21 Leonardo da Vinci Paintings: A Digital Exhibition & Explanation

Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian polymath is widely known for his art of painting. Here are 21 paintings by the artist, the world knows about.

Leonardo da Vinci Paintings

The words are not trenchant enough when I start describing the geniuses of Leonardo da Vinci. Reading about his life by his oldest biographers, seeing through the thousands of sketches and several paintings, made me realize that somewhere Leonardo was a curious-minded man, who went after every single thing to keep himself updated with all kinds of information. Let me prove this formative character to you through one of his fascinating personal memories recorded. One time, Leonardo was hiking near Florence, and came across a dark cave. At the entrance of this cave, he pondered whether he should enter it. He records, “Having wandered some distance among gloomy rocks. I came to the mouth of a great cavern, in front of which I stood some time, astonished. Bending back and forth, I tried to see whether I could discover anything inside, but the darkness within prevented that. Suddenly, there arose in me two contrary emotions, fear, and desire- fear of the threatening dark cave, desire to see whether there were any marvelous thing within.” After this prevailing thought in his mind, as desire won, Leonardo went into the cave. As soon as he entered, he saw a fossil of the whale. He notes,”Oh mighty and once-living instrument of nature, your vast strength was to no avail.” When Leonardo told this to other people, many thought he was just blabbering fantasy stuff. Not only them, but many of his scholars too believed the same, but his notebook shows the descriptions of layers of fossil shells. He also described the power of a long-dead whale, “You lashed with swift, branching fins, and forked tail, creating in the sea sudden tempests that buffeted and submerged ships. Oh time, swift despoiler of all things, how many kings, how many nations hast thou undone, and how many changes of states and of circumstances have happened since this wondrous fish perished.” This memoir tells us about his curiosity in his earlier days. And sooner, this molded into new endeavors, where he learned many subjects like physics, anatomy, botany, etc. And when he studied those, he applied everything to his paintings. So, to get to study our beloved and intelligent artist closely, let us walk through 21 of Leonardo da Vinci paintings digitally. However, it is still through a certain mystery and something enigmatic above the general measure of greatness that he fascinates or perhaps half repels.

Artist Abstract: Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci was a moderately successful painter in Florence as he had trouble finishing his commissions. As he always searched for new horizons where his knowledge could be entertained, he touted every single field, including engineering, designing armored vehicles, anatomy, and designing public buildings. But for the painting, he wrote for himself,

“Likewise in painting, I can do everything possible,”

which I believe is true as we can see through the finest and Leonardo da Vinci famous paintings, Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

The life of Leonardo has three divisions- thirty years at Florence, nearly twenty years at Milan, and then nineteen years of wandering till he rests under the protection and hospitality of Francis the First at the Chateau de Clou. He was born to a noble Florentine family, of Vinci in the Val d’Arno, and was raised among the true children of the house, with the keen, powerful nature that such children often possess. It’s as if we see him in his youth charming all men with his beauty, improvising music and songs, buying caged birds, and releasing them as he walked Florence’s streets, wearing odd bright dresses and living in spirited houses. It was only his father, who took him to the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio as he promised Leonardo, which actually began his life. And in his entire life, we saw his marvelous learnings, innovative painting skills, and curiosity to grasp every knowledge available.

ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
Birth15 April, 1452
Death2 May, 1519
PeriodItalian High Renaissance
Famous PaintingsMona Lisa and The Last Supper

21 Paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, Existing & Lost.

1. The Madonna With the Carnation.

TitleMadonna of the Carnation
Other nameMadonna with Vase or Madonna with Child
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on wood panel
Dimensions62 cm x 47.5 cm (24 in x 18.7 in)
MuseumAlte Pinakothek

The Madonna with the Carnation is a small devotional Leonardo da Vinci painting, which he painted when he was an apprentice under Andrea Verrochio. The artwork shows Madonna with the infant Jesus in her lap. Interestingly, Leonardo depicted Jesus as a squirming and chubby baby so that the flat folds of the baby could give him a better chance to go beyond the drapery studies. He used modeling, light, and shadows to convey the realistic three-dimensionality of the painting. As an early example of the chiaroscuro technique, it has a forceful contrast of light and shadow through black pigments to alter the tone and brightness of pictorial elements. 

The Madonna of the Carnation or Munich Madonna has the focus of the picture in the reaction of newborn Jesus to the flower, which Madonna holds in her hand. The artist showed the actions of the baby through his chubby arms and emotions through his face. Sitting on the cushion adorned with a crystal ball, Leonardo combined the love of child and mother in a narrative way, as if the momentary reaction turned into a whole story. The narrative of the reaction: that of Jesus to the flower and that of Mary delighting in the curiosity of her baby, are integrated through emotions.

