A polymath’s legacy

Leonardo da Vinci’s name looms large in history but surprisingly few of his accomplishments have survived. Drawing together his manuscripts and sketches from the Royal Collection, a new exhibition will celebrate his extraordinary legacy

A massive celebration of Leonardo da Vinci has been organised in conjunction with galleries and museums across the country to mark the 500th anniversary of his death. As part of this nationwide event, 12 of Leonardo’s finest drawings will go on display at the Bristol Museum & Art Gallery from Friday, February 1.

One hundred and forty-four exquisite drawings will be displayed across twelve venues in the United Kingdom, from Belfast and Cardiff to Glasgow and Southampton. In May 2019, the entire collection will be on display at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, before the exhibition heads north to The Palace of Holyroodhouse in November.

The works have been carefully curated to represent the extraordinary scope of Leonardo’s achievements and interests. Despite his considerable accomplishments, very few artefacts from Leonardo’s career have survived. He was a prolific sketcher and artist but completed only 20 paintings in his lifetime. He was also much-respected as an architect, but the buildings he designed have since been demolished. Similarly, his interest in civil engineering saw him devise grand plans, including one to divert the River Arno, but sadly the plan was never seen through to fruition.

Much like his work in the field of anatomy, some of Leonardo’s most pioneering ideas were never published. From botany to hydromechanics, Leonardo broke new ground, but his greatest achievements now only survive in his drawings and manuscripts. The 12 pieces on display in Bristol will be presented alongside some of the latest findings from Leonardo’s work. Using ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence, non-invasive tools have helped to reveal the secrets of Leonardo’s creative process.

All 144 of the pieces on display across the UK are from the Royal Collection which contains one of the world’s largest depositories of Leonardo’s work. To complement the exhibition, three young Bristol creatives have coordinated an accompanying display called Leonardo Unfinished which explores themes from the life of history’s most famous polymath.

When: February 1–May 6, £6 adult, £5 concession

Where: Bristol Museum & Art Gallery

Website: www.bristolmuseums.org.uk

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