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the sight of the gropings and struggles which have led up to his triumph ; the work seems to have sprung into complete existence in a flash, and we could not desire or conceive it different in any one particular.
The colouring of the Saint Anne is clear, tender, sunny, full of pinks and blues, and tender carnations. It foreshadows Luini, Sodoma, Andrea del Sarto. The Virgin wears a reddish dress, the sleeves of a shade approaching blue, and a bluish mantle. (Positive colours very seldom appear in Leonardo's pictures. Everything, in his case, is relative and subjective. He must have had a foreknowledge of the laws of Daltonism.)
The landscape is light and hazy. Towards the centre, on the right, stands a clump of trees (ashes ?) fuller and leafier than those of the primitive masters, but treated in quite as poetic a style. (Leonardo kept his youth so long !) They have the same smooth trunks, crowned by sparse, quivering foliage, showing the deep Italian sky beyond. My readers will, I am sure, be glad that I should place before them, in this connection, some remarks on Leonardo's landscape art, furnished by my friend M. Emile Michel, whose opinion carries double weight, as being that both of an artist and an art critic. “ Like Mantegna," writes M. Michel, “ Leonardo holds that even as a background to pictures, the mere reproduction of nature does not offer sufficient interest. He searches out strange features, and in one and the same work he will bring together, without much air of probability, such curiosities of picturesque scenery as seem to him likely to appeal to the spectator's curiosity.
“The weird landscape that stretches behind La Gioconda certainly does add to the mysterious fascination of that enigmatic figure. The treacherous country, with its jagged peaks and deep waters and winding passes, the leaden sky, the threatening elements, frame the siren's beauty in most expressive fashion.
“The same background of bare bluish peaks appears in the Saint Anne, overlooking a far more smiling landscape, with waters that spread in rushing cascades amongst the trees and brown spaces of earth. The strangeness of these backgrounds of Leonardo's is increased by the fact that the details of his foregrounds are, as a rule, faithfully taken from nature, and reproduced with the scrupulous care and skill in which no artist has ever equalled him. In the Saint Anne, every pebble on the ground has been separately and minutely studied. In the Virgin of the Rocks, which displays, through the fantastic openings of the grotto in which the Virgin is placed, the same mountainous country, crowned with sharp bristling peaks, Leonardo has adorned the foreground of his picture with lovingly painted ferns, irises, cyclamens, and borage, springing out of the rocky crevices."
Raphael, who exhausted the whole series of groupings to which the representation of the Virgin and Child could possibly give birth, never ventured, but once, to attempt an arrangement which, though eminently suited to pictorial expression, was likely in some cases to offend the spectator's sense of propriety.
In the famous picture in the Madrid Museum, known as La Perla, he shows us the Virgin half resting on the lap of S. Anne, with one arm round her mother's neck. In the Holy Family in the Naples Museum (The Virgin with the long Thigh), S. Anne is seated beside her daughter, with her arm round the Virgin's neck. But this pose is a very natural one.
But Raphael borrowed more than this from the Saint Anne. In another Holy Family, in the Madrid Museum—an exquisite little picture dated 1506, or 1507—the Infant Jesus is copied almost exactly from Leonardo's picture.
By his triumphs, then, and by his errors, Leonardo, as we see, wielded the mightiest influence over his contemporaries, and amongst them, upon masters of such calibre as Raphael himself. Never, it may safely be said, was any man’s artistic work more suggestive, for never was any such work founded on a more intimate communion with nature, the eternal source of all inspiration and all beauty.