The narrative perspective with Léonard de VINCI

As I explained in the chapter "the narrative perspective", there would be, according to my research, at least two main types of representation of space and volumes in painting:


                                    The linear perspective                                    The narrative perspective

MASACCIO  perspective linéaire

The technique of representation of space is perfect: the vanishing lines converge on a single point of the horizon line.

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Léonard de VINCI uses a technique widely used in his time with three horizon lines, one for the sky, one for the earth and one on thirds. The idea was to enrich the technique in order to feed the purpose of the work.

Let's see together how to find the real lines (at least, I hope) from the perspective of the Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci. The ideal is to have in mind the working method that I recommend in the chapter of "the narrative perspective". Precaution of rigor because erroneous drawings of this Annunciation are visible on the net and can be misleading in a regrettable way.

The heaven and earth perspectives of the Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci

Leonard de Vinci - Annunciation - photo guy Mauchamp-

Leonardo Da Vinci, Annunciation, 1472, Uffizi Gallery Florence, photo Guy Mauchamp

As I have shown, the technique for finding the perspective lines of a work consists in

draw each line of flight blind!

With a computer, you can draw each of the vanishing lines without letting those that we just drew appear. Having no visual cue for a single vanishing point, it is easier to draw each line rigorously without being influenced . It is only at the end that we display all the vanishing lines and that we discover if they cross at a single point or not.

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Capture d’écran 2019-12-01 à
Capture d’écran 2019-12-01 à

Drawing a first line of flight, then hiding it, drawing another line, and so on. Until discovering that these lines meet at a point, or not! In the case of a mono-focal point, this makes it possible to draw a horizon line.

Léonard De VINCI - Annunciation - Perspective, skyline

Note that the horizon line points to Marie's index finger and Gabriel's forehead (1st rule of composition).

By meticulously tracing the vanishing lines of the building, it will not have escaped your notice that 3 of these lines derogate from the technique of mono-focal perspective. These three "rebel" lines are drawn below in pink:

- an almost horizontal line starts from the head of the bed, passes through an eye of Marie then lands on the top of Gabriel's wings.

- a line points to Marie's mouth and then to the center of Gabriel's halo .

- a line points to Marie's middle finger and Gabriel's forehead.

So these three lines put Marie and Gabriel in direct relation.

Leonard De VINCI - Annunciation - Unusual perspective with three lines of flight outside the mono-focal technique


We can therefore wonder about these three rebel lines. Leonardo da Vinci, this spirit so brilliant and precise, would he have forgotten or committed an awkwardness? If we take into account these lines passing through the eyes, the mouth and a finger of Marie to join Gabriel respecting the 1st rule of composition, we suspect that there is a message there but not elucidated for the moment.


So let's continue our approach with the blind lines of vanishing lines now located below the horizon line


The Earth perspective of the Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci

Léonard De VINCI Annonciation, perspective, lignes de fuite intimes

Four lines of flight from the bed and the threshold of Marie's room determine a horizon line passing through Marie's thumb and Gabriel's forehead.

Léonard de VINCI - Annunciation - Earth leakage lines joining the Sky line

Five vanishing lines from the lectern and the wall join a point which is that of the point of the sky horizon line.

The perspective of third parties of the Annunciation by Leonardo Da Vinci

Léonard De VINCI, Annunciation, perspective on the grid of third parties.

A last series of four lines which insert the bible indicate another vanishing point precisely located on the grid of thirds (in purple). This grid of thirds goes through the little fingers of Marie and Gabriel.

We can now gather all the perspective plots to view them at a glance:

Surprise! There would be three lines of horizon

and three autonomous vanishing lines (in pink) !

Léonard De Vinci - Annunciation - The three horizontal lines and the three singular lines.

The complexity of Leonardo da Vinci's perspectives is reflected in three horizon lines whose vanishing lines intersect and three singular lines which connect three times the three points of Gabriel and Marie.

In fact there is no real surprise for me because this technique of narrative perspective comprising two or three horizon lines was a common practice during the time of Leonardo da Vinci. We will see other examples later with painters like Raphael, Del Cossa, Botticelli, etc., who drew two, even three or four horizon lines on the same principle.

The idea was certainly that everything in a composition was meaningful and congruent with the theme of the work. Nothing can submit to thought   philosophical that everything is linked and that everything has a meaning inside a painting.


In the case of this Annunciation by Leonardo, the unity of a mono-focal point of perspective is absent. Instead, there is the idea of ​​a trinity presented several times with three vanishing points, the grid of thirds, 3 times 3 preferential points of the 1st rule with Marie and Gabriel.

The crossing of these lines of flight suggests:

- a sky horizon line with lines passing through Marie's eyes, mouth and middle finger

- an earth horizon line with lines coming from the bed, from the threshold of Marie's bedroom

- and a third-party horizon line that connects the ears of Marie and Gabriel.

Finally, the three autonomous horizon lines passing through 3 points of Mary point to Gabriel's forehead - the point of the soul in the 1st rule of composition - the halo and the wings.


Léonard De VINCI - Annunciation - The three narrative perspectives reflect the three exchanges of words by Gabriel and Marie.

Let us remember that in the biblical text of the Annunciation, there are three exchanges between Mary and Gabriel.

Three words for Gabriel and three words for Marie. Nothing more ! No dove or God in the sky, no divine light.

The apparently complex choice of Leonardo Da Vinci's narrative perspectives could, for example, illustrate the mystery of the Annunciation with the three exchanges of words between Gabriel and Marie.

The arrival of a divine child would be the third person, the incarnate link between the divine and the human, between heaven and earth.

This narrative perspective seems to extend with the three singular lines charged with meaning; indeed, they start from the threshold of Marie's bedroom or her bed, that is to say from her privacy, her interiority. These same lines then pass through his eyes, mouth or index finger ...

There would be many other observations to note, such as the fact that all the vanishing lines are on Marie's side, in the right half of the table, while there is only one on the side of Gabriel, and even that there is no linear perspective behind his back.

At the threshold of this meticulous observation, it will be up to everyone to read and interpret this complex narrative perspective, because in the state of my research I do not have sufficient objective elements to propose a reading theory.

The composition analysis of this masterful Annunciation does not stop with reading the narrative perspective: other elements such as the harmonic grids question the curious format that Leonardo da Vinci chose to illustrate the mystery of the Annunciation. To discover...

Do not hesitate to leave your comment, your questions at the bottom of the page, my pleasure is to be able to exchange with you on the pictorial composition. Thank you.



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