The Holy Infants Embracing

The Holy Infants Embracing

The Holy Infants Embracing is one of many works ascribed to Leonardo da Vinci. It is thought to represent the infant Christ embracing his cousin John the Baptist. The subject matter relates to the two paintings of the Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo and numerous other Renaissance works by Raphael and others of the meeting of the two children on the road to Egypt while escaping the Massacre of the Innocents.

History of the painting

The painting had been 'lost' for almost 100 years. It was viewed in 1854 and described as "a very fine work", but very dark. In 1807 it was sold as a Leonardo da Vinci and fetched 280 guineas. William Beckford sold it and Alexander Baring (Baron Ashburton) bought it from an intermediary shortly afterwards.

In 1978 the painting was bought at auction in London for less than $2,000. A 2007 special titled "Da Vinci's Lost Code" on the Discovery Channel, featuring an interview with Dutch art dealer who bought it, stated the figure was $1500. By late 1979 it had been viewed by a number of experts and a comparison made with the Virgin of the Rocks in the National Gallery, London, painted by Leonardo to fulfil a commission to the Confraternity of the Immacculate Conception, and probably also worked on by other hands, in particular the de Predis brothers with whom the commission was shared. Another version of the work exists in the Royal Collection and is ascribed to Leonardo's pupil Marco d'Oggiono.

According to Stephen Holmes, who has written a book "The Lost Leonardo" (publication, 2007), the consensus among the experts was that it was from the same hand as the "Virgin of the Rocks" in London, and equal in quality. Holmes points out the fine handling of the details, in particular the expertly painted anemones in the foreground of the painting which strongly resemble those in the "Virgin of the Rocks". The painting has recently been the subject of a TV documentary ("Da Vinci's Lost Code" - Discovery Channel 14 May 2006 ) which examined the possibility that a number of versions of "The Holy Infants" painting were produced by various artists. Moreover, it hypothesised that whilst some were interpretations painted by various artists over the years, some may actually have been from the "da Vinci house" (ie. painted by da Vinci's pupils),which may or may not have been contributed to by Leonardo himself. main|Leonardo da Vinci|Virgin of the Rocks


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