Madonna of the Yarnwinder (The Lansdowne Madonna)

Madonna of the Yarnwinder (The Lansdowne Madonna) 1501-07

This is one of two versions of the same subject associated with Leonardo. The artist was documented as working on a small picture of this subject in 1501, after his return to Milan from Florence, for the French Secretary of State, Florimond Robertet. It is not clear which of the two paintings went to Robertet, but he appears to have received his picture in Blois in 1507.

The theme of the painting, which is likely to have been made for private devotional purposes, focuses on the mother’s love for her child, showing her gazing down at her son, and on the future passion of Christ. Jesus is completely preoccupied with a yarn-winder which, by virtue of its similarity to a crucifix, is regarded as a symbol of his death.

Mary with her right hand raised in protection, seems to want to draw the child back from the yarn-winder. But the child turns away from his mother’s loving gaze, as his entire attention is focused on the symbol of his future passion.

  • Medium Oil on wood panel (transferred to canvas and later re-laid on panel)
  • Size 50.2 x 36.4 cm
  • Location Private collection

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