Value is the term used to describe the amount of relative light received by an object. “High value” translates as brightly lit; “low value” translates as in darkness. Subliminally, our eyes are immediately attracted to high value areas before low value, darker areas. I

 

In Leonardo’s The Virgin and Saint Anne with the Christ Child and John the Baptist, the artist adjusted the relative amounts of light and darkness, high and low value, in order to simulate the hills and valleys of those figures. The highest value areas are the foreheads, chests, knees, and arms of the children. The brighter the white, the more these areas appear to emerge outward from the paper. Those areas low in value, with hatching and cross-hatching, seem to recede: eye sockets, under the necks, within the creases and folds in the garments, and under the legs. The viewer reads these areas as valleys. Going even further, Leonardo made his shadowed areas appear hazy and smoky to give a more atmospheric tone to his drawing.