Leonardo da Vinci Most Famous Paintings
Who is Leonardo da Vinci?
Leonardo da Vinci was known as "The Renaissance Man" and widely admired for his painting of the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.
He assumed many roles, he was a painter, portraitist, architect, engineer, inventor, philosopher, and geologist. His genius, talents, and interests opened pathways for him to accomplish many great things.
The Renaissance era was a period of changing social and cultural values. New ideas and experimentation in the fields of art began.
Renaissance painters were moving from the flat space of medieval art and painted more realistic scenes such as landscapes, portraiture and figure compositions, using realism and naturalism in the portrayal of figures and perspective in landscape painting.
Here are 20 of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings:
- Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci
- Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci
- Madonna and Child with the Infant Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci
- Madonna Litta by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio and Leonardo da Vinci
- St John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci
- Mary Magdalene by Leonardo da Vinci
- Study for the head of Leda by Leonardo da Vinci
- The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by Leonardo da Vinci
- Madonna of the Carnation by Leonardo da Vinci
- Madonna of the Yarnwinder by Leonardo da Vinci
- Salvator Mundi by Leonardo da Vinci
- Bacchus by Leonardo da Vinci
- Head of a Woman by Leonardo da Vinci
- La Belle Ferronniere by Leonardo da Vinci
- Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci
- La Bella Principessa by Leonardo da Vinci
- Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci Artworks
Mona Lisa is prominent among Leonardo da Vinci's famous paintings. Francesco del Giocondo's wife, Mona Lisa, is also known as La Gioconda.
This picture is done in oil on canvas. The original painting, which measures 77 x 53 cm (30 x 20 7/8 in), is owned by the French government and hangs in the Louvre in Paris, France.
This figure of a woman, dressed in the Florentine manner of the day and seated in a dreamlike, mountainous scene, is a stunning example of Leonardo's sfumato modeling method, which involves soft, deeply shaded modeling.
The Mona Lisa's mysterious expression, which is both seductive and aloof, has earned the painting worldwide acclaim. The renowned smile of the Mona Lisa symbolizes the sitter in the same way that the juniper branches in Ginevra Benci's painting in Washington and the ermine in Cecilia Gallerani's portrait in Krakow do. It's a visual representation of the Italian word "gioconda," which means "happiness."
This idea of happiness became the major element of Leonardo's portrait, and it is this idea that makes the piece so ideal. The landscape's natural beauty also plays a part. Warm hues are used in the middle distance, which is on the same level as the sitter's chest.
This area is occupied by men; there is a twisting road and a bridge. This place illustrates the transition from the sitter's space to the far distant, when the landscape transforms into a wild and uninhabited realm of rocks and water that stretches to the horizon, which Leonardo has skilfully depicted at the sitter's eye level.
The Last Supper is Leonardo's depiction of an event that is mentioned in all four Gospels (books in the Christian New Testament).
Christ gathered his disciples to eat, inform them he knew what was coming, and wash their feet the evening before he was betrayed by one of his disciples (a gesture symbolizing that all were equal under the eyes of the Lord).
Christ gave the disciples precise instructions on how to eat and drink in the future in recollection of him while they ate and drank together. It was the first Eucharistic celebration, which is still practiced today.
The Last Supper illustrates the next few seconds in this story after Christ dropped the bombshell that one of his disciples will betray him before morning, and each of the twelve disciples has reacted to the news with varying degrees of terror, fury, and amazement.
Leonardo had never worked on such a big painting before, and he had no prior expertise with fresco, the traditional mural technique. The artwork was created using experimental paints straight on the dry plaster wall, and unlike frescos, where the pigments are combined with the wet plaster, it has not held up well over time.
There were issues with the paint flaking off the wall even before it was finished, which Leonardo had to fix. It has crumbled, been vandalized, bombed, and reconstructed over the years. We are probably only seeing a small portion of the original today.
The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci
The Annunciation, the master's first piece at the age of twenty, isn't quite Leonardesque yet.
The angel is on the left, the Virgin is on the right, and a lectern is in the middle, all shown in an architectural setting that extends out onto a landscape, as per a centuries-old model. With his high brow, fancy wings, costly clothes, and lily, the kneeling angel is magnificently youthful.
Surprised while reading, the Virgin raises her hand in shock and exhibits a fine-featured countenance that some have described as chilly. Her posture, with her knees evenly parted and her body draped in broad and flexible drapery, lends her a powerful colossal presence.
