Leonardo's Madonna and Child with Saint Anne by Mary Elizabeth Podles

A Thousand Words

Leonardo's Madonna and Child with Saint Anne

by Mary Elizabeth Podles

The Madonna and Child with Saint Anne has long been regarded as a problem picture, not only for us but also for Leonardo. The iconography creates a fundamentally impossible visual dilemma: how to combine two adult figures and a small child into a dramatic and unified whole, giving each one equal weight and successfully conveying the theological concepts they traditionally stand for. Earlier solutions like Masaccio's (Figure 1) imposed a medieval hierarchy of scale and at . . .