Leonardo at London’s National Gallery

Recently visited London’s National Gallery – just to catch up on a few old friends – paintings that is and my priority was Leonardo’s ‘Cartoon’. ‘Cartoon  – a sketch, a preparatory drawing for a full scale painting – which incidentally Leonardo never completed for this work. Nevertheless the power of Leonardo’s deep understanding of the human psyche is there, probably more so as a drawing as you can see his every mark, undisguised by paint, colours or brush-strokes.


Look at how Jesus is pulling away from his mother whilst she reluctantly is letting him go to his destiny – and we all know what that was to be – he will, as we all do, die and Mary knows this. Mary has brought life and death into the world. He is growing up and pulling away and is already blessing John. Mary knows she must let him go as mothers do but with her arms and hands she is emotionally holding on to him. He is looking away to his future, with her eyes he is the only centre of her world. Mary’s mother Anne looks on in support, but there is nothing she can do to prevent the inevitable, as an older woman she knows the pain and grief of the empty nest.


Look at the composition: the direction of the heads, the gazes, the knees, the bodies twisting – and the relationship between all the physiques. All perfectly and beautifully executed.