Van Cleve’s Leonardesque paintings gained significant popularity among the Antwerp elite, and it was due to compositions such as The Madonna of the Cherries that he became known as the ‘Leonardo of the North’. The work drew inspiration from a lost prototype by Leonardo, known through a copy by his student Giampietrino (active by c. 1495 – c. 1553), and scholars have speculated that Van Cleve may have owned a traced cartoon of this composition. In Van Cleve’s interpretation, he skilfully translated the Italian composition into the northern vernacular through the use of brighter colours, the addition of decorative architectural elements and the Flemish style of ‘world landscape’ devised by Patinir — a panoramic landscape showing mountains, lowlands, water and buildings from an elevated viewpoint. The subtle play of blue and violet shadows on the Virgin’s face and the Child’s body demonstrates Van Cleve’s understanding of the sfumato technique, where the gradual transition between colours produces softened outlines or hazy forms. Yet, the artist opted for silvery instead of the typically Italian soft brownish tones. Van Cleve enriched the sober Italian backdrop from Giampietrino’s version through the addition of coloured stone and meticulously painted architectural detail. The landscape seen through the window, with the meandering river disappearing into the far view, is a clear reference to the works by Patinir. By creating his own version of The Madonna of the Cherries, Van Cleve devised a formula that would become one of his most acclaimed compositions. His celebrated hybrid style garnered royal attention from abroad, leading to portrait commissions from both Francis I of France (1494–1547) and Henry VIII (1491–1547) of England.