La Madonna di Litta: Leonardo at the National Gallery

31 Jan

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since I heard this painting was going to be in London…

… and now there’s only a week left!

If you have the chance to see it, then grab it! The exhibition at the National Gallery closes on February 5 and I’m guessing all the tickets are long gone. But maybe you’ll be lucky.

I practically stumbled across the Madonna Litta 8 years ago, in the Doges Palace in Venice. We wanted to see this amazing building anyway, but hearing there were exhibitions by Hieronymous Bosch, and Da Vinci was the cherry on the icing on the cake (the cake being getting to go to Venice in the first place, the icing being the fact that it was dry and sunny, and yet practically deserted, 2 weeks before Christmas).

But hey, the Doges Palace isn’t called a palace for nothing. That place is enormous! My friend and I wandered from hall to room, to corridor, to staircase, to no avail. We saw The Garden of Earthly Delights. It was amazing. And even more disturbing in the flesh than in the pages of a book.

Still, no Leonardo. After 2 hours of meadnering through gilded rooms and past masterpiece after masterpiece we gave up and headed for the exit.

On our way out, we spied a blue velvet curtain, the colour of the Red Sea. The thickest velvet I’d ever seen, hanging across a door, quietly minding its own business.

We stepped over a rope, and pushed through the curtain and into near darkness. The space was cloaked from floor to ceiling in the same blue velvet. And there she was.

We were the only people in the room. We got so close we could see the colour of her eyes. We held our breath in awe. It was, is beautiful. One of the most exquisite things I have ever seen.

It was a pretty incredible holiday. But looking back, eight years later, that was still, definitely, the best moment by far.

The irony, of course, is that, while Leonardo sketched the Madonna’s head for the painting, it was probably finished by one of his pupils, Boltraffio. Does knowing it isn’t by a master stop it from being a masterpiece?

Well, anyone could have painted it. It would still take your breath away. Like I said, go see it if you can.

This is just one of the reasons I loved Venice by the way. We were very very lucky!

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