Leonardo da Vinci drawings from the Royal Collection to go on display in Sheffield in 2019

Feb 07 2018

Twelve remarkable drawings by Leonardo da Vinci from the Royal Collection are set to go on display at the Millennium Gallery in February 2019 as part of a major nationwide exhibition marking the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death. Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing will see some of the Renaissance master's greatest drawings shown in a series of simultaneous exhibitions taking place in twelve cities across the UK.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing will give the widest-ever UK audience the opportunity to see the work of this extraordinary artist. Twelve drawings, selected to reflect the diversity of Leonardo's interests – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany – will be shown at each venue in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Sunderland, with a further venue to be announced.  

Leonardo do Vinci, Studies of waterThe UK-wide exhibitions will include examples of all the drawing materials employed by the artist, including pen and ink, red and black chalks, watercolour and metalpoint. They will also present new information about Leonardo's working practices and creative process, gathered through scientific research using a range of non-invasive techniques including ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence. Amongst the works on display in Sheffield will be in Studies of water (c.1517-18). In this drawing Leonardo built up the image in stages, first creating an underlying structure of water currents in chalk and then adding little rosettes of bubbles on the surface in ink, almost as decoration.

Kirstie Hamilton, Head of Exhibitions & Displays, Museums Sheffield, said, ‘We’re delighted to be taking part in this nationwide celebration of a true visionary. Drawing and innovation are cornerstones of the collections we care for in Sheffield and we’re thrilled to be working with Royal Collection Trust to show these spectacular works at the Millennium Gallery.’

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 are to be found on sheets of paper.

Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, said, ‘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.’

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.

Following the exhibitions at Royal Collection Trust's partner venues, in May 2019 the drawings will be 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 Holyroodhouse in November 2019, the largest group of Leonardo's works ever shown in Scotland.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing will open at the Millennium Gallery on 1 February 2019 and continue until 6 May 2019, free admission.

Exhibitions of 12 drawings will also go on show at:

  • Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery
  • Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
  • National Museum Cardiff 
  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
  • Leeds Art Gallery
  • Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
  • Manchester Art Gallery
  • Millennium Gallery, Sheffield
  • Southampton City Art Gallery
  • Sunderland Museums and Winter Gardens 
  • Ulster Museum, Belfast
  • Venue to be announced

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing (24 May – 13 October 2019)
Exhibition of over 200 drawings
The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing (22 November 2019 – 15 March 2020)
Exhibition of 80 drawings
The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh


Top: Leonardo da Vinci, The bust of a man (c.1510), Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018
Middle: Leonardo da Vinci, Studies of water (c.1510-12), Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018


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