The newly discovered drawings were made using materials that contained zinc, enabling them to be seen in macro X-ray fluorescence maps. The scientific analysis of the painting also involved new infrared and hyperspectral imaging. Research conducted in 2004 and 2005 showed that the Virgin’s pose had been altered, but revealed little evidence of other changes to the painting. An 18-month restoration of the work began in 2008 and it was returned to public display in 2010.
The National Gallery’s The Virgin on the Rocks
is Leonardo’s second version of the painting (though some have questioned
its attribution to the Renaissance master). Many experts theorized that Leonardo’s clients were not satisfied with the original painting, causing him or an assistant to repaint it. A version
from the 1480s belongs to the Louvre.
The National Gallery announced the discovery of the hidden drawings ahead of a new exhibition focusing on The Virgin of the Rocks, set to open November 9th, as part of a global slate of shows marking the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. The show, taking up the museum’s ground floor galleries, will invite visitors to explore the ways Leonardo’s research and scientific studies informed his paintings.