The Annunciation was credited to Domenico Ghirlandaio, who, like Leonardo, was an apprentice in Andrea del Verrocchio's workshop when it arrived in the Uffizi in 1867 from the Olivetan convent of San Bartolomeo, near Florence.
It was recognized as a youthful work by Leonardo da Vinci by Karl Eduard von Liphart, the central character of the German expatriate art community in Florence, in 1869, one of the first attributions of a surviving piece to the youthful Leonardo. Since then, Leonardo has been credited with a preparatory drawing for the angel's sleeve.
Portrait of a Man in Red Chalk Drawing by Leonardo da Vinci
The portrait of a man in red chalk at the Royal Library of Turin is commonly acknowledged as a self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci, albeit not unanimously. Leonardo da Vinci is supposed to have drawn this self-portrait when he was around 60 years old.
The painting has been widely replicated, and it has become a symbol of Leonardo's status as a polymath or "Renaissance Man." Despite this, historians and researchers debate over the sitter's genuine identity. Red chalk is used to sketch the portrait on paper. It shows a three-quarter perspective of an elderly man's head, with his face oriented towards the viewer.
His long hair and long wave beard, which run over his shoulders and chest, distinguish the subject. The length of the hair and beard is unusual in Renaissance portraiture and denotes a person of sagacity, much as it does now. Deep lines on the brow and pouches below the eyes distinguish the face, which features an aquiline nose.
The man looks to have lost his upper front teeth, which has caused the nose grooves to widen. The figure's eyes do not engage the observer, but instead look ahead, shrouded by the long brows. As was Leonardo's custom, the drawing was drawn in fine distinct lines, shaded by hatching, and finished with the left hand.
The Virgin Mary is depicted with her arms spread and the infant Christ is cradling a lamb in the picture. A goldfinch, a symbol of the passion, is held by the newborn John the Baptist. The three individuals stand in front of a forested and rocky environment with distant architectural complexes.
The Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo Da Vinci
The Virgin of the Rocks (also known as The Madonna of the Rocks) is the name given to two paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, both of which depict the same subject and have a composition that is almost similar save for two minor details. The Louvre in Paris normally has one artwork and the National Gallery in London has the other.
Both paintings depict the Madonna and Christ Child, as well as the newborn John the Baptist and an angel, on a rocky background, as the paintings' names suggest. The angel's gaze and right hand have substantial compositional contrasts. Colors, lighting, flora, and the usage of sfumato are only a few of the small differences amongst the pieces.
Although the year of an accompanying commission is known, the whole histories of the two works are unclear, leading to discussion regarding which is older. Leonardo da Vinci's fundamental motivation in whatever he did was probably to get to the heart of nature and learn its secrets; and his interest in painting could nearly have been to create rivals to nature, combining all his knowledge of her into the construction of super-natural objects.
The laws of nature govern The Virgin of the Rocks, but Leonardo is responsible for the final creation. And he defies nature in several ways that challenge past aesthetic notions.
The end outcome is more organic than academic. Other painters imposed an intentional schema on nature, viewing it as a conscious mixture enriched by art, in which buildings were allied to scenery, tiny groups of humans enlivened background areas, and things were artistically re-arranged to reflect a cosmic order. This demonstrated the artist's creativity. In this picture, Leonardo creates a fantastic grotto that appears to be entirely human-made.
It appears to be the result of natural forces: the rocks ribbed and polished by the constant circulation of water, present in the meandering river but sensed in the subaqueous light and as providing moisture for the plants - each meticulously recorded - that grow thickly but are pale.
Madonna Litta by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio and Leonardo da Vinci
The Madonna lactans is a devotional topic that shows the Virgin Mary breastfeeding the Christ child.
The figures are positioned in a gloomy interior with two arched arches, similar to Leonardo's earlier Madonna of the Carnation, and beyond them can be seen a mountainous scene in aerial perspective.
Christ carries a goldfinch in his left hand, which represents his impending Passion. Scholars disagree over the painting's attribution, with some suggesting it was created by a Leonardo disciple such as Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio or Marco d'Oggiono; the Hermitage Museum, on the other hand, believes it is an autograph work by Leonardo.
The picture is named after the House of Litta, a Milanese noble family who had it for a long time in the nineteenth century.
