Virgin and Vetruvian

August 14, 2017  • Society of Fellows

The Virgin of the Rocks paintings; two versions of the same image. So why would Leonardo da Vinci, temperamentally ill-equipped to finish his pictures at the best of times, repeat himself in this way? The complex circumstances that brought about this unusual duplication exemplify some of the mundane difficulties Leonardo had in supporting himself through his art. But the many differences between the two versions also reveal an enormous shift in Leonardo’s thinking during the 1480s and ’90s about painting in general and religious image-making in particular — moving from unparalleled naturalism to a new kind of idealism — and still incorporating the possibilities of the ‘non finito.’

Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man is a feat of artistry- in its unnecessary technical beauty- as well as one of mathematical precision. Yet in its entirety, it also embodies a moment when art and science combined to allow mortal minds to probe timeless questions about who we are and how we fit into the grand order of the universe. Take a deep dive into the iconic image and learn why Leonardo’s famed drawing is both an artistic and scientific feat, as well as how the work represents his times and philosophy.