Home » Exhibitions » Exhibition Review: Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing at the Queen’s Gallery from 24 May to 13 October 2019

Exhibition Review: Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing at the Queen’s Gallery from 24 May to 13 October 2019


© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace presents a major new exhibition entitled Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing which features over 200 drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, the largest exhibition of the artist’s work in over 65 years. The exhibition marks the 500th anniversary of Leonardo’s death and follows a series of 12 simultaneous exhibitions of Leonardo’s drawings from the Royal Collection at museums and galleries across the UK, which have attracted more than one million visitors.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The Royal Collection has one of the largest collections of Leonardo’s drawings which cover a wide range of the artist’s interests. The exhibition features works on painting, sculpture, architecture, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Although Leonardo da Vinci is famous for his paintings, in his lifetime he completed only around 20 paintings. The exhibition explores Leonardo as the ‘Renaissance man’, full of varied interests and skills. Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing is organised both chronologically and thematically and include artistic projects that stretched on for years or even decades.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Whilst many artists use drawings for a quick outline or for practice, Leonardo’s drawings are often very different with remarkable detail. His approach would be considered today ‘scientific’ with the drawings accompanying ideas about anatomy, mechanics, light, water, botany and much more.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The first room includes the well known portrait of Leonardo by his pupil Francesco Melzi (A portrait of Leonardo c.1515–18) and the leather bound album created by sculptor Pompeo Leoni around 1590.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

The album contained around 600 drawings and entered into the Royal Collection during the reign of Charles II.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Some of the highlights of the exhibition include anatomical studies include The fetus in the womb (c.1511), The heart and coronary vessels (c.1511–13) and The cardiovascular system and principal organs of a woman (c.1509–10). Leonardo was allowed to dissect 30 human corpses with the intention of compiling an illustrated treatise on anatomy.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Remarkably there are the only six surviving preparatory studies for the Last Supper (1495–8), the painting still exists but it has been drastically changed over the centuries and these drawings give impressions of how it would looked originally.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Leonardo was fascinated by the natural world and drew landscapes, studies of water, flowers and animals. There are many drawings of horses throughout Leonardo’s work, which including studies for three equestrian monuments that were never completed.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Among the drawings are a series of sketches that he used in preparation for the now lost painting Leda and the Swan.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Leonardo is not known for his cartography skills, but a series of drawings including A map of Imola (1502) were created using highly accurate techniques of measurement.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

Preparatory studies for paintings include studies for Salvator Mundi (c.1504–8) and The Madonna and Child with St Anne and a lamb (c.1508–19).

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

All the drawings are not with serious intentions, Leonardo did drawings of costumes for court events, head studies, satires on growing old, grotesque people and animals.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

One of the last sections is much darker, his drawings of the Deluge can be interpreted as the artist looking towards his own mortality.

© 2019 Visiting London Guide.com – Photograph by Alan Kean

This remarkable exhibition allows visitors the opportunity to understand why Leonardo is seen as the archetypal ‘Renaissance man’. Not only was his range of interests broad but he indulged them all with a scientific outlook that was often years or centuries ahead of his time. His artist skills are shown even in smallest drawings with incredible levels of detail and beautiful execution. The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see a large number of extraordinary works and gain some understanding of why we still are fascinated by the many talents of Leonardo da Vinci over 500 years since he died.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

For more information or book tickets, visit the Royal Collection website here

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