St John the Baptist by Leonardo da Vinci
St. John the Baptist was painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1513 and 1516, at the transition from the High Renaissance to Mannerism, and is thought to be his final work. This is a walnut wood oil painting. The sculpture was originally 69x57 cm in size.
It is now on display at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The importance of salvation through baptism, which John the Baptist represents, is symbolized by St. John's pointing motion toward the heavens. Later painters, particularly those of the late Renaissance and Mannerist schools, frequently reference the piece. Incorporating a gesture similar to John's would elevate the value of work with a religious bent.
Many people are skeptical of this painting, seeing it as a distressing portrayal of a character who is usually shown as gaunt and fiery, dwelling in the desert and subsisting on locusts and honey. St. John appears to be a hermaphrodite in Leonardo's artwork.
He has a womanish arm crossed across his breast, his finger lifted to heaven, and the same enigmatic smile seen on Mona Lisa's face, as well as in other Leonardo works such as St. Anne's. His face is almost faun-like, with a magnificent cascade of hair framing it. The finger pointing to heaven would occur frequently in Leonardo's work, indicating the arrival of Christ.
Mary Magdalene by Leonardo da Vinci
The painting depicts a half-clothed woman, with her breasts exposed on the upper side of her chest. This was once seen to be immoral and prostitute-like. A woman was expected to be morally upright, which included dressing appropriately.
Critics claim that the artwork of the Last Supper and Mary Magdalene are identical. Many believe Mary Magdalene is the woman depicted next to Jesus in Da Vinci's Last Supper picture. Leonardo had a talent for creating images that allowed the audience to interpret the message in their way.
Study for the head of Leda by Leonardo da Vinci
A depiction of a woman's head rotated three quarters left and staring down. The hair is braided in intricate patterns and put in coils around the ears.
This is a study for Leda's head in the lost Leda and the Swan painting. Melzi's number is twelve. Leda, Queen of Sparta, was seduced by Jupiter in the form of a swan and carried two eggs, each of which birthed twins, according to Greek mythology.
Leonardo worked on two versions of a Leda and the Swan composition, one in which she kneels and the other in which she stands, eventually painting the standing version (destroyed around 1700). Here, Leonardo paid little heed to her demure downward gaze, instead focusing on the most difficult of hairstyles. The top of her head is covered with parallel plaits, with an interlacing pattern at the temples.
Saint Anne, her daughter the Virgin Mary, and the infant Jesus are shown in this painting. As the Virgin tries to stop Christ, he is portrayed wrestling with a sacrifice lamb signifying his Passion.
The work was commissioned as the high altarpiece for Florence's Santissima Annunziata Church, and Leonardo had been thinking about it for a long time. On closer inspection, Leonardo's picture is both pleasant and tranquil, but also perplexing.
The three figures are arranged in a compact composition, with the Virgin Mary engaging with the child Jesus. Mary is sitting on Saint Anne's lap, as may be seen by a closer inspection of their positions. It's unknown what this could represent or what message Leonardo was trying to send with that position.
There are no obvious parallels in other works of art, and women sitting on each other's lap are not a cultural or traditional reference to which the audience may relate. Furthermore, while neither the Mother Virgin nor Saint Anne's exact sizes are known, it is clear from the painting that Saint Anne is a much larger person than Mary.
Despite the apparent lack of visual indications indicating Saint Anne's older age that would otherwise identify her as the mother, Leonardo used this faint yet observable size distortion to emphasize the mother–daughter relationship between the two figures. A lamb is held by the child. Mary is also seen gazing into the eyes of her child, while Saint Anne is looking at Mary.
Leonardo may have been aiming to make a message about their relationship and personalities by having Mary sit on her lap and Saint Anne looking at her.
Madonna of the Carnation by Leonardo da Vinci
Jesus reaches clumsily for the flower held tenderly in Mary's hand in Madonna of the Carnation. He appears to be unable to control his motions, as all infants do, as he tries to grab the sign of the Passion.
It has a Venetian flavor and a projected date of circa 1469, showing strong similarities to Madonna with the Carnation. This is the same year as Verrocchio's visit to Venice, which was closely followed by Leonardo's.
This picture, also known as the Munich Madonna or the Madonna with the Vase because of the vase of flowers beside her, dates from 1478-1480 and is regarded one of Leonardo's earliest independent works.
