London, the Virgin of the Rocks is unveiled after restoration

"A baby is born again," wrote Jonathan Jones on yesterday The Guardian, describing the experience, the limits of the transcendental, lived in the National Gallery before the Vergine delle Rocce fresh restoration. This statement contains a certainty, which is that the same restorers: the painting – unlike what is argued by many experts – would undoubtedly work of the hand Leonardo, who would work personally, stroke on stroke, and without the help of the "young" to shop, but as many scholars have argued in the past. And if all this were true, there would then be in a London museum Leonardo doc, comparable to that of 'Last Supper and the Gioconda.

After 18 months of painstaking restoration work, since yesterday afternoon, the painting is returned to the floor of the gallery. Covered with a layer of paint in 1948, the painting was yellowed, was flat and not very vivid, as "trapped in amber." Today has been cleaned up and you can enjoy a much wider tonal range than before, especially in dark areas, volumes are better defined, the details of the vegetation exceptionally sharp. Furthermore, it seems that the restorers have included some of the secrets of Leonardo's work and not their full results are published online in the National Gallery Technical Bulletin

The Virgin of the Rocks after restoration with its frame © National Gallery, London

September 2011. But not all, the painting is now part of a "new" frame made by joining pieces of Italian frames of the time of Leonardo.

Interesting is the story that accompanies the picture, a story that raises many questions, as indeed do various works of Leonardo and his own life, who wrote the Vasari in the first draft of "Lives" (1550), was "surrounded by a halo ambiguous magic power of enchantments, not natural seduction. And if to explain the framework (especially the extraordinary backdrop of rocks, water, vegetation, mountains that stand in a sky glow), have called unconscious elements or even esoteric messages, and interpretations have occurred over time, the real mystery is in its implementation, even in their realization.

The Virgin of the Rocks in fact exists in two versions: one in London, and another exposed to Louvre, which is earlier. And this is the first little mystery. Why Leonardo, author of several "unfinished" has even decided to paint two times the Madonna and Child, St. John and an angel? In 1483 he was given the task of realizing what must be the central panel of an altarpiece 's altar of the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception in Milan. He was 31, had just arrived from Florence and it seems that carry out the work quickly enough. And 'this is the painting in the Louvre but has never been on' altare milanese because Leonardo, unhappy with the price, which followed a long diatribe with "brothers" decided to sell it, apparently the same Ludovico Sforza, promising to realize another – in times dilated – the Brotherhood. And he did, but in 25 years. The blade replacementtion, delivered in 1508, was still in Milan in the eighteenth century, when it was bought by the English painter Gavin Hamilton, who in 1880 sold it to the National Gallery.

The Virgin of the Rocks, between the first and the second version, the artist then lingers a quarter century. Meanwhile his life frantically chasing his creativity: painting masterpieces like 'Ultima Cena begins the Mona Lisa and the lost Battaglia di Anghiari, also try to fly over cha to give time and energy to its thousands of expressing scientific, but in a way or the painting that seems to restrain himself. Why then, given its commitments, not outstanding at times decent committee entrusted by the brethren of the Immaculate?

One of the editors who participated in the restoration, Luke Syson found the explanation, we resume the Guardian: "I worked for a long time, in spurts. Leonardo left Milan back, then goes away again. The work could not go on when Leonardo was not therewhy was he, not an assistant, to paint. " And return to this point the "certainty" initial, which will be further confirmed by a number of details emerged from the cleaning and wears the "signature" of the genius of Vinci, as – to name one – the silhouettes of palm trees returning nell'incompiuta Adorazione dei Magi: "The key to reconsider this picture is to understand that it's over. A copy is not performed well done to satisfy a client. – Said Syson - Some parts of the painting are like jewels, others are vague, but this does not seem to be a matter of teacher and student. It seems more the difference between Leonardo wants to bring something to perfection, and a Leonardo leaving those palm leaves to complete later.

And because the genius wanted to reserve to themselves the completion of the work that is yet to be discovered.

The Virgin of the Rocks after restoration © National Gallery, London

The Virgin of the Rocks before restoration © National Gallery, London

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