10 most famous paintings by Leonardo da Vinci

Review of the best according to the editorial board. On the selection criteria. This material is subjective, does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

Leonardo da Vinci is a genius who managed to achieve success in various fields of activity, he is known as a talented inventor, scientist, architect, sculptor and writer. But this brilliant representative of the Italian Renaissance reached the greatest heights in the art of painting. Although the number of paintings created by him that have come down to us is small, his qualitative contribution to world culture as an artist is simply enormous. Thanks to his excellent knowledge of human anatomy and the masterful display of light on canvas, da Vinci took a significant step towards realism with his works. His work had a direct impact on the subsequent development of painting both in Europe and far beyond its borders. We bring to your attention a selection of ten of the most famous masterpieces that came out from under the brush of da Vinci.

Review of the most famous paintings by Leonardo da Vinci

Nomination a place Composition rating
Review of the most famous paintings by Leonardo da Vinci 10 Adoration of the Magi 4.5
9 Madonna Litta 4.5
8 Annunciation 4.5
7 Madonna of the carnation 4.6
6 Saint Anna with the Madonna and the Christ Child 4.7
5 Portrait of Ginevra de Benchi 4.7
4 John the Baptist 4.7
3 Lady with an ermine 4.8
2 Madonna of the rocks 4.9
1 Mona lisa 5.0

Adoration of the Magi

Rating: 4.5

Worship of the Magi

This early work was written in 1480, commissioned by the Augustinian monks from the Monastery of San Donato, located in Sopeto, near Florence. It was supposed to decorate the main monastery altar, but it remained unfinished due to the artist's departure to Milan. The painting depicts a well-known scene from the Gospel story: three wise men followed the guiding star to Bethlehem to present gifts to the newborn Christ. Also on the canvas are the pilgrims and horsemen surrounding Mary and the baby in the background.

The composition of the piece looks very harmonious, its central part is enclosed in a triangle, the apex of which is the head of the mother of Jesus. Compared to other characters, she stands out for her serenity and calm posture. To emphasize the image of the main figure, da Vinci slightly disturbs the perspective, making the Madonna and the baby a little larger. The young man standing on the right is, according to the assumptions of art historians, the author himself at a young age (at the time of the painting he was about 30 years old).

Madonna Litta

Rating: 4.5

Madonna Litta

The painting owes its modern name to the Milanese Litta family, in whose private collection it has been for several centuries. Da Vinci originally wrote it for the rulers of Milan. The image of a woman with a baby in her arms was a very popular subject in the painting of the late 15th – early 16th centuries. Madonna Litta stands out among the works of the famous artist for her harmony of forms, symmetry of composition, as well as the balance of light and shadow.

The picture is a very emotional work, containing an implicit, but understandable meaning to the attentive viewer. Judging by the scraps of thread on the woman's clothes, the special cuts for feeding that were widespread at that time were already protective, that is, the child was at the stage of weaning. But apparently, unable to endure the plaintive child's cry, the mother nevertheless in a hurry tore the stitches and fed him. In the baby's left hand, you can see goldfinches – it is known that da Vinci loved birds, and in his art they symbolized the human soul.

Annunciation

Rating: 4.5

Annunciation

The painting was created by a young Leonardo da Vinci in the workshop where he studied with the artist Andrea del Verrocchio. This canvas is based on the appearance of the archangel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, described in the Gospel, when he announces that she has been chosen to become the mother of Christ. The heavenly messenger holds in his left hand a white lily, symbolizing Mary's integrity. In the background, the author placed a vast landscape with a row of trees, mountains and a river stretching into the distance, along which ships sail. This solution, in contrast to the traditional image of this biblical event in the room, made it possible to enhance the impression, to emphasize the solemnity of the moment.

Although the canvas belongs to the early works of da Vinci, it already clearly shows the personality of the painter and his innate talent. He was one of the first artists of his time to pay such attention to the background landscape, and no one else before him knew how to draw folds on draperies so carefully and realistically.

Madonna of the carnation

Rating: 4.6

Madonna of the carnation

This painting was created by da Vinci at a time when he had already become an independent artist and had his own workshop, as evidenced in the Florentine documents. Judging by the notes of the artist and writer Giorgio Vasari, a contemporary of Leonardo, “Madonna of the Carnation” was intended for Pope Clement VII.

The painting shows the contrast between a calm, soulful mother and a spontaneous, energetic child who struggles to reach the flower in her hand. The red carnation, which so attracted the attention of the baby, fills the scene with drama, since in the context of the religious symbolism of that time it represented the future Passion of the Lord. The color scheme of Madonna's clothes is in harmony with the mountain landscape in the background, and the use of the sfumato technique creates an impression of detachment on her face.

Saint Anna with the Madonna and the Christ Child

Rating: 4.7

Saint Anna with the Madonna and the Christ Child

The painting was commissioned by the Florentine church of Santissima Annunziata as the upper altarpiece. The style of iconography used here, called “Anna the Three” and depicting the Virgin Mary with her mother Anna and the little Christ, came to Italy from northern mainland Europe, where the tradition of venerating St. Anna was developed. It is difficult not to pay attention to the originality with which Leonardo arranged the three characters of the plot: Maria sits on Anna's lap, and she is going to pick up her son, who is trying to saddle the lamb. Creating this picture, the artist has significantly departed from the traditions laid down by his predecessors. Since he did not like old age and the accompanying wilting, the grandmother of Christ is portrayed by him as a beautiful, youthful woman, whose age is barely noticeable. In addition, there is no religious solemnity, the setting is shown intimate and even with a certain amount of humor.

