John the Baptist, the cousin of Jesus, stands to the right.
It currently hangs in the National Gallery in London.
No painting by Leonardo exists that is based directly on this cartoon.
The delineation between the upper bodies has lost clarity, suggesting that the heads are part of the same body.
The twisting movement of the Virgin is echoed in the Christ Child, whose body, held almost horizontal by his mother, rotates axially, with the lower body turned upward and the upper body turned downward.
The composition differs from Leonardo's only other surviving treatment of the subject, The Virgin and Child with St.
Anne in the Louvre, in which the figure of the Baptist is not present.
It was either executed in around 1499–1500, at the end of the artist's first Milanese period, or around 1506–8, when he was shuttling between Florence and Milan; the majority of scholars prefer the latter date, although the National Gallery and others prefer the former.
The subject of the cartoon is a combination of two themes popular in Florentine painting of the 15th century: The Virgin and Child with John the Baptist and The Virgin and Child with St Anne.
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This enigmatic gesture is regarded as quintessentially Leonardesque, occurring in The Last Supper and St John the Baptist.
Cartoons of this sort were usually transferred to a board for painting by pricking or incising the outline.
The drawing is notable for its complex composition, demonstrating the alternation in the positioning of figures that is first apparent in Leonardo's paintings in the Benois Madonna.