The Madonna With the Carnation Leonardo da Vinci painting

2. The Annunciation.

TitleThe Annunciation
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on wood panel
Dimensions38.5 in x 85.5 in
MuseumUffizi, Florence

The Annunciation is one of the Leonardo da Vinci paintings, which he painted around the same time when he was under Verrochio in the 1470s. In this period, he made four artworks; Madonna with Vase, Benois Madonna, Portrait of Ginevra Benci, and The Annunciation. It portrays the moment when the angel Gabriel surprised the Virgin Mary by telling her that she would become the mother of Jesus. Earlier, I wrote about the finest Annunciation by Fra Angelico, which you can refer. 

In Leonardo’s version, he depicts the announcement and reaction as a narrative occurring in a garden and villa as Mary reads a book. The only mistake in the painting is the wrong perspective in the background. From the preparatory sketches, Leonardo showed the Gabriel sleeve, and the artwork exhibits the dabbing of oil paint with his hands. As I stated earlier, there is a problem in perspective, let me tell you how. As you see the bulky garden wall, you will notice that the vantage point is slightly higher from the rest of the pictorial composition, distracting the view from the visual connection between the angel’s pointing fingers and Mary’s raised hand. Again, the cypress trees are of the same size, yet the one on the right, next to the house one, seems closer to us. In addition to this, Leonardo worked on the drapery studies too fastidiously, as there is an odd draping at the back of Mary, which seems as if she has three knees. The painting gives us an illusion of a Leonardo who doesn’t have any knowledge of optics and perspective. Also, if you are confused with the perspective part, I have written an article on Linear perspective that will help you learn.

The Annunciation Leonardo da Vinci paintings

3. Portrait of Ginevra Benci.

TitlePortrait of the Ginevra de’ Benici
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on wood panel
Dimensions15 in x 18.5 in
MuseumNational Gallery of Art, Washington

The Portrait of Ginevra Benci was the first non-religious Leonardo da Vinci painting. Depicting the melancholic young face of the woman, it shines glowingly against the spiky juniper tree in the foreground. Some of Leonard’s touches in the painting are lustrous and tightly curled ringlets of hair and an unconventional three-quarter pose, which sets it apart from portraits of other artists. Ginevra wears an earth-toned dress laced with blue thread, as if Leonardo took the color from nature; binding of earth and river. 

Before we learn more about the painting, let me tell you, who was Ginevra de’ Benici? Ginevra de’ Benici was the daughter of a prominent Florentine banker who had aristocracy allied with the Medici family. The commission to paint her was given to the artist with the help of Leonardo’s father when she was about to marry in 1474. As the commission of the wedding or betrothal portrait, Leonardo dresses her in a starkly plain brown dress unadorned with any jewelry with a black shawl as an adornment. The artist describes her swirling curls,

“The motion of the surface of water resembles that of hair.”

Leonardo da Vinci painting Portrait of Ginevra Benci

4. Madonna Benois.

TitleBenois Madonna
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on wood panel
Dimensions49.5 cm × 33 cm (19.5 in × 13 in)
MuseumHermitage Museum

Leonardo, in his notes, wrote,

“The first intention of the painter is to make a flat surface display a body as if modeled and separated from this plane, and he who surpassed others in this skill deserves the most praise. This accomplishment, with which the science of the painting is crowned, arises from light and shade, or we may say chiaroscuro.”

As he wrote down these words, Leonardo perfectly applied these lessons in his Benois Madonna. The painting belongs to the same period when he was under apprenticeship under Verrochio (almost similar periods, to the Madonna of the Carnation). In the artwork, Benois Madonna, he painted the Virgin Mary’s blue dress in shades ranging from white to almost black, which gave it the chiaroscuro pattern. There is a realistic depiction of the baby Jesus, which is due to anatomical observation of Leonardo in his early days. He wrote,

“In little children, all the joints are slender, and the portions between them are thick. It happens because nothing but the skin covers the joints without any other flesh and has the character of sinew, connecting the bones like a ligature. And the flat fleshiness is laid on between one joint and the next.”

Leonardo exactly used this in his painting to display baby Jesus. 

One of the things, that is especially significant to know here is that according to one Christian legend, the tears of Mary sprang shed at the crucifixion, which happened at a later time. Hence, when you see the flower in the painting, it is shaped like a cross. Through this, Leonardo provided a psychological impact of the picture, showing a much later event i.e., the crucifixion of Madonna and Jesus. However, this Leonardo da Vinci painting focuses on only the love and innocence of Mary and Jesus.