Although many researchers disagree on this point, other factors support the theory. Some of the intricacies in the Virgin's face may be seen in one of his drawings, and the hair, Madonna's left hand, landscape, drapes, and the cushion on which the infant is seated are all typical of Leonardo, as is the use of chiaroscuro.
Madonna of the Yarnwinder by Leonardo da Vinci
This tiny picture was completed by Leonardo, but the original is likely gone. There are several copies still in existence, and there is considerable conjecture that two of them are by Leonardo himself, although this is still up for question, and they might just as easily have come from gifted classmates. Because a letter from April of that year reveals Leonardo working on Madonna of the Yarnwinder, the original piece can be safely dated to 1501.
This picture has one of the most interesting and complete sketches Leonardo has created; a close examination reveals that the piece is based on geometric figures such as triangles and ellipses.
The Royal Collection at Windsor Castle also has an exquisite red chalk depiction of the Madonna's head and shoulders. The winder in this work, meant for Florimond Robertet, Secretary to the King of France, is designed like a cross, symbolizing Christ's Passion and impending death. Mary looks to be trying to take the Child away from the emblem of His future, but she is unable to stop the Crucifixion, which is a part of His fate.
The settings change drastically between the two pictures, with one depicting a severe mountain range beneath a vibrant blue sky and the other running down to the sea. Leonardo drew dozens of studies of small children in preparation for paintings that included the Christ child or the infant St. John the Baptist.
The majority of his children are between the ages of nine and eighteen months, all are presented naked, and all appear identical enough to make the observer wonder whether each painting was modeled by the same child. Unfortunately, Madonna with the Carnation has deteriorated considerably, and the surface has taken on a leathery appearance as a result of a faulty restoration; this is notably noticeable on the Madonna's face.
King Louis XII of France and his consort, Anne of Brittany, may have commissioned Leonardo to create Salvator Mundi.
It was most likely commissioned soon after Milan and Genoa were conquered. The 26-inch oil-on-panel artwork features a half-length figure of Christ as Savior of the World facing forward and dressed in Renaissance-era attire.
Leonardo depicts Christ as he is described in John 4:14 of the Gospel of John: 'And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the World.' Christ, softly bearded with auburn ringlets and holding a crystal sphere in his left hand while bestowing benediction with his right, stares fixedly at the viewer.
Salvator Mundi was said to have been destroyed at one point. The picture was lost from 1763 until 1900, when Sir Charles Robinson purchased it and identified it as a work by Bernardino Luini, a Leonardo admirer. In 1958, it was auctioned at a Sotheby's in England, where it sold for £45 (about $125 at the time). It then vanished until 2005, when it was purchased at a modest American auction house.
Head of a Woman by Leonardo da Vinci
It was painted in oil, umber, and white lead paints on a small poplar wood panel, and its attribution is still debated, with numerous scholars claiming it was done by a Leonardo student.
The picture has been praised for its alluring beauty, secretive demeanor, and sfumato expertise.
The theme, date, history, and purpose of the picture are all disputed. It depicts an unidentified woman looking down, her hair filling the frame behind her. Many theories have been presented about the painting, including that it is a sketch for an unfinished painting of Saint Anne.
Bacchus by Leonardo da Vinci
John the Baptist was initially featured in the picture. It was overpainted and renovated in the late 17th century, between 1683 and 1693, to serve as Bacchus.
The suavely beautiful, youthful, and slightly androgynous Giovannino was so at odds with artistic conventions in portraying the Baptist – neither the older ascetic prophet nor the Florentine baby Giovannino, but a type of Leonardo's invent – that Cassiano dal Pozzo remarked of the painting in its former state, which he saw at Fontainebleau in 1625, that it had neither devotion, decorum, nor similitude.
By transforming the long-handled cross-like staff of the Baptist to a Bacchic thyrsus and adding a vine wreath, the overpainting changed the figure of St. John into that of a pagan deity.
The fur robe is a John the Baptist heirloom, but it has been overpainted with leopard-spots, which, like the wreath, are associated with Bacchus, the Roman god of alcohol and intoxication.
La Belle Ferronniere by Leonardo da Vinci
Ludovico Sforza's first mistress, Cecilia Gallerani, was depicted by Leonardo as Lady with an Ermine.
