The so-called Burlington House Cartoon, a depiction of St Anne, the Virgin, the Child and St John the Baptist, is a drawing by the Italian Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci.
It is a life-size cartoon combining two popular themes of 15th-century Florentine painting: the Virgin (Mary) and Child with St John the Baptist, son of Mary's relative Elizabeth, and the Virgin and Child with St Anne, Mary's mother. The three generations of Christ's family are represented in this way: St Anne holds her daughter Mary on her lap and the latter distracts the Child who turns to St John. There is a subtle interplay between the gazes of the four figures, with St Anne smiling at her daughter Mary, while Mary's eyes are fixed on her son, whom St John is also looking at.
Saint Anne gives the Virgin a strange, emotional look, as if she already imagines the suffering that Mary will have to endure during the Passion of Christ. The delineation of the four bodies is unclear; the heads of the two women, in particular, seem to emerge from the same body. Leonardo has endeavoured to reproduce a polycentric sense of movement, so that the two figures merge into a single complex, in which the head of St Anne stands out. The Virgin Mary's expression is extraordinarily tender, but at the same time her face is majestically beautiful, otherworldly, suggesting a deep maternal devotion.