Virgin of the Rocks, National Gallery, London 1503-06
All we know about Leonardo suggests that he had too much respect for the nuances of natural beauty to ignore them. The rocks in the National Gallery painting are synthetic, stilted, grotesque characterizations. They miss the point geologically. Looking at the painting, above the Virgin’s head, there is no change in the texture of the rocks to indicate the presence of the diabase sill.The vertical joint patterns continue upward without interruption. The type of rock remains constant, in comparison to the changes in rock form in the Louvre work. In the background, a glacial lake or possibly a fjord is highly suspect. Fjords do not exist in Italy and it is highly unlikely the glacial lakes of the Lombard region would have such steep relief surrounding them. In the foreground, the rocks are not finely bedded. They are roughly weathered and massive, giving the appearance of limestone rather than sandstone. The presence of limestone would be incongruous in this geological setting. The lack of knowledge on the part of the painter of the National Gallery work seems to exclude the possibility that it was Leonardo.