Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist (Leonardo)

The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist is a lost composition by Leonardo da Vinci.[1] The composition is known through a handful of paintings attributed to artists in Leonardo's circle. An original underdrawing by Leonardo may be preserved in a version in a private collection in Moscow, Russia.[2]

Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist (Moscow Version)
See adjacent text.
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci and his workshop
Yearlate 1470s – middle/late 1480s
TypeOil, tempera, gold on panel
Dimensions71.8 cm × 50.5 cm (28.25 in × 19.875 in)
LocationPrivate collection, Moscow


The painting depicts the Virgin Mary with arms outstretched and the infant Christ embracing a lamb. The infant John the Baptist is depicted holding a goldfinch, a symbol of the passion.[3] The three figures are shown before a vegetated and rocky landscape and with architectural structures in the distance.

Compositional sketches for the Virgin adoring the child Christ, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Virgin with her arms outstretched is a common motif among the compositions of Leonardo and his studio. Leonardo likely began developing the motif in the mid-1480s in preparation for the two versions of The Virgin of the Rocks at the Louvre and the National Gallery.[1] Drawings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Royal Collection show Leonardo's exploration of the motif and were likely studies for The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne.[4][5]

Additionally, drawings at the Getty Museum and the Royal Library, Windsor show variations on the motif of a child embracing a lamb.[6]


In 1930, Tancred Borenius attributed the Ashmolean version to Leonardo.[7] Though this has gone undisputed, it has not been accepted by most scholars of Leonardo.

Recent research by a consortium of Leonardo experts argues that the Moscow version is likely the origin of the composition and may contain an underdrawing by Leonardo's hand. The consortium included Alexander Kossolapov, Martin Kemp, and Thereza Wells. Kemp said of the painting:

This is the most remarkable of the narrative Madonnas, with the child reacting to the goldfinch which is held up by Saint John with him clinging onto the lamb, the sacrificial animal ... As far as attributions go it is very difficult because you've got studio production, you've got various artists of various status, you've also got later of followers ... But the Leonardo involvement in the inventione is perfectly clear.[8]

Kossolapov argued that the Moscow painting is the work by Leonardo and his workshop.[2] Kemp and Wells were more reserved and concluded there were no clear signs of Leonardo's hand in the underdrawing. They further concluded that there probably never was an 'original' painting and the Moscow and Florence versions would have been regarded as 'Leonardo's', that is, works produced in Leonardo's brand.[3]

Copies and VariationsEdit


  1. ^ a b "Circle of Leonardo da Vinci (Anchiano, near Vinci 1452–1519 Amboise, near Tours), The Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist". Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  2. ^ a b Kossolapov, Alexander (2015). "Expert Examination Report".
  3. ^ a b Wells, Thereza. "Report on the Virgin and Child with the Infant St. John the Baptist, Moscow, private collection." July 2016. Website.
  4. ^ Delieuvin, Vincent (2012). Saint Anne: Leonardo da Vinci's Ultimate Masterpiece. Paris. p. 256.
  5. ^ "Leonardo da Vinci | Compositional Sketches for the Virgin Adoring the Christ Child, with and without the Infant St. John the Baptist; Diagram of a Perspectival Projection (recto); Slight Doodles (verso) | The Met". The Metropolitan Museum of Art, i.e. The Met Museum. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  6. ^ "Studies for the Christ Child with a Lamb (recto); Head of an Old Man, and Studies of Machinery (verso) (Getty Museum)". The J. Paul Getty in Los Angeles. Retrieved 2018-05-24.
  7. ^ Borenius, Tancred (March 1930). "Leonardo's Madonna with the Children at Play". The Burlington Magazine. LVI: 142–147.
  8. ^ LeonardoMadonna Gallery (2017-04-02), Martin Kemp about the painting, retrieved 2018-05-24

External linksEdit