This work kept in the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana in Milan is not the most recognized painting of the Italian Renaissance, that's Sure. But it is a magnificent example of a current that occurred at that time: "Leonardism." Which is based neither more nor less than the art of Leonardo da Vinci, and above all caused a furor among the artists of Milan who were completely influenced by the art of a Leonardo who went to work for about 20 years for Ludovico Sforza, better known as Ludovico the Moor.
Holy Family with Saint Anne and the Baptist by Bernardino Luini
There emerged many painters captivated by the typical Leonardesque sfumato that reached its maximum expression in La Gioconda or in works such as the two canvases of La Virgen de las Rocas. One of these followers was Bernardino Luini, author of this canvas from 1518 en titled the Sagrada Familia con Santa Ana y San Juanito.
Even from the very title it recalls the work Virgin and Child with Saint Anne by da Vinci. But the similarities do not end there. It is also inspired by the works of Leonardo to give the scene intimacy, since all this is based on the complicit looks and gestures between the different characters that appear. And there is even a cartoon in the National Gallery in London that Leonardo made and that introduces us to all thesecharacters, and some scholars of Leonardo's work claim that this painting was owned by the painter's son, Aurelio Luini.
In short, “Leonardism” consists of imitating Leonardo's treatment of light and color. A type of painting by which we can say that the air circulates in the landscapes or between the characters, since it is about painting with very vaporous masses of color, which fade into each other and while the light varies, generating lights and shadows.. It is a type of painting that of Milan which is different from what was then done in Florence and Tuscany, where line and sharpness predominate. And it is also different from what is done in the Venetian school, in which the leading role is powerful and very vivid colors.
When contemplating this painting of the Holy Family with Santa Ana and San Juanito, in one way or another the debt to that Leonardesque way of painting is clear, although it is also manifestly clear that Luini does not have the category of the great teacher. Yes, he is capable of painting light effects of atmospheric glazes, but they do not reach Leonardo's artistic level. Something that, on the other hand, has been within the reach of few artists throughout the entire History of Art.