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Leonardo da Vinci, The Virgin of the Rocks, about 1491–1508. Oil on wood, 189.5 x 120 cm © The National Gallery, London

LONDON.- The National Gallery and the Louvre announce a unique collaboration which brings both versions of the 'Virgin of the Rocks' together for the very first time. The two pictures will be shown at The National Gallery’s exhibition, Leonardo da Vinci: Painter of the Court of Milan from 9 November 2011 – 5 February 2012 in London.

Just a few months later, but this time at the Louvre in the exhibition, 'Leonardo da Vinci’s St Anne', Leonardo’s newly cleaned and restored 'The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne' will be joined with the National Gallery’s version, The Burlington House Cartoon - Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and John the Baptist, from 29 March – 25 June 2012.

These two exhibitions will illuminate the painting career of Leonardo da Vinci as never before, providing an unprecedented and unique chance to examine and study these related works in their artistic contexts. This collaboration between the two institutions has taken into consideration the serious scholarly ambitions of each exhibition and the research opportunities they provide. The Louvre and the National Gallery also believe that these comparisons will be of exceptional interest to a wide public. All these factors have persuaded both galleries to lend their precious masterpieces for the first time, in the expectation that no such exhibitions will be held again.

Director of the National Gallery, Dr Nicholas Penny, “We are delighted and very grateful to our colleagues at the Louvre for the loan of this celebrated painting. It is part of an extraordinary collaboration between the National Gallery and the Department of Paintings at the Louvre. I am quite sure that the experience of seeing these masterpieces juxtaposed will be one that none of us will ever forget or that will ever be repeated. I am delighted that such a rich context for these comparisons will be provided at each venue.”

Director of Louvre Henri Loyrette, ”This exceptional collaboration between the National Gallery, London and the Louvre achieves two historical juxtapositions long desired by generations of art historians and which are certain to offer a source of considerable fascination for today’s museum visitors as well: Leonardo da Vinci’s two well-known versions of the Virgin of the Rocks and of the Virgin and Child with Saint Anne. As complementary as our two collections are, a continuation of this exchange would be invaluable and beautifully fruitful.”

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Leonardo da Vinci, The Virgin of the Rocks, between 1483 and 1486. Oil on panel, transferred to canvas, 199 x 122 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris (INV777) © RMN / Franck Raux