Virgin of the rocks a smash hit

Wed, 11/09/2005 - 05:22

(ANSA) - An exhibition showing for the first time Leonardo Da Vinci's third and little-known Virgin of the Rocks is the smash hit of Italy's autumn cultural season.

In just three weeks the show has attracted thousands of visitors to this unsung Marche city, as well as drawing media attention from all over the world.

Among the media organs which have featured the exhibition are the BBC, the Iran Daily, the China Daily, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf, Austrian daily De Standard, Argentinian newspaper La Capital, Brazilian paper Correio da Manha and the Oman Observer.

The Ancona show features one of the Renaissance master's very few female nudes.

But its unchallenged highlight is the unseen Virgin of the Rocks.

Found three years ago in a private Swiss collection, it is believed to have been painted by the master and his workshop from 1494 to 1497 - between two more famous versions, one now in the Louvre and the other in London's National Gallery.

According to the world's top Leonardo expert Carlo Pedretti, the so-called Ceheramy Madonna "is wholly similar to the one in the Louvre."

The other 'pezzo forte' of the show is a nude painting of Mary Magdalene.

The picture was previously attributed to Leonardo's pupil Giampietrini.

But Pedretti says the work - only recently recovered from another private collection - shows "clear signs" of the master's hand at work just four years before his death. The show also features drawings and sketches donated by collections in Venice and Florence.

They include a rare portrait of Leonardo and two copies of Leonardo's lost fresco the Battle of Anghiari, which recent studies suggest may lie hidden behind a wall in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio.

The exhibition aims to relaunch Ancona as a destination for culture tourists.

Entitled Leonardo, Genius and Vision in the Marche, it also traces Leonardo's links to the region.

In fact, it illustrates Leonardo's work at the Ducal Palace in Urbino as part of Cesare Borgia's visiting retinue in 1502, and his major engineering and port designs at Pesaro a few years later.

The show runs until January 15.