Throughout 2016, ten of the finest drawings by Leonardo da Vinci in the Royal Collection will travel to four museums and galleries across the United Kingdom and Ireland in a new exhibition. The works have been selected to show the extraordinary scope of the artist’s interests, from painting and sculpture to engineering, zoology, botany, mapmaking and anatomy, as well as his use of different media – pen and ink, red and black chalks, watercolour and metalpoint.
The four venues that will showcase the exhibition:
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle upon Tyne 13 February – 24 April 2016
National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin 4 May – 17 July 2016
Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery 30 July – 9 October 2016
Glynn Vivian Art Gallery, Swansea 15 October 2016 – 6 January 2017
Through drawing, Leonardo attempted to record and understand the world around him. He maintained that an image transmitted knowledge more accurately and concisely than any words. Nonetheless, many of his drawings are extensively annotated, including the sheet of Studies for casting the equestrian monument to Francesco Sforza, c.1492–4, and the double-sided page from a notebook of anatomical studies, The heart compared to a seed and The vessels of the liver, spleen and kidneys, c.1508. Leonardo was left-handed and throughout his life he wrote in perfect mirror-image, from right to left. Rather than an attempt to keep his investigations secret, as has been claimed, this was probably a childhood trick that he never abandoned.
There are almost 600 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci in the Royal Collection. They were originally bound into a single album, which was probably acquired in the 17th century by Charles II. Beyond the 20 or so surviving paintings by Leonardo, the artist’s drawings are the main source of our knowledge of this extraordinary Renaissance man and his many activities. According to Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, “Leonardo’s drawings are the richest, most wide-ranging, most technically brilliant, and most endlessly fascinating of any artist.”
Jonathan Marsden, Director of the Royal Collection Trust, added “The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci in the Royal Collection are among the greatest artistic treasures of this country. Through this touring exhibition, we aim to bring these extraordinary works of art within easy reach of people across Great Britain and Ireland.”