Da Vinci: Virgin of the Rocks

Leonardo demonstrates the technique of sfumanto in this painting, a method by which almost imperceptible gradations of light to dark are used. In this painting, a young Madonna kneels on the ground with her arm around the kneeling John the Baptist. Her left hand protects the seated Christ Child who acknowledges John's worship by blessing him. A kneeling angel completes the third side of a compositional triangle, and is shown steadying the Christ child. The painting is filled with scientifically identifiable rocks and plants. In contrast to the cave is the light from behind the Virgin which Leonardo said gave "grace to faces."