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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

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in  2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
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Exhibition Review : Canaletto and the Art of Venice at The Queen’s Gallery – 19th May to 12th November 2017

The Royal Collection presents an exhibition that features one of the world’s finest group of paintings, drawings and prints by Venice’s famous painter, Canaletto (1697-1768). The exhibition explores the work of Canaletto and his relationship with Joseph Smith who was British Consul in Venice and became the artist’s agent and dealer.

The exhibition also presents a wide selection of eighteenth-century Venetian art, with Canaletto’s greatest works shown alongside paintings and drawings by Sebastiano and Marco Ricci, Francesco Zuccarelli, Rosalba Carriera, Pietro Longhi and Giovanni Battista Piazzetta.

The first room in the exhibition sets the scene with Ludovico Ughi’s map called Iconographic Representation of the Illustrious City of Venice, first printed in 1729. Venice was unlike any other city in the world being built on a series of islands and sandbanks in a shallow lagoon. The wealth of the city had led to a series of palaces being built along the canals with attractive churches and squares.

Venice’s political power had been tied closely to their maritime power and  two paintings by Canaletto pays testament to this relationship. A Regatta on the Grand Canal c.1733-4 illustrates spectators cheering the elaborately decorated eight-oared barges belonging to prominent Venetian families. The Bacino di San Marco on Ascension Day c.1733-4 provides a view of the great Venetian festival of the Wedding of the Sea where The Doge drops a ring into the sea to symbolise Venice’s maritime power.

Canaletto was born in Venice in 1697, the son of Bernardo Canal (1674–1744) who was a painter of stage sets. The artist initially followed in his father’s footsteps, but soon began producing paintings which included the city of Venice as his principal subject. However these views were not just reproduced, Canaletto often moved buildings and changed perspectives to create a better dramatic effect. Many of the artists drawings are included in the exhibition including some of the most famous monuments of Venice—the Grand Canal, the square around the basilica of San Marco and its distinctive Campanile (bell tower).

Venice was considered an important place on the Grand Tour undertaken by wealthy Europeans, to cater for this clientele, the city provided places of entertainment. One of the most popular forms of entertainment in this period was Opera and Theatre, Venice had nineteen opera houses, and the opera season coincided with Carnival.

The exhibition illustrates how Canaletto transformed the cityscape of Venice into a profitable subject to sell to British Grand Tourists, but another popular subject in Venetian art was rural landscapes which were often used as a setting for episodes from biblical stories or classical mythology. Marco Ricci and Francesco Zuccarelli made many landscape paintings, drawings and etchings to cater for this demand.

The city of Venice had been an important centre for printing for many centuries. However in the eighteenth century, printing became a mini industry to produce prints for visitors and collectors. Many artists in the city were attracted by this lucrative sideline, Canaletto, Marco Ricci and Giambattista Tiepolo began to experiment with etching.

‘Capriccio’ paintings and drawings refers to landscape or architectural compositions that combine real elements with elements of fantasy or imagination. The genre became associated with eighteenth century Venice and was popular among Grand Tourists. Several Venetian artists, especially Canaletto, Marco Ricci and the painter Antonio Visentini made many paintings and drawings of capriccio subjects.

Although many artists catered for the visitor market, other Venetian artists worked in a variety of media and subjects in a more traditional type of Italian painting, the exhibition features works by Sebastiano Ricci and Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini who painted on a large scale, using subject matter taken from history, literature or mythology.

The final room features Canaletto’s paintings of Venetian views with which he made his reputation. Joseph Smith commissioned many paintings from Canaletto for his own collection including a series of 12 paintings of the Grand Canal. Smith also commissioned a series of monumental views of Rome and arranged for Canaletto to travel and work in Britain where he stayed for almost ten years. Eventually in 1762, Smith decided to sell his extensive collection to George III and the remarkable collection has been in the Royal Collection ever since.

This fascinating exhibition offers an opportunity to discover Canaletto’s work in the context of a Venice that was in decline politically but was a popular destination for visitors to Italy. In many ways, Canaletto’s reputation has been tarnished by the work he did for the Grand Tourists. It has often been seen as low quality in a genre that was not highly valued. This exhibition provides plenty of evidence that this view obscures Canaletto considerable talents of a draughtsman and the sense of drama in his paintings. Since the artist’s death, the paintings have also provided a remarkable historical and visual account of the Venetian maritime empire in decline relying on tourism to maintain its past glories.

See Video Review here

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

Canaletto & the Art of Venice is at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, 19 May – 12 November 2017.

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

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch in  2014 , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here