Madonna Benois paintings by Leonardo da Vinci

5. Adoration of the Magi.

TitleAdoration of the Magi
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
Dimensions96 in x 97 in
MuseumUffizi, Florence

After the Saltarelli affair, Leonardo finally broke away from Verrochio’s workshop and opened his own workshop in 1477. Now, about the Saltarelli affair, you can read it here. After this, before he headed to Milan, he had three commissions, one Leonardo never started and two of which he left unfinished. It was Adoration of the Magi, which he left unfinished after starting. But though it was determined to remain unfinished, it is one of the most influential paintings in history. Kenneth Clark says it to be,

“the most revolutionary and anti-classical picture of the fifteenth century.”

The artwork, Adoration of the Magi, was commissioned in March 1481 through the help of his father, which was to be made outside the walls of Florence. The scene depicts the moment when three wise men or kings follow a guiding star to Bethlehem, and present Jesus with gold, frankincense, and myrrh as gifts. Every January, in Florence, celebrations of the feast of the Epiphany commemorate the revelation of Jesus Christ’s divinity and his adoration by the Magi. 

Leonardo made multiple preparatory drawings, where he sketched with a stylus, refining it then with a quill and ink. Using various gestures, body turns, and expressions, he fills the entire painting with a wave of emotion. On the preparatory sketch itself, he drew the perspective lines, following the methods used by Brunelleschi and Alberti.

Paintings by Leonardo da Vinci Adoration of the Magi

6. Saint Jerome in the Wilderness.

TitleSaint Jerome in the Wilderness
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
Dimensions40 in x 29.5 in
MuseumVatican Gallery, Rome

Among the unfinished Leonardo da Vinci paintings, it showed the Saint Jerome in a highly tensed bodily movement. Saint Jerome was a fourth-century scholar who translated the Bible into Latin during the time of his retreat as a hermit in the desert. Leonardo shows the subject with an outstretched and twisted arm. He is holding a rock that he will beat against his chest in penance; at his feet is an old lion that he adopted after pulling a thorn from its paw. As he seems to implore forgiveness, the saint is raddled and emancipated, showing his inner strength in his eyes. Leonardo’s signature designs fill the background, including a misty landscape and a rocky outcropping. 

The entire body of Saint Jerome displays twists and uncomfortable kneeling, which depicts the passion. Further, the artwork is significant for Leonardo’s first anatomical knowledge. The intimate connection between his anatomical and artistic endeavors can be seen in the fact that he fiddled with and revised his anatomy over the years. I have written a separate article on Leonardo’s anatomy endeavor, which you can refer to here. One of the significant points to note is that the depiction of Saint Jerome shows the sternocleidomastoid muscle and accurate neck rendering, which Leonardo did not know until the 1510s. 

Martin Clayton tells the reason for the above fact,

“Significant parts of the modeling of Saint Jerome were added twenty years after his first outlining of the figure, and that modeling incorporates the anatomical discoveries that Leonardo made during the dissections of the winter of 1510s.”

Hence, one can deduce that this Leonardo da Vinci painting was corrected by him after the dissections of 1510, which further tells his conscious behavior towards the perfection of his artworks.

Saint Jerome in the Wilderness Leonardo da Vinci painting

7. The Vitruvian Man.

TitleThe Vitruvian Man
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumPen and ink on paper
Dimensions34.4 cm × 24.5 cm
MuseumGallerie dell’ Accademia in Venice

At the time, when Leonardo made the Vitruvian Man, his two friends, Francesco di Giorgio and Giacomo Andrea, also made their own copies of Vitruvian Man, based on the Vitruvius book. From all of these versions, one can notice Leonardo’s version instantly, due to his scientific precision and artistic distinction. Unlike other drawings, Leonardo meticulously drew the man in a circle and square. The lines were firm rather than sketchy and rough. Ahead of time, he had figured out how the circle would rest on the square but extend out higher and wider. The man’s feet rested comfortably on the square and circle, which he drew using a compass and a set square. 

The painting is proof that Vitruvian’s description was accurate, with the navel exactly centered in the circle, and the genitals perfectly centered in the square. Leonardo described additional aspects of the positioning,

“If you open your legs enough that your head is lowered by one-fourteenth of your height and raise your hands enough that your extended fingers touch the line of the top of your head, know that the center of the extended limbs will be the navel, and the space between the legs will be an equilateral triangle.”

Well, there is a lot of symbolism in the sketch, hence I devoted a separate article on it, which you can read here.

