He may have been dead for five hundred years, but that isn’t stopping Leonardo da Vinci going on a tour of the UK’s museums and art galleries. In fact, it’s the precise reason it’s happening. To mark five hundred years since one of the world’s most celebrated artists passed away, a collection of his greatest works – as well as some hidden gems – is touring across Great Britain for three months. Included in the collection, which has been distributed by the Royal Collection Trust under the name ‘Leonardo da Vinci: A Life In Drawings.’
Calling da Vinci an artist is perhaps being unfair to his other numerous abilities. The mercurial Italian was a man of many talents; as well as being a skilled painter, he was also an excellent sculptor. Seemingly able to turn his gifts to anything involving the use of his hands, he was also a very able architect, scientist, writer, cartographist, biologist and botanist. For a human being to excel at any one of those skills is worthy of both study and attention. In the case of da Vinci, he was one of the world’s last true polymaths, and by definition one of the most fascinating people who ever lived.
Even after five centuries, anything ‘new’ involving da Vinci captures the imagination of the public, and in turn, fires the activity of the press. Various newspapers including the Guardian were granted a sneak preview of the exhibition and its contents, and they gave it their maximum award of five stars out of five. The Guardian article draws close attention to da Vinci’s seeming fascination with the human form. The artist was keen to both discover more about and disseminate information on the human condition; in one of the many nationwide exhibitions (specifically the one hosted in Manchester), drawings from his notebook illustrate his theories on how circulation works within the human body. He was among the first to understand the heart’s role in pumping blood around the body, although he was unable to identify the source of the blood, suspecting that it may be generated within the liver.
How da Vinci would react to pages from his notebooks being splayed onto museum wall for others to gaze upon is unclear. It’s known that he didn’t consider his artwork to be the most significant of either his talents or his interests, and even his famous ‘Vitruvian Man’ portrait was drawn only to act as a guide to a mathematical equation concerning anatomy. He didn’t view it as a piece of art, and certainly didn’t expect it to become one. It’s conceivable that he would be greatly embarrassed by the idea of the public poring through the contents of his personal art books and collections of notes; when he intended something to be created for display he made it very clear, hence the level of detail involved in his most famous work, the Mona Lisa.
What is clear however is the appetite for da Vinci’s work, and the level of intrigue that exists around the greatest mind of the Renaissance era. The almost mythic quality of his life and his science is referenced in Dan Brown’s ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ which was everybody’s must-have holiday novel when it was released in 2003. There are also not one but two online slots that exist based on da Vinci’s work; both ‘Double da Vinci Diamonds’ and ‘da Vinci’s Treasure’ are among over 500 slots which are hosted at roseslots.com. If the quality and legacy of the man’s work is so well known that it’s of sufficient interest to appeal to players at online casinos, the new British exhibitions are sure to cause a real stir among art lovers. Visitors to the museum may not receive jackpot cash payments like they would if they triumphed in one of the slot games, but they’ll certainly feel like they’ve come away from the experience culturally enriched.
There are different aspects of da Vinci’s work on display at different UK locations, so visitors to different towns and cities will not have an identical experience. Exhibitions are currently open in Manchester as previously mentioned, but also in Birmingham, Leeds, Southampton, Sheffield, Bristol, Belfast, Glasgow, Cardiff, Derby, Liverpool, and Sunderland.
The organizers of the displays understand that traveling to every location to see the collection in full won’t be possible for everyone who’s interested, so if you’re prepared to wait a little longer, they will eventually migrate to one location. At present the works will remain where they are until Monday 6th May, and they will then be taken and displayed together at the Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, which is an excellent reason to go and appreciate the rest of the artwork on display at the Queen’s home if you’ve never done it previously. That still may be too far south for some people, so in November the collection will move again, this time to the ‘other’ Queen’s Gallery inside the Palace of Holyrood House in Scotland.
Prices for entry to the displays vary from location to location, with some galleries offering admission for free, others requesting donations and some requiring a fixed fee for viewings. Interested parties are recommended to check with their destination gallery before setting off on their journey. For especially busy exhibitions it’s always best advised to book in advance.
Centuries may have passed, but with this being the most significant new display of Leonardo da Vinci’s works in years, it’s safe to say that interest in his life and times will endure, and pass on to generations yet to come. Many of the galleries hosting his works for these exhibitions will probably be hosting another anniversary collection one hundred years from now. We wonder if there will still be any ‘unseen’ works to be unveiled then? Whether you’re more interested in his words, his pictures, his sculpture or his artwork, this latest exhibition offers a once in a generation chance to see work that has never been exhibited before. If you’re in the UK and you have the time to spare, it’s time to re-acquaint yourself with your nearest great art gallery!