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.