|The fantasy flowers from the National Gallery's Virgin of the Rocks|
In January 2012 I wrote about a visit to the great exhibition Leonardo da Vinci, Painter at the Court of Milan, at the National Gallery, and commented on the differences in the plants portrayed in two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks - the post can be read here. Life moved on, and I gave no more thought to the subject until a few weeks ago when I received a call from Dalya Alberge, a journalist writing for The Guardian, who started her conversation with 'I believe you're an expert on Leonardo da Vinci...' I was about to say she had the wrong number when she mentioned this blog.
It seems that in a new book, Tweeting Da Vinci, the American geologist and Renaissance scholar Ann Pizzorusso, advances the case that the London Virgin is a derivative version of the earlier one, indisputably by Leonardo, in the Louvre. Her thesis is based mostly on the accurately observed geology of the latter. This, says Ms Pizzorusso, is typical of Leonardo's careful observation and rendition of natural phenomena, and she found support for this view in my comments on the botanical accuracy of the Louvre version against those of the London painting. I haven't seen the book, so can't quote her directly - the first I knew of it was Dalya Alberge's phone call, which necessitated getting the brain quickly into gear to answer her questions. The result of her investigations has now been published online by The Guardian in an article entitled The daffodil code: doubts revived over Leonardo’s Virgin of the Rocks in London
I very much doubt that this is the last word on the attribution of this painting, but I will leave that to genuine Leonardo experts to debate.