Leonardo da Vinci, (1452-1519)
Virgin and Child with Cat
Florence, Italy, around 1478-81
Height: 130 mm
Width: 94 mm
A drawing on Paper
Drawn with a quill pen and iron-gall ink.
British Museum, London
The drawing shows the seated Virgin holding the Christ Child on her right knee. The Child in turn grasps a cat which struggles to escape. The forms twist and turn within the space defined by the thin line of an arch. The moving figures form a triangle or pyramid. At the top left of the sheet, the outline of a clock suggests that the sketch was a study for the Virgin and Child in a domestic setting.
Leonardo made a number of drawings of this theme, but no painting of the Virgin and Child with Cat survives. Instead, the geometry and balance of the composition and sense of movement became characteristic of his High Renaissance style.