It has been 18 long months since one of the crowning jewels of the National Gallery, London has seen the light of day but last week, Leonardo DaVinci’s masterpiece The Virgin of the Rocks finally returned to its place in the museum’s Sainsbury wing.
The restoration of the painting began in November of 2008 after several years of intensive study led scholars to the decision that varnish that was applied in 1948–9 was unstable and prone to yellowing and therefore ruining the ability of the viewer to fully appreciate the depth of the work. The resulting restored work reveals much of Leonardo’s shading and has brightened the colors (as seen above).
The restoration also revealed that the long held belief that Leonardo had much of this painting completed by his studio may be wrong and that in fact was the sole author of this work, which was done over a number of years and never fully completed (note the sketched hand of the angel). This new theory goes along with what we know of Leonardo’s personality, which held little patience and was always skipping ahead to new works and ideas.
The restoration was undertaken by Larry Keith, the new Director of Conservation, working in collaboration with the picture’s curator, Luke Syson, and the Scientific Department, under the direction of Ashok Roy. There were also discussions and exchanges with colleagues from several other institutions in Europe and America, including the Louvre, which has an extensive Leonardo collection that includes the earlier version of ‘The Virgin of the Rocks’. – Art Knowledge News