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The drapery of St Anne's legs


RCIN 912527

This is a study for the drapery of St Anne’s legs in Leonardo’s painting of the Madonna and Child with St Anne and a lamb, now in the Louvre. It is drawn with a combination of smooth blended strokes and accents with a finely sharpened chalk, on French paper prepared with a buff wash. Melzi's number 226.

The subject of the Madonna and Child with St Anne, with either a lamb or the infant St John the Baptist, occupied Leonardo for the last two decades of his life. The original commission possibly came from the French king Louis XII after his invasion of Milan in 1499. Leonardo produced three full-size compositions, of which a cartoon (National Gallery, London) and a painting (Louvre, Paris) survive. The painting was begun around 1508 and was recorded in Leonardo’s studio in France, still in progress, in 1517.

RCIN 912527, 912530, and 912532, all drapery studies towards the Madonna and Child with St Anne and a lamb, are the last of Leonardo’s drawings towards a painting. They demonstrate that he never lost his desire to explore the graphic possibilities of his limited range of media, in the search for the most sophisticated effects of light in his paintings.

Text adapted from Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing, London, 2018
  • unicorn, close to Briquet 10405-10406, but chain lines in different position. Watermark exclusively French in its distribution

    stamp, ER VII, crowned, in oval: Lugt 901

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