Leonardo da Vinci painting The Vitruvian Man

8. Lady with an Ermine.

TitleLady with an Ermine
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on walnut wood
Dimensions20 in x 15.5 in
MuseumNational Museum, Cracow

The Lady with an Ermine is one of the finest paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, after Mona Lisa. Before we look at the painting, let me tell you about its subject. It portrays Cecilia Gallerani, the striking beauty, born into Milan’s educated middle-class family. Her father was a diplomat and financial agent, and her mother was the daughter of a noted law professor. In a few years, we would see how Ludovico Sforza was captivated by her beauty and impregnated her with his baby. However, the destiny of Ludovico was with Beatrice, as their marriage promise was already done by the time Beatrice was five. However, after Cecilia gives birth to his baby, Ludovico arranges for her to marry a wealthy count. Following this, he commissioned Leonardo to paint her portrait. 

And as a result, the artist painted a stunning and innovative masterpiece. Painted in oil on a walnut panel, the artwork is so emotionally charged and alive that it completely transformed the art of portraiture. John Pope Hennessy called it,

“the first painting in the European art to introduce the idea that a portrait may express the sitter’s thoughts through posture and gesture.” 

The artwork is a three-quarter view, with the subject’s body turned to our left, but her head appears to be turned to our right in anticipation of something, presumably Ludovico, approaching. Additionally, the ermine that she is holding seems to be alert, with its ears cocked. It is exceedingly alive, and it lacks the vacant or undirected stare found in other portraits of the time, such as Leonardo’s only previous portrait of a woman, Ginevera de’ Benci. This Leonardo da Vinci painting captures the narrative contained in an instant, one that encompasses both the outward and the inner existence of the subject. In the medley of hands, paws, eyes, and a mysterious smile, the artist showed us the motions of her body and mind.

Lady with an Ermine Leonardo da Vinci paintings

9. The Battle of Anghiari.

TitleThe Battle of Anghiari
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
DimensionsPainted on a 174 ft. wall, The Exact size is unknown

The Battle of Anghiari is one of the most significant Leonardo da Vinci paintings, which showed tense emotions and anatomy at its finest. An early sketch of the stampede of horses made for the Battle of Anghiari shows the horses in the foreground drawn in sharp focus and clarity, while those in the background are softer. As usual with Leonardo, this piece conveys a sense of movement in a still image. To render the battle scene more appropriately, Leonardo noted,

“The eye can never arrive at a perfect knowledge of the interval between two objects employing the linear perspective alone, if not assisted by the perspective of colors. Let the colors vanish in proportion as the objects diminish in size, according to the distance.”

The Battle of Anghiari portrays a battlefield of history. As part of the Duke of Milan’s campaign to expand his Tuscany possessions, Florentine troops supported by the Pope fought the Milanese army in the medieval hilltop town of Anghiari, in the province of Arezzo. Leonardo, though made the preliminary sketch an absolute masterpiece, but he didn’t continue the commission. Today the artwork is lost.

The Battle of Anghiari by Peter Paul Rubens Leonardo

10. Portrait of Musician.

TitlePortrait of Musician
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on wood
Dimensions17 in x 12.025 in
MuseumAmbrosiana Gallery, Milan

The Portrait of Musician is one of the most intriguing Leonardo da Vinci paintings, which was painted in the mid-1480s. The artwork is special due to the fact that it is the only portrait of a man, but there were no surviving records or contemporary mentions of it anywhere, which makes it unclear for us to determine the subject and know whether the work was commissioned. In addition to this, it is not even certain whether Leonardo painted the entire composition by himself, as we all know his tendency to leave pieces unfinished. 

Painted on a walnut panel, Leonardo painted this portrait of a young man using his signature, tightly coiled curls in the three-quarter profile, holding a folded sheet of music. In comparison to Leonardo’s other paintings, his body faces in the same direction as his gaze without any sense of movement. Also, portions of his face seem to be missing some of the final layers Leonardo usually applied. In addition to this, the torso, vest, and hands of the young man are unfinished.

Leonardo da Vinci painting Portrait of a Musician

11. The Last Supper.

TitleThe Last Supper
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumTempera with oil on stone
Dimensions460 cm x 880 cm
MuseumSanta Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Italy

Among the most famous paintings by Leonardo da Vinci, The Last Supper has a provenance from the year 1492 when Ludovico contemplated his own resting place. In the same year, he finally selected the Church of Santa Maria Delle Grazie in Milan for the purpose. As he began to embellish and beautify the Church, he commissioned Leonardo to paint The Last Supper on one of the walls.

