he Virgin and Child with St Anne is an oil painting by Leonardo da Vinci depicting St. Anne, her daughter the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus. Christ is shown grappling with a sacrificial lamb symbolising his Passion whilst the Virgin tries to restrain him. The painting was commissioned as the high altarpiece for the Church of Santissima Annunziata in Florence and its theme had long preoccupied Leonardo.
In 1498, Leonardo probed into incorporating these figures together by drawing the Burlington House Cartoon (National Gallery, London), which included all three figures in addition to an infant St John the Baptist. An earlier cartoon exhibited in Santissima Annunziata in 1501 is now lost.
Ultimately, this painting would emerge during the later years of his life, when he was occupied with an interest in mathematics and other pursuits, its rocky landscape betraying his interest in geology. The demands of his other interests may have forced him to leave this painting incomplete.
In addition to the symbolism of Christ playing with the lamb discussed above, Fra Pietro da Novellara, a Vice General of the Carmelite Order, saw a further layer of symbolic significance to the painting. He believed that St Anne's serene expression, in contrast with Mary's anxiety for her child, "perhaps stands for the Church that does not want to have the Passion of Christ prevented".
The painting's pyramidal structure influenced Raphael and Andrea del Sarto. Its composition inspired two High Renaissance sculptures, one by Andrea Sansovino (S. Agostino, Rome) and another, less successful work by Francesco da Sangallo (Orsanmichele, Florence).