The head of Leda, c. 1505-8 and The head of a youth, c. 1510


February 9, 2019

Balasz Takac is alias of Vladimir Bjelicic who is actively engaged in art criticism, curatorial and artistic practice.

The syntagm greatest artist of all times is not attached to Leonardo da Vinci without justification. The reasons for such a claim are multiple; this iconic historical figure firstly set the foundations of modern art-making, and secondly, he embodied the concept of the polymath to the full extent, and therefore the ideal of Renaissance of man.

Namely, Leonardo da Vinci is definitely best known for the world’s most iconic masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, but he also devotedly explored architecture, human anatomy, botany, music, engineering, cartography and was practically the first human in history to anticipate humanity flying.

The most important tool for articulating these interests was drawing; through this particular medium, Leonardo was able to express in humble means his ideas in quick, yet elaborate manner. Spanning preparatory sketches for large scale paintings, surgically precise depictions of the human inside and outside, and refined maps representing demographical features of a certain area, his drawings seem to expose all the layers behind this outrages genius.

This year marks the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, and in order to honor it, the UK’s Royal Collection decided to show the highlights of their extensive collection (consisting of one hundred and forty-four Leonardo drawings) in twelve exhibitions across the country.

Leonardo da Vinci – A Life in Drawing Exhibition Promo

The Master’s Innovations

Much of Leonardo da Vinci’s work was destroyed or lost, so his highly progressive ideas survived only in manuscripts and his drawings. The artist worked with various materials such as metal point, watercolor, pen and ink – he often used special kind of ink made from iron salts and oak galls, and red and black chalks. The layers of each work were closely analyzed with the use of non-invasive techniques, infrared reflectography ultraviolet imaging, and X-ray fluorescence.

Therefore, the selection of these works is expected to reveal details concerning Leonardo’s creative process and working methods. Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust Martin Clayton, explained the importance of these exhibitions:

The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci are a national treasure, both incredibly beautiful and the main source of our knowledge of the artist. We hope that as many people as possible across the UK will take this unique opportunity to see these extraordinary works, which allow us to enter one of the greatest minds in history, and to understand the man and his achievements.

Leonardo da Vinci Drawings On View

A new publication Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look published by Royal Collection Trust will accompany the exhibition. After the end of all the exhibitions, the drawings will be united for purposes of the great Leonardo retrospective at The Queen’s Gallery in May 2019, which will then travel to Scotland’s Palace of Holyroodhouse in November 2019.

In order to honor the 500th anniversary and the following exhibitions, we decided to present you with the twelve Leonardo gems through our following top list.

Editors’ Tip: Disavowals: or Cancelled Confessions

On the heels of Walter Isaacson’s beloved new biography (Fall 2017), and increased media attention (as 2019 marks the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death), this book’s appeal will extend beyond the devoted and numerous members of Leonardo’s audience to reach a popular one. The most comprehensive collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings provides an intimate look at the mind and hand of the genius.

Featured image: Leonardo da Vinci – Mortars firing into a fortress, c.1503-4. Black chalk, pen and ink, wash. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018.





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