The Last Supper is one of the most spellbinding narrative paintings of history, displaying multiple elements of the geniuses of the artist. Using natural and artificial perspectives, gestures, and expressions, Leonardo showed depth and movement in the painting as if Jesus was literally having dinner with his apostles in front of us. He used sfumato to blur the hard lines delineating objects and blurred the precision of perspective to show the varied instant of time. With the ripples of motions, gestures, and emotions, Leonardo not only captured a movement but also staged a drama to choreograph a theatrical performance. In addition to this, he also used his wise symbolism, for instance, he showed Judas in a little shadowed face so that the viewer knows he is the betrayer. There are other heaps of knowledge to learn from this painting. So, I have carefully curated a long and descriptive article on the painting, Last Supper.

Paintings by leonardo da Vinci The last Supper

12. The Madonna of the Rocks.

TitleVirgin of the Rocks
Other nameMadonna of the Rocks
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
CreatedLouvre, c. 1480s; National Gallery London, 1508
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on panel
Dimensions77.5 in x 47 in (Paris), 74 in x 47.025 in (London)
MuseumThere are two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks; one resides in the National Gallery of London, and the other one in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

There are two versions of the painting, The Madonna of the Rocks. In both versions of the Virgin of the Rocks, there is a slight difference. 

In the Paris one, the divine being pointed towards St. John and appeared to be looking straight out of the picture, not directly at the spectator. Thus, the composition seems mysterious. Leonardo’s specialty in his works is to create a mystical appearance. If you compare the London version to the Paris one, you will see that the angel’s arm is lower, and she passively stares at St. John, reducing its impact. Additionally, the Virgin spreads her hand with a protective hover over the infant Jesus and gracefully looks towards John in motherly form in this version. The figures are also arranged in a triangle in a Renaissance form, creating a triangle that ties them together.

To understand the movements of the painting, let us see through the sketches by Metropolitan sketches. The initial sketch depicts the Virgin, with her hands loosely joined in front of her, leaning forward in a conventional manner, looking ahead. This composition was specifically requested by the Confraternity. In the subsequent depiction, her right arm reaches out across the Christ figure, while her left hand remains in the original position. Although there is no specific arrangement for these scenes, we can infer from Leonardo’s left-handedness that he likely worked from right to left. The third portrayal shows both arms outstretched, with one hand suspended over the child and the other hand hovering over nothing. Lastly, the final rendition introduces the presence of a second infant, thereby completing the artwork and uniting the entire group.

13. Portrait of Isabella d’Este.

TitlePortrait of Isabella d’Este
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumRed and black chalk on paper
Dimensions61 cm x 46.5 cm
MuseumLouvre Museum, Paris

By the time, Isabella d’Este wished to get a painting from Leonardo, he was not looking upon commissions as it bored him. When Leonardo arrived in Florence, Isabella d’Este begged him to fulfill his promise to paint a picture for her, either a portrait or any other subject he chose. Earlier, Leonardo had made a chalk drawing of her when he passed through Mantua, and Isabella wanted a painting for herself following the chalk drawing, which took her heart. Isabella, a strong-willed first lady of Mantua was a strong-willed art patron, who managed to increase the art commissions through her wit. I have curated a separate article about Isabella, as she is one of the intellectual women of the Renaissance. 

After seeing Lady with an Ermine, she was determined to get a painting from Leonardo, however, it did not happen. When Leonardo made his chalk drawing of Isabella on his way from Milan to Florence in early 1500, he took it and showed it to one of his friends, who reported back to Isabella,

“The portrait is exactly like you, and it could not be done better.”

By using his chalky sfumato, Leonardo gave Isabella a hint of her double chin, though her plumpness was hidden by her loose-sleeved dress. In a profile pose, which was the standard for portraits of royalty, she displays a dignified formality and willingness to speak.

Portrait of Isabella d'Este Leonardo da Vinci paintings

14. Mona Lisa.

TitleMona Lisa
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
CreatedBegan in 1503 and continued till 1517
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on wood
Dimensions30.025 in x 20.4 in
MuseumLouvre Museum, Paris

The Mona Lisa is one of the most famous Leonardo da Vinci paintings that he worked on for years. He began working on it in 1503, when he returned to Florence after serving Cesare Borgia, and didn’t finish it until 1506. Instead, he carried it with him always, till the final leg of his life journey to France, adding tiny strokes and light layers through 1517. The artwork was the culmination of the artist’s life spent perfecting his ability to merge art and nature. He spent years applying multiple layers of light oil glazes, which exemplifies the multiple layers of his genius. It began as a portrait of a silk merchant’s young wife but ended up showing the complexities of human emotions and a connection of nature to the universe, leaving behind mysteries of hinted smiles. What the painting portrays is the intertwining of the landscape of the soul with that of nature’s soul, making it one of the most complicated and masterminded works in history.

