Unidentified Artist (Italian)'s work

Unidentified Artist (Italian), Virgin and Saint Anne (copy after Leonardo da Vinci), 16th Century, black chalk on paper. MacKenzie Art Gallery, University of Regina Collection.

About the Artwork

This artwork is a copy that someone made of a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. The original is known as either the Burlington House Cartoon or Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist. Both the original and the copy drawing were made in Italy during the Renaissance, an art period from around 1400-1650 in Europe. The original drawing was very famous in its time, and there are lots of reasons why artists might have copied this artwork. The copier may have been trying to learn about da Vinci’s drawing style, or may have been using this drawing as a starting point for one of his own artworks.

At the time this work was made, the idea of a drawing as a finished artwork was not common.  Drawings were almost always made for different purposes, such as to help plan for a final artwork, or to practice skills. Drawings called cartoons were used to trace lines onto a canvas or a wall for a painting.

This artwork is a part of an online exhibition called The Multiple Lives of Drawings. Please note, if you are browsing the exhibition as a family, please be aware that some of these artworks do show mild nudity, which is common in historical European art.  Learn more about this specific copy drawing, and to see it side-by-side with the original.


About the Artist

The artist who made this copy drawing is a mystery! One guess is that Bernardino Luini made it when preparing for his painting the Holy Family with St. John and St. Anne. His painting was made around 1515–1520. Bernardino was known to closely follow Leonardo’s art style, and to have made other artworks based off Leonardo’s work. There’s even proof that his son, Aurelio Luini, inherited several Leonardo da Vinci drawings from his father, including the Burlington House Cartoon. So the artist of this piece could very possibly have been Bernardino!

That being said, numerous artists copied Leonardo da Vinci’s artworks. It was common for artists to try to hide their own personal art styles to make their artwork more like da Vinci’s. The Burlington House Cartoon was very well-known and loved; lots of paintings by many other artists are based on it. We really can’t say for sure that Bernardino Luini was the artist because whoever it was didn’t leave us enough clues.

Things to Think About

  • When you make an artwork, do you like to take any steps to prepare first like writing out ideas or sketching? 
  • Leonardo Da Vinci was a very famous Italian artist during the Renaissance. Looking at his original drawingwhy do you think his work was so popular? Is there anything about the techniques he uses that interests you? 

Post your artwork online using the hashtag #studiosundayyqr!

Studio Activity

Try your own hand at a copy drawing of Leonardo da Vinci’s Burlington House Cartoon.


What you Need:

  • Black chalk, chalk pastel, conté, or charcoal 
  • Brown paper 
  • Kneadable eraser 
  • Blending sticks (optional) 
  • Scrap paper or clear plastic to rest your hand on (optional) 

(If you can’t get these specific supplies, use regular paper and a pencil) 

What you Do:

  1. Spend some time looking at this copy drawing and the original drawing. Look closely at details like the shapes of lines and how the artists show light and dark areas. Think about what you would have to do to make similar lines and marks. Would you have to hold your chalk a certain way, move your hand a certain way, or press harder or lighter? 
  2. On your brown paper, try to copy either this copy drawing, or the original artwork by Leonardo da Vinci. You don’t have to copy the whole drawing; pick a part that interests you. Think about different techniques you might use as you draw:

    • How will you copy the sizes and lengths of lines in the drawings? Could you use a ruler to measure them? Or hold something up to them to mark their lengths?  
    • You could even trace the basic outline of the original drawing, and then work more on filling it in after with detailed lines and shading– this can be a lot of hard work in itself. 
    • What parts of the drawing do you think you should start with? What parts are added later? 
    • You may need to watch that your hand doesn’t smudge your drawing. This could be done by working from one top corner to the opposite bottom corner, or by carefully placing down a sheet of scrap paper or plastic to rest your hand on.
  3. Want to learn from more artists? Pick another artwork to copy, either from the Multiple Lives of Drawings exhibition, or by any other artist you like! Think about all the steps that might have gone into creating that artwork, and try tracing those steps yourself. Or, you could start by copying an artwork, and then change it into something new from your own imagination!