Arts & Culture: Leonardo da Vinci: The Royal Collection

Ten drawings by one of the world’s most famous artists, Leonardo da Vinci, are being exhibited together as part of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

As the Royal Collection exhibition tours the UK, it’s an extraordinary chance for those interested in both arts and engineering to see work that encompasses Leonardo’s life time of learning, into 10 drawings which show both his expertise and skill.

Leonardo da Vinci devoted his life to learning in an attempt to record the world around him; his expertise spanned many fields such as botany, sculpture, engineering, mapmaking, hydraulics and anatomy.

As the original Renaissance man he inspired generations of scientists and artists, and even in a modern age we often draw from Leonardo’s teachings as the building blocks of contemporary learning. We know that he drew pictures of many of his discoveries as he believed that a picture could show much more than words.

Martin Clayton, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection said: “We can often grasp the true nature of Leonardo’s intentions only through his drawings.”

We need only compare the drawings of the Head of Leda and the Head of the Bearded Man to see through the eyes of Leonardo himself; he illustrates youth and beauty in direct conflict with age and the passage of time. Each of the drawings shows meticulous attention to detail and skill; in the Head of Leda he shows particular attention to the braids in her hair making sure that every strand of hair frames her face perfectly. Most famously we notice how Leonardo mapped the body, we see how he shows every muscle and tendon to be perfectly drawn. These are no more art than they are an accurate scientific guide.

Perhaps it is the truthful nature of Leonardo’s work that has kept us captivated for so long. Martin Clayton comments: “In the Royal Library, we are always struck by the enduring appeal of Leonardo. But the amazing attendance figures have exceeded all expectations, and we hope that they will be sustained throughout the UK tour of this exhibition.”

The touring exhibition will run from 13th January 2012 – 20th January 2013, and will visit Birmingham, Bristol, Belfast, Dundee and Hull. Rita McLean, Head of Birmingham Museums and Heritage, said, “We are delighted that the Royal Collection has chosen Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery to be the first UK venue to show this outstanding exhibition of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. This will be a rare and extraordinary opportunity for local people to see works by one of the world’s greatest artists, as part of the city’s celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.”

Although we understand that Leonardo used art to illustrate is findings many of his greater pieces where either unfinished or have been destroyed. We look to his sketch book drawings to tell us about his achievements.  The entire Royal Collection at Windsor Castle houses over 600 examples of Leonardo’s work, none of these can be on constant exhibition because of the fragile nature of the art works, however there are always some examples on show at Windsor Castle. This exhibition gives us a chance to see Leonardo’s work in a way that is rarely done as part of a touring body of works.


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