Leonardo da Vinci

The Madonna of the Yarnwinder

About this artwork

An unusually large Christ Child is seated on a rocky outcrop beside his mother, gazing intently at a cross-shaped yarnwinder as if already aware of his future crucifixion. The Virgin’s tender expression and hesitant gesture reinforce the poignancy of the scene. This panel is probably identical with one described in a letter of 1501 sent to Isabella d’Este, Marchioness of Mantua, from her agent in Florence. This states that Leonardo was painting it for Florimond Robertet, a French minister and diplomat who had close ties to Italy. Leonardo was notorious for failing to complete works, and it is unlikely that’ the painting was ever actually delivered to Robertet. Scholars disagree about the extent of Leonardo’s involvement in the painting, but it is likely that the overall design, and the execution of the figures and the foreground rocks, are entirely his. The landscape behind was probably added by another artist, covering one sketched in by Leonardo but never finished. In 2003 the painting was stolen from Drumlanrig Castle, the Duke of Buccleuch’s Dumfriesshire residence, but was fortunately recovered in 2007.

Updated before 2020

  • artist:
    Leonardo da VinciItalian (1452 - 1519)
  • title:
    The Madonna of the Yarnwinder
  • date created:
    About 1501
  • materials:
    Oil on panel
  • measurements:
    62.00 x 44.00 cm (framed: 64.00 x 48.70 x 8.00 cm)
  • object type:
  • credit line:
    Long loan in The Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust, 2008
  • accession number:
    NGL 002.08
  • gallery:
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Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci