Da Vinci’s Early Paintings (1470-1490)

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Early Paintings Leonardo Da Vinci Painted and Info on Them

Many ask the question, How many paintings has Leonardo Da Vinci painted? The answer is: not very many. However, those that he did paint have become worldwide masterpieces recognized everywhere for their incredible talent. Leonardo DaVinci’s paintings first began appearing in the 1470s with the Baptism of Christ, painted in tandem with Verrocchio. During his time spent in Verrocchio’s workshop, two other paintings are believed to have been painted, both Annunciations. The first is a small 59cm long, 14 cm high piece. It is a “predella” for a much larger work, a painting by Lorenzo Di Credi. The second of these Annunciations was a 217 cm long piece, much larger in scale.

Both of these initial paintings were crafted in the very basic Fra Angelico formation, pictures of the Virgin Mary sitting on the right side of the picture with an angel to her left. The angel in both paintings is wearing a flowing gown and has raised wings and a lily. In the smaller, first picture, Mary has her eyes downcast as a submissive gesture toward God. In the second, larger picture however, Mary is not submissive at all. The second picture shows Mary with a finger placed in her bible to mark her place and a hand raised in greeting to the angelic visitor before her. She takes on her position as the Mother of God with confidence. This first of a handful of Leonardo Da Vinci paintings begins his technique of placing a human face on the image of divine figures.

Da Vinci’s Paintings of the 1480s

Beginning with Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings in the 1480s, he received two substantial commissions among a few smaller works. He started a third work that would be groundbreaking in how it was composed. The first of the two commissions was the image of St. Jerome in the Wilderness. It is barely started and Da Vinci never finished it, but what is present is very odd compared to other works of the time. Da Vinci placed the figure of Jerome in the middle of the composition and slightly below the line of sight. He forms a trapezoidal shape and looks in the opposite direction with his signature lion sprawled across the front of the painting. The landscape itself is slightly odd with craggy rock formations around the saint.

Among Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings that were never finished, the unfinished Adoration of the Magi s one of his most famous. It was commissioned by the Monks of San Donato a Scopeto. It is about 250cm square and involved years of preliminary sketches and drawings by Leonardo before he even started. However, he left in 1482 for Milan to win favor with Ludovico il Moro and was never able to finish the work.

The third and final painting from this period that Da Vinci worked on was the Virgin of the Rocks, a commission he took in Milan. The work itself was to cover an altar piece for the Immaculate Conception Church with the help of the de Predis brothers. The painting itself portrayed an image never found in the Bible but in the apocryphal tomes of other writers. It shows a meeting between John the Baptist as an infant in the care of an angel with Jesus’s family as they traveled to Egypt. The infant John sees and worships Jesus and shows them all kneeling before Christ in the midst of a series of rocks and swirling water. These baby pictures of Leonardo Da Vinci are famous throughout the world, largely because there are two completed versions when there are so few of his other works.

The painting by Da Vinci eventually completed was not nearly the commission he was given though. The brothers of the Immaculate Conception had request a much larger painting with upwards of 50 figures and full architectural details. Eventually the painting was finished and another version completed along side it, which Da Vinci took with him to France. However, no one was paid for their work and the church never received what they had asked for.

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