What causes a painting to be left unfinished? Did the artist run out of inspiration? Did their commission money dry up? Did they get bored, frustrated, or disenchanted? Did the artist or their subject die before completion? Behind every picture lies a story, and that is especially true of incomplete works. This list looks at ten unfinished paintings and the intriguing, surprising, and poignant reasons why.
10. The Adoration Of The Magi
Leonardo Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci was the embodiment of the statement, “Quality takes time.” He was notoriously slow to finish any work because his vast array of talents kept sidetracking him into other avenues such as engineering, science, and mathematics.
By 1481, da Vinci was living in Florence and had been commissioned by Augustinian monks to paint The Adoration of the Magi, depicting the Three Wise Men’s arrival to meet Jesus. Within a year, Da Vinci had created an initial life-size draft, which was over 2.1 meters (7 ft) squared and portrayed the under-paint tones.
However, shattering the notion of a renaissance man working on his vocation, da Vinci chased the money. In 1482, he left to win favor with the wealthy future duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro. It was worth the gamble, as it was in Milan that he was commissioned to paint The Last Supper. Da Vinci completed only six paintings in the 17 years he was in Milan, and The Adoration of the Magi was recommissioned and repainted by Filippino Lippi. Both versions still stand today at Uffizi gallery in Florence.