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Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration

Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci: A Diamond Jubilee Celebration

9th May 2011

Leonardo di Vinci exhibition at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery 13 January 25 March 2012

To celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, ten of the Royal Collection’s finest drawings by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci will travel to five museums and galleries across the United Kingdom.  The exhibition has been selected to show the extraordinary scope of Leonardo’s interests – painting and sculpture, engineering, botany, mapmaking, hydraulics and anatomy – and his use of different media – pen and ink, red and black chalks, and metalpoint. 

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, although some of his drawings are extensively annotated. Leonardo was left-handed, and throughout his life he habitually wrote his personal notes in mirror-image from right to left (although he wrote in the conventional manner when the text was intended for some other reader). This was not an attempt to keep his investigations secret, as has been claimed, but probably a childhood trick that he never abandoned.

Beyond a handful of paintings, most of Leonardo’s great projects were never completed. His surviving drawings are therefore our main source of knowledge of his extraordinary achievements. According to Martin Clayton, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection,

‘we can often grasp the true nature of Leonardo’s intentions only through his drawings’.

The Leonardo di Vinci exhibition will first tour to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from 13 January – 25 March 2012

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.’

Image: The head of Leda, c.1505-6

This is a preparatory drawing for the painting Leda and the Swan (the mythical princess Leda, seduced by the god Jupiter in the form of a swan), which was destroyed around 1700. Leda has the modest downward glance of most of the women in Leonardo’s paintings. The artist has devoted minute attention to her complicated hairstyle of braided and interwoven plaits.

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