London's National Gallery reports a finding Leonardo Da Vinci's painting Virgin of the Rocks that is far from what Dr. Carolline Campbell, director of Collections and Research called an "innovative finding." Oddly, tucked in the news story reported by Hyperallergic is a far bigger finding.

Supposed find

Using advanced technology, the Brit's so-called discovery is a drawing detected under the painting.

As Hyperallergic put it, the National Gallery research "revealed unexpected images of hidden drawings lying underneath its surface.". "Unexpected"? "Hidden"? Why is it newsworthy that Da Vinci sketched out a plan for his painting? Don't figurative painters do this routinely - especially this painter who took such pains with his work? Historian Giorgio Vasari, who was also Da Vinci's contemporary, wrote at length about this artist's agonizing creative process.

Old news

Vasari noted what he called "the extremes that Da Vinci went to in his anxiety to achieve perfection." This would account for why he seldom finished anything. On a job for the Dominicans of Santa Maria in Milan to picture the Last Supper, "the prior tried to hurry him, puzzled by the artist's habit of spending half a day at a time contemplating..." The work was never finished. Da Vinci also filled notebooks with drawings of man and beast.

Why, then, would National Gallery researchers be so astonished that they found a drawing under Virgin of the Rocks - especially since scholars said that the composition of his painting was altered back in 2005. The National Gallery simply saw the drawing more clearly with infrared technology.

Big discovery

Now here's what the Brits mentioned in their announcement in Hyperallrgicas as if a were a mere factoid: the drawing shows Mary with a halo over her head, which is nowhere to be seen in the painting.

Clearly, Da Vinci changed his picture from religious to secular. The only way you know the painting is about religion is because you know the story of the Virgin, Saint John, the Christ child, and an angel. If you didn't know it, the painting would look like one of a family enjoying a picnic in the shade of a grotto.

Wrong question

The difference between the drawing and the painting is huge, wouldn't you say?

Yet, according to the Hyperallergic report. "Leonardo's motivation to rework the canvas is still unclear to researchers." Why is it unclear? The Daily Mail likewise reports ``the researchers' question: "Why Lenardo abandoned this first composition still remains a mystery." What's so mysterious? After all, the painting was made in the middle of the15th century when the Renaissance was all the rage, and humanism rather than heaven was the main idea.

No longer focused on the subject of Medieval art, when the Virgin and Child were depicted in unearthly ways - stiff and rendered in gold - Renaissance artists were commonly known to portrayed religious figures as human and natural. So you have to wonder if the National Gallery researchers know their art history.

Dr. Caroline Campbell, who directs the National Gallery collections, seemed to be making an excuse when she said, "By its very nature, much of the research we do at the National Gallery takes place in closed studios, laboratories, and libraries."

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