Monday, February 16, 2015
Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci
Its story is based on the non-biblical accounts of John the Baptist fawning over Christ on the road from Egypt. According to the legend, when King Herod ordered the Massacre of Innocents the Holy Family fled to Egypt and came across their cousin John the Baptist (1). Uniquely Leonardo uses darker rocks in the background to highlight the faces of members making them brighter.
In the background is a odd set of rocks that are believed to be still in the river Arno near Florence that have nothing to do with the biblical region (2) . The entire picture seems more mystical than real and non-historical pieces of Leonardo's memory made it into the work. The group of childhood playmates are in a cave like dewelling. This could be seen as protection from the environment or in hiding from King Herod.
What made Leonardo da Vinci works unique was his ability to use symbolism in writing a story. Paintings were stories that had many layers of meaning depending how knowledgeable a person was of the historical events. Like today, paintings appeal to a sophisticated group because they are learned and schooled in history, religion, culture and art which provides levels of depth in understanding.
Even though there is great mysticism around Leonardo da Vinci and his works they are nevertheless captured stories of a time. As one becomes aware of the symbolism within each painting and its story it has wider appeal. For example, the palm leafs might represent victory while rushing water could represent change. The meanings are still debated among historians.
Art is loved for its ability to capture memories and impressions before the advent of the modern camera. One could write, tell, or put the stories into a picture. Paintings are stories and these stories were sought after by the wealthy to decorate their walls and entertain their guests. Religious institutions used such stories to help people remember some important event or evoke an emotion for spiritual movement. Either way, Leonardo da Vinci will continue to fascinate people for generations to come.