Litta Madonna - by Leonardo da Vinci

Though a drawing exists to connect Leonardo with this painting its attribution to Leonardo has been a great source of controversy. There is little doubt he had a hand in the unsigned Litta Madonna, but it is awkwardly composed and more than likely was completed by his pupil Boltraffio, around 1480-1490.

The tilt of the Madonna's head is typical of Leonardo and there also exists a drawing of this portion of the painting which is definitely by his hand. However, scholars who have studied the painting point out that the Christ Child bears little resemblance to others Leonardo produced. It is therefore likely that Leonardo designed the pose for this work -- and completed the Virgin's head -- with the rest of the painting being completed by another artist, perhaps Boltraffio, under the supervision of the master.

This work shows the Madonna suckling the Christ Child. Note the lack of halos in this painting; several Madonnas attributed to Leonardo display this same trait.

Litta Madonna passed from the hands of the Vicontis into the Litta family of Milan and takes its name from them. After this it was purchased by a Tsar; then in 1865 by Emperor Alexander II added it to the Hermitage where it was transferred from wood to canvas. At this point in time it was completely repainted -- for the second time; the first repainting was done by an unknown Milanese artist in 1495.

Replicas of this painting are common, strongly indicating it was a famous composition. The painting is now displayed in the Hermitage Museum, in Saint Petersburg.