The central group is visually inscribed in the pyramid, which created a sense of the integrity of the composition. It is also highlighted with lighting and color contrast. Smiling faces are set off by the light sfumato characteristic of da Vinci's style. The figures are on a hill in relation to the viewer, which emphasizes their chosenness, the predestination of a higher goal.

Portrait of Ginevra de Benchi

Rating: 4.7

Portrait of Ginevra de Benchi

One of the earliest paintings by Leonardo, most likely commissioned by the statesman from Venice, Bernardo Bembo. It depicts the poetess Ginevra d'Amerigo de Benchi, Bernardo's platonic love. At that time, the artist was still influenced by his teacher Verrocchio, as well as the popular school of Dutch masters of painting, which was reflected in the severity of the lines, the incredibly smooth and marbled pale skin and the limited range of colors. The girl's face contrasts strongly with the juniper bush in the background. Interestingly, the Italian word for juniper (ginepro) is consonant with her name. Atypical for the Renaissance is a woman's portrait on the street, then it was customary to paint women indoors.

Experts, who first saw the painting, at first had doubts about its attribution, since da Vinci almost always paid much attention to his hands, and there was also a bust. However, later it turned out that it had undergone cutting (probably its bottom was damaged). This is evidenced by both the found sketch of female hands, corresponding to the portrait, and the wreath painted on the reverse side of the canvas with a clearly missing fragment.

John the Baptist

Rating: 4.7

John the Baptist

The painting “John the Baptist” is one of da Vinci's later masterpieces. It is not like the rest of the artist's work, who loved to surround biblical characters with rich natural landscapes. But the solid dark background very expressively emphasizes the figure of John, who, by the way, does not at all correspond to the generally accepted canons. Instead of an ascetic elderly or middle-aged person with a stern expression on his face, we see an effeminate young man with a soft mysterious smile, like the smile of the Mona Lisa, and curls of well-groomed hair falling over his shoulders.

Nevertheless, all the necessary attributes of St. John are also present on the canvas: woolen clothes, a thin reed cross, an index finger pointing to heaven. Salai, who at that time was a student of Leonardo, served as a model for the image. The style of the painting suggests that the artist was one of the initiators of mannerism, which later became very popular in the art of Western Europe.

Lady with an ermine

Rating: 4.8

Lady with an ermine

Judging by indirect historical evidence, this is a portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, mistress of the Duke of Milan, patron of da Vinci's work. The girl is dressed in a dress that was quite simple for those times, she has a transparent cap on her head, and her forehead is decorated with a thin feroniere. Unlike most portrait painters of the 15th century, Leonardo preferred to paint people not strictly in profile or full face, but in a slight half-turn of the body, with the head turned to the other side, which revives the figure, emphasizes the line of the shoulders and neck. With regard to this picture, this technique also allowed to give the female image some mystery.

Cecilia holds a white ermine in her arms. Since cats were not very common among the Italian aristocracy at that time, many kept such exotic animals as pets. Given the artist's penchant for symbolism, the ermine is most likely depicted here for a reason. In Greek it is called “gale”, which is consonant with Gallerani. In addition, the ermine is known as a symbol of purity (from the point of view of court morality, a lady could be the favorite of an influential nobleman and at the same time remain formally unblemished, unlike courtesans).

Madonna of the rocks

Rating: 4.9

Madonna of the rocks

The painting “Madonna of the Rocks” was created to be placed over the altar of the Milan chapel of San Francesco Grande. The plot corresponds to the apocryphal gospel of James, which tells about the meeting of Mary with Christ and John the Baptist, whose mother hid him in the desert during the period of Herod's extermination of the Bethlehem babies. The author skillfully linked the characters into a single composition through gestures and poses. The background is a stone grotto, which creates a mysterious, mystical atmosphere, and also echoes the traditional nativity scene in the cave.

The four figures on the canvas are harmoniously enclosed in a pyramid, and their outlines are softened by a subtle play of light and shadow. Both are typical of da Vinci's work. In addition, through the shadows, the artist perfectly conveyed depth and volume. This picture exists in two versions. The first of them was not accepted by the monks due to inconsistency with church canons (the absence of halos, a cross and some other details), in view of this, Leonardo instructed his students to write the second canvas, while he himself took minimal part in the process.

Mona lisa

Rating: 5.0

Mona lisa

“Portrait of Madame Lisa del Giocondo” is considered the pinnacle of all Leonardo da Vinci's work and the best example of Italian Renaissance painting. Moreover, the painting is currently one of the most famous and recognizable in the whole world. According to art historians, the portrait depicts Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a silk merchant from Florence. According to contemporaries, this canvas occupied a special place in the life of Leonardo – usually reluctant to work to order, the artist devoted almost all of his time to the Mona Lisa, even when he was busy working on other works. He tried to bring her to perfection, fully embodying all his experience and innate talent.

The composition and color of this painting are recognized as reference, and the unique sfumato method is best revealed in it, due to which the canvas is filled with diffused light, and the woman's face seems almost alive. Unusual, as if following the viewer, “La Gioconda” gaze and her light mysterious smile attracted the attention of not only art specialists, but also psychoanalysts. Sigmund Freud described her as the personification of both restraint and seduction, love and threat. The intellectual spirituality of the face in the portrait is framed in a mountain landscape, whimsical on the verge of fantasy, located in the distance.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute an advertisement and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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