The painting Mona Lisa has two similarities with the Ginevra de’ Benci. They are; that both subjects are new wives of Florentine cloth merchants, and both were portrayed against a river landscape with the three-quarter pose. However, both of them have striking differences. Mona Lisa is a painting from when Leonardo’s painterly skills were at their peak, and more importantly, he was mature enough as a scientist, philosopher, and humanist. With his intellect chronicles in thousands of notebook pages- of light rays, striking curved objects, dissection of human faces, geometrical volumes transformed into new shapes, flows of turbulent water, and analogies between earth and human bodies, he depicted a motion and emotion in the Mona Lisa, which was never copied by any other artist. Kenneth Clark describes the painting as,

“The science, the pictorial skill, the obsession with nature, the psychological insight are all there, and so perfectly balanced that at first we are hardly aware of them.”

Vasari describes the painting,

“Whoever wished to see how nearly art could imitate nature was able to comprehend it when he saw this portrait. The eyes had that luster and watery sheen that are seen in life, and around them were rosy and pearly tints, together with the eyelashes, that cannot be represented without the greatest subtlety. The nose, with its beautiful nostrils, rosy and tender, appeared to be alive. The mouth, with its opening, and with the ends united by the red of the lips to the flesh tints of the face, seemed in truth to be not colors but flesh. In the pit of the throat, if one gazed upon it most intensely, could be seen the beating of the pulse.”

Mona Lisa Leonardo da Vinci famous paintings

15. Madonna of the Yarnwinder.

TitleMadonna of the Yarnwinder
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on panel
Dimensions62 cm x 44 cm
MuseumNational Galleries Scotland

Louis XII’s secretary, Florimond Robertet described the painting, Madonna of the Yarnwinder, in the first place to Isabella d’Este, who wanted just one portrait from Leonardo. He said,

“The little picture he is working on is of a Madonna, who is seated as if she were about to spin yarn. The child has placed his foot in the basket of yearns and has grasped the yarn winder and stares attentively at the four spokes, which are in the form of a cross, and he smiles and grips it tightly as if he were longing for his cross, not wishing to yield it to his mother, who appears to want to take it away from him.”

There is an emotional and psychological complexity of the baby Jesus as he grapples with the yarnwinder, which is in the shape of a cross. Unlike other artists, who have always shown Jesus looking at objects of passion, Leonardo linked the symbolism with the prophecy (crucifixion). However, it does not look melancholic at all, as the artist energized the painting through his special ability to convey a narrative instead of a moment. It includes the flow of physical motion as Jesus reaches towards the cross-like object, finger pointed towards heaven, a gesture that Leonardo loved. The moist eyes of the baby are shiny as if there is a tiny sparkle of the luster, which has its own narrative. One of the significant things that this Leonardo da Vinci painting shows is the premonition of Jesus’s fate. While he appears innocent and playful at first, if you look at his mouth and eyes, it seems as if he knows his destiny and is still comfortable with it.

On the other hand, Mary hovers her hand, which shows serene benediction in the painting. The gestures she makes appear conflicted, as if she is struggling to reach out to her child, yet also recoiling from the temptation to intervene. She reaches out nervously as if deciding whether to intervene in the restrainment of Jesus from his fate. Hence, Leonardo showed the compassion of motherhood through her.

Madonna of the Yarnwinder Leonardo da Vinci painting

16. Leda and the Swan.

TitleLeda and the Swan
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance

One of the most tantalizing, beautiful, and amazing Leonardo da Vinci paintings is Leda and the Swan, which is now lost. There are numerous existing copies from his students and other artists, which gives us an idea of this version of the artwork. Lomazzo says that the nude Leda was one of Leonardo’s few finished paintings, and a report of 1625 from the French Royal Chateau of Fontainebleau describes it as,

“a standing figure of Leda almost totally naked with the swan at her side and two eggs, from whose broken shells come forth four babies.”

One of the myths that connects with the painting is that Madame de Maintenon, the mistress and secret second wife of Louis XIV, destroyed this painting as it was salacious. One of the most vivid copies of the artwork is from Francesco Melzi.

Leda and the Swan Francesco Melzi

17. Salvator Mundi.

TitleSalvator Mundi
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on panel
Dimensions25 7/8 in x 18 in (65.7 cm x 45.7 cm)
MuseumPrivate Gallery

One of the two Unknown Pieces of Leonardo da Vinci’s Paintings, Salvator Mundi surprised the world in 2011 when it surfaced in a delicate condition, with damages around and on the face of Christ. According to the Historical pieces of evidence, one Leonardo painting like this existed in the records of English King Charles I and passed to the Duke of Buckingham, whose son later sold it in 1763.

