The Virgin and Child with St. Anne

The image shown above is a representation of “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” by Leonardo da Vinci. It was developed during the renaissance period, hence has attracted opinions from different people. Different authors have discussed and analyzed the image based on varying perspectives. One common description among various authors is the triangular representation on the image. Surhone (2010) asserts that the triangle is used depict the family bond that exists between the three characters involved. Mary is held by her mother who intern aims at getting a grip on his son Jesus. Pye (2015) extends this analysis as an indication of the holy trinity. This is because the image depicts three characters that are related to each other, and they have a very strong bond (family) among them. Regardless of any occurrence, they would still remain to be a family due to the blood ties. The family aspect on the image is also elaborated through the displays of affection and tenderness portrayed in the image (Pye, 2015). Saint Anne shows a more sober attitude compared to Mary; who is engulfed by a rapture of motherly love. Mukundan & Ramakrishnan (1998) also describes the image as a Christian symbolism. It combines two canonic catholic themes. Among them is the meeting of generations; demonstrated by the child, mother and grandmother appearing together. The other one is manifested by the notion of passion and sacrifice. These aspects are attributed to Jesus due to the lamb that he is holding. The lamb represents an aspect of innocence. This aspect is memorialized by John the Baptist when he referred to Jesus as the “Lamb of God”. Surhone (2010) reiterates that the image exemplifies three pictorial techniques. They include aerial perspective, chiaroscuro and sfumato. Aerial perspective is demonstrated by showcasing distance by color and tone contrast. Chiaroscuro is demonstrated by use of dark and light to create modeling and relief effects. Sfumato on the other hand, helps in the defining of shapes using light and dark gradations. Mukundan & Ramakrishnan (1998), Surhone (2010) and Pye (2015) describe the aspect of Mary sitting on Anne’s laps in a similar way. They view it as an unusual aspect. It is not clear what Leonardo wanted to demonstrate.

The context of the image cannot be considered to be different in the current period compared to when it was developed. How people interpreted the image during its production period tends to remain constant. This is because the objective with which it was developed has not changed. It still depicts a similar aspect. What has changed may be are the criticisms revolving around the image. The image was developed during the renaissance period. This was revival of the art world. What this meant is that people saw the images as being spectacular since they had not seen such aspects in the past. The attribute limits acts of criticisms since there does not exist numerous images to compare with. This case is different in the current period. There is emergence of different types of images and technologies being used to develop these images. As result, a lot of criticism towards this image would exist in the current period.

Both images; “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” and “Madonna of the Meadow” have some similar attributes. These attributes are helpful while discussing the images with regards to theories encompassing what an image is. To begin with, an image can be referred to as an external representation of a person (Gombrich, 2009). This aspect is evident in both images whereby there are objects being depicted. Users of the images tend to get more information regarding the images by observing the objects being displayed. An image is also expected to act as a metaphor or simile (Gombrich, 2009). The above images have actualized this aspect by acting as Christian symbolism. Different authors have discussed this aspect widely. The images have also demonstrated use of different techniques. This is expected of any image so that the users can be able to grasp what the artist involved was trying to elaborate. Among the techniques involved in the images above include aerial perspective, chiaroscuro and sfumato. The techniques help in demonstrating the tone and color among other things.



Surhone, L., 2010. The Virgin and Child with St. Anne (Leonardo da Vinci): Anne Selbdritt, oil painting, Leonardo da Vinci, Saint Anne, Mary, Child Jesus, Santissima Annunziata Florence. Gran Bretagna: Betascript publishing.

Pye, C., 2015. The storm at sea: Political aesthetics in the time of Shakespeare. New York: 9780823265046.



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