Leonardo da Vinci Picture Study for Homeschoolers

Leonardo da Vinci Picture Study - ahumbleplace.com

To read more about Charlotte Mason picture study and to see the other picture study aids I have available, click here.

The greatest gifts are often seen, in the course of nature, rained by celestial influences on human creatures; and sometimes, in supernatural fashion, beauty, grace, and talent are united beyond measure in one single person, in a manner that to whatever such an one turns his attention, his every action is so divine, that, surpassing all other men, it makes itself clearly known as a thing bestowed by God (as it is), and not acquired by human art. This was seen by all mankind in Leonardo da Vinci, in whom, besides a beauty of body never sufficiently extolled, there was an infinite grace in all his actions; and so great was his genius, and such its growth, that to whatever difficulties he turned his mind, he solved them with ease. In him was great bodily strength, joined to dexterity, with a spirit and courage ever royal and magnanimous; and the fame of his name so increased, that not only in his lifetime was he held in esteem, but his reputation became even greater among posterity after his death.

Giorgio Vasari (Lives of the Most Eminent Painters, Sculptors, & Architects)

Sealed into an album somewhere in my house is a photograph of an art gallery wall. In the middle of this gold-toned wall is a tiny rectangle with the barely-discernible image of a woman enclosed in it. She is behind thick glass, and her green-hued features are difficult to see in detail at such a distance. However, the lack of proximity is explained by the sea of people in the bottom part of the photograph, all facing away from the camera. Even at that distance, however, her unmistakable form is easily recognized.

This was as close as I got when I visited the Louvre 23 years ago to a Leonardo da Vinci original. The oft-professed “most famous painting in the world.” La Giaconda. The Mona Lisa.

I would honestly love to see more of his pieces. The only one in all of the Americas is Ginevra de’ Benci’s pale face at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC. I have read in various places, and believe entirely based on what I’ve seen with paintings by other artists, that reproductions can not even remotely give his originals justice. There is something about experiencing a piece in person, not only the true colors with my own eyes but seeing the brushstrokes. The fingerprints. The work itself.

Leonardo himself was the ultimate tortured genius, and this is part of what I truly appreciate about him: the frenetic pace of his mind. He moved from one project to another project, from one medium to another medium, from one study to another study, from one city to another city. He was so consumed by the myriad paths his mind traveled that many of his pieces were unfinished. Aside from the creations we have in his journals, had he been gifted with more regular patrons or even a little more self-discipline, it’s incredible to think about the things he may have accomplished.

This 26-page Picture Study Aid includes a summary of Leonardo da Vinci’s childhood, key topics about seven of his artworks (see below), seven printable versions of the paintings (without artist names or titles) with the PDF (or professional art prints with the printed book), and a self-portrait of the artist in the printed version of the guide.

The pieces covered include:

  • Madonna of the Carnation (1472-1478)
  • Ginevra de’ Benci (ca. 1474-1478)
  • Virgin of the Rocks (1482-1486)
  • The Lady with an Ermine (1489-1490)
  • The Last Supper (1490s)
  • Mona Lisa (ca. 1503 – 1506 [or 1517])
  • The Head of the Virgin in Three-Quarter View Facing Right (1510-1513)

I include a brief overview of Charlotte Mason picture study at the beginning of the file; however, I have also written posts here on the blog about why picture study is important and how we do it in our home and homeschool co-op. You can also find living books about Leonardo da Vinci to supplement your picture study time in the Living Art Book Archive.

You can get your copy at the link at the end of the post!

Leonardo da Vinci Picture Study - ahumbleplace.com


This guide is by no means an exhaustive analysis or study of each piece, which is intentional. I tried to keep it all very simple in the spirit of there being:

…no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves. As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it. In the region of art as else-where we shut out the middleman.

Charlotte Mason (VOL 6 PG 216)

This Picture Study Aid is meant to offer basic information about the artists as well as ready answers should your student ask about a particular aspect of a piece and the explanation isn’t readily evident. Ms. Mason emphasized not focusing on strict academic discourse when doing picture study but rather simply exposing students to the art itself:

His education should furnish him with whole galleries of mental pictures, pictures by great artists old and new;––…––in fact, every child should leave school with at least a couple of hundred pictures by great masters hanging permanently in the halls of his imagination, to say nothing of great buildings, sculpture, beauty of form and colour in things he sees. Perhaps we might secure at least a hundred lovely landscapes too,––sunsets, cloudscapes, starlight nights. At any rate he should go forth well furnished because imagination has the property of magical expansion, the more it holds the more it will hold.

Charlotte Mason (vol 6 pg 43)

You can get your copy of the Picture Study Aid and art prints at the link below!

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