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September 5, 2019

Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawings Exhibition, London

For any of you in London until the 13 th October this year, and with any interest in World class culture, I thoroughly recommend visiting the exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci drawings, at the Queens Gallery in Buckingham Palace https://tickets.rct.uk/queens-gallery-buckingham-palace/leonardo-da-vinci-life-drawing/2019

With his ground breaking anatomical studies, which still represent a real benchmark, Leonardo has always held a special place in the hearts of the medical profession.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

The 200 drawings on display have come from the 500 or so in the Royal Collections which comprise a significant proportion of the wider body of 2000 known non-painted works. The latter, barely numbering double figures, brim with artistic, symbolic and technical complexities that viewers should have some appreciation of to gain fully from their viewing.

These magnificent drawings on the other hand require no such preparatory work to come away both thoroughly educated and also inspired. They are by their nature small and with limited themes but as such far easier to
engage with.

His works marked a sea change with their realism of proportion and perspective as well as subject matter, the magnitude of which is difficult to fully appreciate when viewed in isolation. That the few works included in the exhibition by his contemporaries are an easy spot, even to the untrained eye, emphasises this point.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Of course Leonardos’ virtuosity as an artist is on display at every turn of the gallery, well demonstrated by this sketch of a rearing horse, its kicking legs in triplicate and precise muscle definition conveying a dramatic sense of movement.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

As interesting though is seeing the painstaking craft that lay behind such seemingly effortless works with his precisely measured studies, and the superb level of anatomical detail evident in his human and animal pro-sections.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

The exhibition though doesn’t simply document the virtuosity and method of a man who changed the way that the natural world was depicted it also shows the mundane nature of some aspects of his professional life, with some fairly perfunctory maps that were clearly part of the day job.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Anyone questing for perfection has to have an obsessional nature and this is exemplified best in particular perhaps by one incredible design for fortifications depicting a long row of mortars firing projectiles over defensive walls.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

The effect could easily have been imparted with a few rounds clearing the walls from each mortar instead of which are drawn hundreds of projectiles raining down, the trajectory of each described with a perfectly drawn parabola. I can see no real purpose or reason for such effort other than it was within his ability and he felt it was how it should be done.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

The fact that the image which Leonardo communicated with are so familiar speaks for itself. Whether executing grotesque caricatures of the old and expended.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

drafting precisely measured dimensions of a limb or conjuring an animated pair of hands in chalk, the immediacy of his drawings persists perhaps because he defined 500 years ago a image that has yet to be bettered.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019

Mark Herron.

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