The Green Madonna was my first portrait. Like any delusional artist I figured that if I did a protrait it would have be one of great magnitude. So naturally I looked to Leonardo Da Vinci for guidance.
Leonardo was the ultimate artist to me. He understood anatomy and perspective, the guy was just a genius, and if I could ever produce any painting as good as Leonardo, my life would be complete. Most people would never even dare to think such things and would have enough sense to not try and set themselves up for failure. Create a painting as good as Leonardo...preposterous!!!
So I became obsessed with Ginevra de Benci. Ginevra was Leonardo's first portrait, she was born in 1457 and was a lady of the aristocratic class in 15th century Florence, admired for her intelligence by Florentine contemporaries. The oil-on-wood portrait was permanently acquired by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., USA, in 1967 for $5 million paid to the Princely House of Liechtenstein, a record price at the time. This portrait is currently the only painting by da Vinci in the Americas. Leonardo painted her portrait in 1474 in commemoration of her marriage to Luigi Niccolini.
One evening in the late 1970s I looked at Ginevra and noticed that my girlfriend at the time had the same facial features. This was a stunning revelation indeed. Overcome by madness I immediately decided to paint her and had to figure out how to have my painting rival the great Leonardo. The juniper tree in ther background was a pun made by Leonardo so I figured I'm make my own pun...I'd paint her green." The green (green was a slang word for a popular drug she favored) would envelop the backgound as well as the pigment of her face. She would be "The Green Madonna." She posed for me on several occasions and here is the result:
Although the photo is poor quality you can see the resemblance. Don't worry Leonardo, your place in history is intact.