A new Leonardo da Vinci drawing has been found hidden beneath the surface of one of the artist's most honored works, "The Virgin of the Rocks," reports the BBC News. The painting, which stands 6 feet-two inches tall, shows the Virgin Mary kneeling in a cave with the infant Jesus and Saint John.
Da Vinci painted two versions of "The Virgin of the Rocks," one in 1483 and one in 1508. What is thought to be the superior of the two hangs in The Louvre in Paris, while the other hangs in Britain's National Gallery. The stunning find was under the British painting.
It was while the curators were studying how da Vinci copied his original painting that they found the uncompleted drawing. Infrared scanning allowed them to see through the layers of paint on the picture hanging in the London gallery.
Interestingly, there were two levels of drawings under the painting. One was for "The Virgin of the Rocks," while the other was for a different painting altogether showing the Virgin kneeling with a downcast gaze. She holds one hand to her breast and dramatically stretches out the fingers of her other hand so that they meet the picture edges. The fact that the drawing is so different than the painting has a special meaning. "You can never call this a straightforward copy again because Leonardo clearly wanted to start something new," National Gallery curator Luke Syson told BBC radio.
Why did da Vinci paint "The Virgin of the Rocks" twice? The first one was commissioned in 1483 by the Milanese Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception for a chapel altarpiece. Upon completion, the artist demanded a large bonus, which the Confraternity refused to pay. So da Vinci sold it elsewhere. This is the one that hangs in The Louvre. Years later, the Confraternity asked da Vinci for a replacement, which is the one that is now in Britain. The researchers believe that the Confraternity rejected da Vinci's new idea and demanded he repaint the one they had originally commissioned. "I suspect he was forced to abandon this new very beautiful idea," Syson told the BBC. "In a way it's a terrible pity."