Salvator Mundi is no less than an exception as Mona Lisa, yet it remains in a private gallery. Trying to explain the years of work by Leonardo is remarkably difficult but this brief passage will help you understand Salvator Mundi’s features.

Christ, being the primary and only subject, fills the composition with an orb topped by a cross, known as globus cruciger. It is also the subject that became popular among European painters, but no one came close to the mysterious stare and the illusion of the objects, that Salvator Mundi by Leonardo originally does. One should note the precision of the anatomy dedicated to the hands of Christ, carefully shown through the folding of the fingers as well as the carrying of the orb. Further, Leonardo enhanced it by making the objects in the foreground sharper. As Leonardo’s optics study about eye focus and Salvator Mundi intersected, it is the reason why the hand seems to pop out towards us as it is moving and giving us a blessing.

Leonardo da Vinci famous paintings Salvator Mundi

18. Saint John the Baptist.

TitleSaint John the Baptist
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on wood
Dimensions27.01in x 22 in
MuseumLouvre Museum, Paris

Most Leonardo da Vinci paintings that survived the toughness of centuries are found to be a personal passion of the artist rather than a commission. Saint John the Baptist is one among them. From the sketches from Leonardo’s notebook, it is evident that he started working on the portrait of Saint John the Baptist, while in Milan in 1509 but lasted years of work as he carried it around to enhance the work, particularly his eyes.

Before engraving the details of the artwork’s features, one must understand that the cocky smile of Leonardo is an inheritance of his learnings under Andrea del Verrochhio which can be noted instantly. Leonardo paid several years to paint this composition, and along with his pronouncement of technique, it kept on enhancing, one of these techniques was the androgynous feature of Saint John in the painting.

If you came across the novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, you might remember the book’s claim of John being the Mary Magdalene, next to Christ in The Last Supper. According to Ross King,

“Leonardo was skilled at blurring the differences between the sexes.”

This Androgynous technique for the figures in his painting lets most people believe Dan’s claim (which isn’t true), and it is also the reason why Saint John the Baptist influences you with a little mystery.

The subject of the painting is Saint John, an androgynous man with enigmatic aura appearing from the dark with a cocky smile, looking or even leering at us with a finger pointing towards heaven.

Saint John the Baptist Paintings by Leonardo da Vinci

19. Bacchus.

Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil painting
Dimensions0.61 m x 0.45 m

During the decade of 1506-16, as Leonardo wandered between Milan and Rome, pursuing his passions and seeking more knowledge, he worked on three paintings at this time, which have an elegiac and spiritual quality. One of the paintings in this collection of three paintings is Bacchus. It features a sweetly androgynous young man with an enigmatic and powerful aura, looking directly at the viewer and pointing the finger to the right. Even as he immersed himself in science, Leonardo developed a deeper appreciation for the spiritual mystery that surrounds our place in the universe. And that is how he put those emotions and feelings into his painting, which looks intimidating to the viewer. He applied multiple thin layers of translucent glazes, which enhanced the delicacy of the sfumato. The contours of the artwork are soft, lines are blurred, and the transitions between light and dark are subtle. 

Also, from the records of inventory of the Salai estate in 1525, the painting was a large-scale painting of Saint John, but in the subsequent inventory of 1695, it was designated as Saint John in a landscape.

Bacchus Leonardo da Vinci painting

20. La Belle Ferroniere.

TitleLa Belle Ferroniere
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on wood panel
Dimensions0.63 m x 0.45 m
MuseumLouvre Museum

La Belle Ferroniere is another portrait of Leonardo, which shows his experimentation with light and shadow. The subject is Lucrezia Crivelli, who was Ludovico’s mistress. Ludovico commissioned a painting of Lucrezia to Leonardo as she bore Ludovico a son, and he wanted to reward her with the accomplishment. In the portrait, the reflected light falls under Lucrezia’s left cheek. Her chin and neck are in gentle muted shadows. However, the light in the painting comes from its top left, falling directly on her smooth and flat plane of shoulder. Then it bounces again and causes a streak of light on her left jawbone. Hence, Leonardo naturally pathed light, as part of his optics study. 

In his notebook, Leonardo writes,

“Reverberations are caused by bodies of bright nature with flat and semi-opaque surfaces; when struck by light they rebound it back like the bounce of a ball.”

