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Virgin and Child with St Anne and St John the Baptist (Burlington House Cartoon)

Video transcript

even in the Renaissance drawings were sometimes works of art unto themselves they weren't always preparatory and we think that's the case with a large-scale drawing by Leonardo that is usually given the title of the Virgin and Child with a st. Anne and st. John and that's because it's not perforated right although it's unfinished so if it status is a little bit unclear and it would have had tiny dots or perforations in it so that that would have allowed me in order to trace the outlines of the figures so that you could transfer a drawing to a panel or a wall to paint on although using Leonardo's technique is so different from traditional much more linear Renaissance painting that that would be more problematic you could get the basic contours but his construction of the figure is so often simply using cutis court or using light shadow well that's because it's so soft and because it's so smoky and that idea of just the line that would be traced by the perforations seen sort of very surd yeah he's much more interested in these very slow gradations from dark to light and then moving back into dark again so that there's such a sense of three dimensionality and monumentality to these figures and also an integration of the figures into a whole the figures form a kind of pyramid they're so stable and that's one of the characteristics of the high Renaissance that stability that suggests a kind of eternity that is appropriate for the subject of these divine figures so good joins is why I just wanted to say that there's such an interesting contrast because on the one hand you've got this sense of an ideal perfection this sort of this notion of the eternal in this and the sort of the eternally spiritual on the other hand there's such a kind of intimacy between the figures between Anne and Mary and between John and Christ that's very human it's incredibly human and seems incredibly precious and so sort of at odds with the notion of the eternal mmm-hmm yeah it spoke that's what Leonardo does right he combines the human and the divine that's the definition to me of what Leonardo accomplished in the high-rent there are all these marvelous passages here I mean I just love the way that Anne turns to Mary who sits on her lap this is kind of rhythm of knees of the two women right I'm down and up and down and up again it's almost musical as it moves across it makes me feel that Leonardo was certainly looking at classical sculpture because that so much looks to me like drapery on ancient Greek and Roman figures there is a sense of the very age of the figures and and your real sense of Leonardo's process especially when you look at the contrast between Anne's face and her hand which is so much less finished and still so much more linear and Anna's pointing up to communicate this idea that this is part of God's plan that Christ and his future sacrifice is part of God's plan for the salvation of mankind look at the way in which Christ's arm bends around and his fingers up in blessing John actually it's continued upward by Anne's fingers that's one continuous movement in a sense Christ is literally drawn up in Ann's gesture well and that begins with the line from Mary shoulder up through Christ and then pointing up to God in fact you could actually begin that movement with Ann's glance right Mary continuing down her shoulder as you said around her elbow and then up through Christ's arm and actually what we just did is a really good example of what was so important to Leonardo which is that unification like you can start linking things together the longer you look at the image and we can look at st. John's glanced up at Christ and then move up there to Mary's looking at the Christ child and then go back to Anne who's looking at Mary and it really does create a pathway for our eyes but all of which leads toward heaven which is of course the very point of the drawing