Artibus et Historiae no. 82 (XLI)2020, ISSN 0391-9064
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JOSEPH F. GREGORY - Reframing an Icon: Leonardo’s Paris Virgin of the Rocks and the Economy of Salvation (pp. 25–73)
Leonardo’s iconic Virgin of the Rocks (Paris, Louvre) has been the subject of a great many archival revelations, interpretive campaigns, and technological examinations for more than a century, and yet no entirely convincing account of its iconographical program has been achieved. This is due not only to the piecemeal interpretive approach of previous scholars, but – even more importantly – to the ubiquitous assumption that the panel depicts a particularly Florentine form of late Quattrocento Adoration scene in which the infant Baptist is shown venerating the infant Christ in the company of the Virgin. The present study challenges this fundamental assumption by offering a new account of the panel’s core narrative – maintaining that it represents a prefiguration of the Baptism of Christ – and supporting this contention by means of a close reading of the composition’s overall structure, expressive forms, and individual motifs, as well as its relationships to relevant texts and ideas, patronage and citing, and what has been learned of its gestation through technological examination. This exhaustive interpretive approach reveals a thoroughly unified and systematic historia that positions the essential function of the Immaculate Conception within an entirely orthodox understanding of the economy of salvation.