None of the painters captured the shadows and highlights of the face with such clarity that it looks as if it is three-dimensional and perfectly modeled. Despite its obvious impropriety, Lucrezia’s cheekbone has a streak of light that seems unnatural, which has caused some to speculate that it was painted later by an overeager pupil.

La Belle Ferroniere Leonardo da Vinci paintings

21. The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne.

TitleThe Virgin and Child With Saint Anne
Other nameNA
ArtistLeonardo da Vinci
PeriodHigh Renaissance
MediumOil on wood
Dimensions67 in x 50 in
MuseumLouvre Museum, Paris

Like most Leonardo da Vinci paintings and commissions, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, is an example of his procrastinative behavior. Regarded as the ultimate masterpiece of Da Vinci, it carries a history that is no less fascinating. Friar Pietro da Novellara wrote to Isabella d’Este in April 1501, after coming close to floundering in his mission to convince Leonardo to paint her portrait,

“Since he had been in Florence, he has only made one sketch – a cartoon of a child Christ, about a year old, almost jumping out of his mother’s arms to seize hold of a lamb. The mother is in the act of rising from Saint Anne’s lap and holds back the child from the lamb, which is a symbol of the Passion.”

Further, according to Vasari,

“The cartoon was a sensation,”

A couple more years and a note found in 2005 confirmed that in 1503, Leonardo started painting the Mona Lisa and that he had already begun work on the Saint Anne Painting. The painting has an epic story of how it confused Historians with the different cartoons Leonardo drew with figure changes and similar themes at different time periods, a story I look forward to composing next time.

From the cartoons, however, it is evident that Leonardo had previously imagined the theme for this painting, for a different patron probably.

The painting, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne features a similar theme as Friar Pietro described to Isabella, but Leonardo painted St. Anne young, while the cartoon showed her older. The image shows Mary’s torso and that of St. Anne to be fused as they together care for the young child, Christ. The painting is also evident of Leonardo’s information on geology, depicted under the elegant toes of Saint Anne. Additionally, it exhibits what Leonardo wrote,

“have a movement of a person’s limbs appropriate to that person’s mental movements.”

The composition shows what he meant with Mary’s right stretched as she is trying to restraint Christ with protectiveness and gentle love.

The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne Leonardo da Vinci painting

Final Words.

As I introduced you works of Leonardo, somewhere, I felt that the word genius in itself is diminutive to define the superhuman trait of our beloved Leonardo. Whether the subject is mathematics, optics, engineering, architecture, or arts, Leonardo’s hunt for knowledge and more never ends. In spite of the fact that he left several unfinished projects in his wake, wouldn’t we be more inclined to call him more than a human if he had completed them all?


Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Issacson.

Frequently Asked Questions.

Where are Leonardo da Vinci paintings?

Most of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings are on public exhibitions in different museums across Europe, including the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum in Paris. However, the recently found Leonardo, Salvator Mundi, resides in a private gallery of Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

How many paintings did Leonardo da Vinci paint?

Leonardo da Vinci is attributed to paint at least 23 artworks (sketches not included). A few of these paintings are either lost or incomplete works of the artist.

What are Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous paintings?

Leonardo da Vinci is known to carry the most unique art of painting that history has ever witnessed. Some of the famous Leonardos, however, are The Last Supper, Mona Lisa, Vitruvian Man, The Virgin and Child With Saint Anne, and Virgin of the Rocks.

How much is Leonardo da Vinci painting?

The most expensive Leonardo da Vinci painting is the Mona Lisa, currently not on sale, believed to cost $1 Billion. Additionally, the most expensive Leonardo da Vinci painting to have been auctioned is Salvator Mundi, sold for $450 Million in 2017.

What was Leonardo da Vinci’s first painting?

Though Leonardo painted a wide range of subjects in his childhood, the first commission that he undertook was with Andrea del Verrocchio, for the Baptism of Christ where he painted an angel in the composition. Additionally, some of the early artworks he painted while being the apprentice of Verrocchio were Madonna with Vase, Benois Madonna, Portrait of Ginevra Benci, and The Annunciation.

What did Leonardo da Vinci use to paint?

Leonardo da Vinci used oil colours to commission his artworks. However, he used various techniques to enhance his art.

What was Leonardo da Vinci last painting before he died?

Leonardo painted the Mona Lisa as his last painting. It was an artwork that went through years of changes as the artist acquired and pronounced his skills over time.

When did Leonardo da Vinci paint the Mona Lisa?

Leonardo da Vinci started to work on the Mona Lisa in 1503. However, he added changes to it until 1517, shortly before he passed away.

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