The Duke would later have another mistress, Lucrezia Crivelli, and it is believed that she is the subject of this picture. Another possibility, albeit less widely recognized, is that this artwork depicts Isabella of Aragon. This could be Leonardo's work or it could not.
The woman's features are bigger and heavier than those found in Leonardo's portraits, and the attitude is stiff, which is unusual for him. "One would regret having to accept this as Leonardo's work," Bernard Berenson once observed of this image.
The knotted ribbons on her shoulders and the cords around her neck, which are similar to Leonardo's style, are cited by those who believe this is a real Leonardo. It's possible that this painting was done by an apprentice, or that Leonardo was forced to produce a traditional Milanese courtly portraiture at the whim of his patron; custom demanded an unnatural pose like the one shown in this painting.
As illustrated in this piece, it also placed a high value on extravagant clothing, jewelry, and other embellishments. Another possibility is that this was a collaborative piece involving multiple painters from the School of Leonardo and based on his design.
Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci's painting Lady with an Ermine dates from approximately 1489-1490. The oil on the walnut board painting measures 40.3 cm wide by 54.8 cm high. Regrettably, the original backdrop was presumably covered in the 17th century. Cecilia Gallerani is the subject of the painting, which was most likely painted while she was the mistress of Lodovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, while Leonardo was in his service.
Lady with an Ermine has had a lot of paint applied to it. The entire background was darkened, her outfit behind the ermine was retouched, and the woman's transparent veil was repainted to match her hair color.
The final retouching has given the impression that her hair reaches down and beneath her chin. Another change was the inclusion of black shadows between her right hand's fingers; a close examination of the bottom two fingers reveals that they are far inferior to the others after being repainted by an unknown restorer. In the original background of this picture, an x-ray showed the presence of a door. Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most important works in Western art.
Only a few genuine panel paintings of his have survived. Leonardo, who was insatiably curious, frequently painted with experimental materials or abandoned projects after mastering the formal challenges they posed.
The Lady with an Ermine, a work of extreme rarity, is a stunning image of perfect beauty that demonstrates Leonardo da Vinci's exceptional artistic genius.
La Bella Principessa by Leonardo da Vinci
La Bella Principessa (English: "The Beautiful Princess"), also known as Portrait of Bianca Sforza, Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress, and Portrait of a Young Fiancée, is a vellum portrait in colored chalks and ink of a young lady dressed in fashionable costume and hairstyle of a Milanese of the 1490s.
It has been credited to Leonardo da Vinci by certain researchers, although the attribution, as well as the work's validity, have been questioned. Although radiocarbon dating studies suggest a considerably older age for the vellum, some who disagree with the attribution to Leonardo believe the portrait is by an early 19th-century German artist mimicking the manner of the Italian Renaissance. It's been called a forgery as well.
The white lead has a provenance of at least 225 years. In 1998, the art was auctioned for just under $22,000, and its present owner, Peter Silverman, purchased it in 2007. He has pushed for Leonardo's attribution, which is backed up by scholars Martin Kemp and Pascal Cotte's research.
Portrait of Ginevra de' Benci by Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci produced a portrait of Ginevra de' Benci circa 1474-1476. It measures 42 x 37 cm (16 1/2 x 14 1/2 in.) and is painted on wood.
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC today owns it, and it is the only Leonardo painting in the Americas. Ginevra de' Benci, a lady of the aristocracy in 15th-century Florence, was praised by Florentine contemporaries for her brilliance.
She is the subject of just about 17 Leonardo da Vinci paintings that have survived. This lady appears sulky, unforgiving, and arrogant, in contrast to Leonardo's other female portraits; this is highlighted by the slightly smaller cast of one eye, which makes her appear withdrawn.
Her left eye appears to be looking directly at us, while her right eye appears to be looking beyond some intangible point. Ginevra has shaved her brows, as had other Florentine ladies of the time (this is also obvious in the Mona Lisa). Perhaps her look hinted at her dissatisfaction with her impending marriage.
She would eventually go into self-imposed exile in order to recover from a severe illness, as well as be plagued by an ill-fated love affair. The flowing ringlets of her hair frame the marble aspect of her complexion, which Leonardo polished with his own hand.
This then contrasts brilliantly with the juniper bush's halo of spikes. Leonardo used layered oil glazes to create a thin veil of mist in the backdrop of this painting, known as sfumato. Despite the fact that Leonardo did not invent this effect, he became famous for his masterful application of it.
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