Leonardo da Vinci: Geologic Representations in the Virgin and Child with St. Anne
by Ann C. Pizzorusso
Da Vinci Press
book review by Jonah Meyer
"Geological complexity demonstrates Leonardo’s ongoing efforts to achieve an astounding level of sophistication not only in portrayal of natural objects and figures but in his painting techniques as well."
In her book of art history, Italian Renaissance scholar and geologist Pizzorusso examines Leonardo da Vinci's famed painting Virgin and Child with St. Anne. Estimated to have been painted between 1501 and 1517, the painting depicts a scene of Christ as a child clutching a sacrificial lamb while the Virgin mother reaches toward him. Meanwhile, her mother, St. Anne, glances upon them both. Pizzorusso examines the painting's mystique, which she says evokes a strong sense of "beauty, mystery and empathy."
As da Vinci studied the landscape particulars of the Alpine mountains in the Veneto, he recorded meticulous notations in his journals. Pizzorusso makes the case—providing ample visual and scientific evidence—that the Dolomites' specific topological features greatly influenced the natural settings employed in the work. Pizzorusso writes of "warm, earth-tone colors adjacent to the panoramic, majestic massifs," rendered in cool blues and grays. Further, agate and jasper rock formations are examined in the painting, as well as botanical analysis of the region and its representation in the da Vinci masterpiece.
Full of absolutely gorgeous glossy color photographs of the terrain in this northeastern range of the Alps, Pizzorusso's work is at once both scholarly and accessible to the layperson. Her descriptions of the majesty of these mountains are beautifully rendered. Divided by meadows, the land also features iconic isolated lakes formed over the centuries by melting glaciers—all features distinctive of the area. The author achieves excellence with highly detailed and engaging depictions both in the text (which in some parts reads quite like poetry) as well as through generous inclusion of visual representations, including photography and actual historical documentary notations and sketches of da Vinci himself.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review
A new book exploring the symbols and esoteric meaning attributed to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting the Virgin and Child with St. Anne has just been released by geologist and Renaissance scholar, Ann C. Pizzorusso. The book, entitled “Leonardo da Vinci: Geologic Representations in the Virgin and Child with St. Anne”, debuted at #1 in the nature category and #4 in the European art category on Amazon Kindle.
The author explores the speculation surrounding the painting by historians and occultists ever since it was painted circa 1501-1517. In it, the Christ child is shown clutching a sacrificial lamb, symbol of His Passion, while the Virgin reaches over to restrain Him and her mother, St. Anne, looks upon them wistfully.
Art critics, psychiatrists and medical doctors are among the many who have been fascinated with this painting. Each has interpreted it to reflect his own profession: Bernard Berenson, the art critic, disliked the composition because it appeared as if St. Anne was crouching, Sigmund Freud found deep psychological implications in the representation of the Virgin and St. Anne, and a medical doctor imagined seeing ensanguined embryos in the pebbles below St. Anne’s foot. According to art historian Patrice Boussel: “Many consider the St. Anne a treasure trove of esoterica and occult wonders; some see in it the expanding cosmos and an all-embracing system of beliefs”.
Yet when the author, a geologist and scholar of Leonardo da Vinci read these opinions, she became curious. She knew that when Leonardo left Florence for Milan in 1482, he spent considerable time exploring the Alps and in 1500 when he arrived in the Veneto region, he became fascinated with the Dolomites, part of the northestern Alps.
She immediately recognized the land forms and unique geology of the area depicted in the painting. Her sluething allowed her to address the many myths associated with the work and explain them using geology.
An in depth review of geologist Ann C. Pizzorusso's book "Leonardo da Vinci: Geologic Representations in the Virgin and Child with St. Anne" reveals the marvelous multi-disciplinary genius of Leonardo.