Graduation Year

2010

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.L.A.

Degree Granting Department

Humanities

Major Professor

Naomi Yavneh, Ph.D.

Keywords

Italy, Renaissance, Mary, Jesus, Leonardo da Vinci

Abstract

Leonardo's Virgin of the Rocks (or Madonna of the Rocks, c.1486) is a masterpiece. Scholars have been unclear, however, about the unconventional cave setting and where Leonardo's inspiration came from. The Song of Songs mentions a beautiful bride being invited to come "into the wall of rocks," and the apocryphal Gospel of James (written around 150 A.D.) tells the story of Jesus being born in a cave outside of Bethlehem. But Leonardo's own personal cave experience in 1481 spurred his desire to find literature that placed Jesus' birth in a cave, or a "wall of rocks." This thesis focuses on a specific discourse prominent in Leonardo scholarship which has taken place over the years, chiefly concerning Leonardo's strange cave background in the Virgin of the Rocks.

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