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This is the first book dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci’s commission for The Virgin of the Rocks. Leonardo completed fewer than twenty paintings in his lifetime, yet he returned twice to this same mysterious subject over the course of a twenty-five year period. Identical in terms of iconography, stylistically these paintings are worlds apart. The first, of c.1482-4, was Leonardo’s magnum opus, catapulting the young artist from obscurity to fame. When, in 1508, he finished the second painting, he was nearing the end of his artistic career and had become an international celebrity. Why did he revisit The Virgin of the Rocks? What was the meaning behind the cavernous subterranean landscape? What lies behind the colder monumentality of the second version? This book opens up Leonardo’s world, setting the scene in Republican Florence and the humanist court of the Milanese warlord Ludovico Sforza, to answer these questions. Through lyrical yet scholarly analyses of Leonardo’s paintings, notebooks and technical experimentation, it unveils the secret realms of human dissection and Neo-Platonic philosophy that inspired the creation of the two masterpieces. In doing so, the book reveals that The Virgin of the Rocks holds the key to the greatest philosophical, scientific and personal transformations of Leonardo’s life. Images and links to figures are available at www.virginoftherocks.com.