Secret Drawings Discovered Underneath Da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks


The National Gallery in London is one of the most culturally valuable collections humankind has to offer. Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’ is probably the most prized masterpiece in the gallery, with countless people visiting the establishment just to see it.

In 2008, the legendary painting underwent a major restoration. Through the extensive scientific analysis, it was discovered that Leonardo’s vision for ‘Virgin of the Rocks’ drastically evolved during the painting process. A hidden composition was first started by Leonardo and then abandoned. It remained hidden under the famous painting for all those years.

While the drawing, as we know it today, displays Jesus to the right of his mother, originally, the artist had another composition in mind; the earlier draft shows the infant in the arms of the angel on her left. The angel also does not seem to have as many curls in her hair.

“In the abandoned composition both figures are positioned higher up, while the angel, facing out, is looking down on the Infant Christ with what appears to be a much tighter embrace,” the gallery explained in a press release.

The painting as we know today

Here you can see the sketches that show what the artist originally had in mind

Madonna of the Rocks

The original draft is clear below

“The drawings were rendered in a zinc-based pigment, which allowed them to be picked up by techniques like macro X-ray fluorescence mapping and hyperspectral imaging.”

“Detail from hyperspectral imaging data, revealing the drawing for the angel and baby of the first composition- under the landscape at the right side of the painting. (via mymodernmet)


The painting also has handprints where either Leonardo or an assistant patted down the canvas with paint according to London’s National Gallery.

Virgin of the Rocks

“These new images were found because the drawings were made in a material that contained some zinc, so it could be seen in the macro x-ray fluorescence (MA-XRF) maps showing where this chemical element was present, and also through new infrared and hyperspectral imaging,” the gallery explained.