research is part of the National Gallery’s upcoming exhibit, “Leonardo: Experience A Masterpiece,” which opens on Nov. 9. You can book tickets to the immersive exhibit centered around the “Virgin of the Rocks” here.

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