Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing (24 May — 13 October 2019)
In February 2019, to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, 144 of the Renaissance master‘s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection went on display in 12 simultaneous exhibitions across the UK.
Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, a nationwide event, gave the widest—ever UK audience the opportunity to see the work of this extraordinary artist. Twelve drawings selected to reﬂect the full range of Leonardo‘s interests — painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany — were shown at each venue in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Sunderland.
Following the exhibitions at Royal Collection Trust‘s partner venues, in May 2019 the drawings were brought together to form part of an exhibition of over 200 sheets at The Queen‘s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the largest exhibition of Leonardo‘s work in over 65 years. A selection of 80 drawings will then travel to The Queen‘s Gallery, Palace of Holyrood house in November 2019, the largest group of Leonardo‘s works ever shown in Scotland.
Revered in his day as a painter, Leonardo completed only around 20 paintings; he was respected as a sculptor and architect, but no sculpture or buildings by him survive; he was a military and civil engineer who plotted with Machiavelli to divert the river Arno, but the scheme was never executed; he was an anatomist and dissected 30 human corpses, but his ground—breaking anatomical work was never published; he planned treatises on painting, water, mechanics, the growth of plants and many other subjects, but none was ever finished. As so much of his life‘s work was unrealised or destroyed, Leonardo‘s greatest achievements survive only in his drawings and manuscripts.
The drawings in the Royal Collection have been together as a group since the artist‘s death, and provide an unparalleled insight into Leonardo‘s investigations and the workings of his mind. Leonardo firmly believed that Visual evidence was more persuasive than academic argument, and that an image conveyed knowledge more accurately and concisely than any words. Few of his surviving drawings were intended for others to see: drawing served as his laboratory, allowing him to work out his ideas on paper and search for the universal laws that he believed underpinned all of creation.