Oil on canvas
This composition is a choice quotation from the work of Leonardo da Vinci: the woman's face, pose and movement of her right hand have been borrowed from St Anne in the great master's cartoon now in London. Similar elaborate hairstyles can also be seen in Leonardo's drawings. The figure placed in a grotto makes us remember The Virgin of the Rocks in the Louvre. It is no coincidence that in William II's collection and on its acquisition by the Hermitage in 1850, this painting was considered to be by Leonardo da Vinci. This attribution was, however, soon refuted in the museum. Francesco Melzi's name first appeared in the catalogue of 1899.The painting has been known by various names: Columbine, Vanity and Flora. It depicts the goddess Flora, the protectress of the plant world, who was customarily presented with one naked breast as a symbol of motherhood. Flowers were also symbolically connected with the cult of the goddess. In her right hand Flora is holding a columbine, one meaning of which is fertility. The anemones in the folds of her cloak are an allusion to Flora's lover, Zephyr - anemos being the Greek for "wind". The fern pushing through the stones of the grotto symbolizes solitiude and dreaminess. The theme of the renewal of nature, the mystery of new life arising in seclusion is the main idea of the work.
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