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Press release

Touring exhibition of Leonardo drawings to celebrate the 60th birthday of His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales

Release date: Wednesday, 14 November 2007

To celebrate the 60th birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales on 14 November 2008, it is announced today that ten of the Royal Collection’s finest drawings by the Renaissance master Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) will travel to museums and galleries across the United Kingdom in 2008-9.

The Royal Collection contains the world’s most important group of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci. These delicate works are preserved in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle and are among the greatest treasures of the Collection. Although the drawings can never be on permanent display, because of the potential for damage from exposure to light, they are regularly lent to exhibitions around the world. This loan exhibition follows the success of three previous touring exhibitions of ten masterpieces from the Royal Library – held to celebrate the Millennium, The Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 and Her Majesty’s 80th birthday in 2006 – which attracted record visitor numbers at venues across the UK.

Leonardo’s drawings are the richest, most wide-ranging, technically brilliant and endlessly fascinating of any artist, and this exhibition has been selected to demonstrate the extraordinary scope of his interests. It includes studies for painting, sculpture and architecture; a beautiful portrait of a young woman and a caricature of a grotesque old man; two exquisite studies of a dissected human skull and two of plants; a drawing of an arsenal, probably intended for a treatise on warfare; a highly accurate map of the river Arno, surveyed by Leonardo himself; a design for a dragon costume and an apocalyptic image of a deluge. The drawings demonstrate all the techniques and materials that Leonardo routinely used – metalpoint, pen and ink, brush and ink, watercolour, and red and black chalks.

Leonardo da Vinci was the archetypal ‘Renaissance man’, accomplished in painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany. Yet beyond a handful of paintings, most of his great projects were never completed. His surviving drawings are therefore our main source of knowledge of his extraordinary achievements. According to Martin Clayton, Deputy Curator of the Print Room at Windsor Castle and author of several books about Leonardo, ’we can often grasp the true nature of Leonardo’s intentions only through his drawings’.

Through drawing Leonardo attempted to record and understand the world around him. The artist maintained that an image transmitted knowledge more accurately and concisely than any words, although some of his drawings are extensively annotated. Leonardo was left-handed, and throughout his life he habitually wrote his personal notes in mirror-image from right to left (although he wrote in the conventional manner when the text was intended for some other reader). This was not an attempt to keep his researches secret, as has been claimed, but probably a childhood trick that he never abandoned.

Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci: An Exhibition to celebrate the 60th Birthday of HRH The Prince of Wales will be shown at the following four venues in the UK:

Truro, Royal Cornwall Museum (10 May – 26 July 2008)
Stirling, The Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum (8 August – 2 November 2008)
Aberystwyth, The National Library of Wales (8 November 2008 – 7 February 2009)
Manchester, Manchester Art Gallery (14 February – 4 May 2009).

Further information and photographs are available from the Royal Collection press office, telephone: +44 00 (0)20 7839 1377, e-mail: [email protected]. Images are also available from the Royal Collection’s folder in the ‘Companies Available’ section on PA’s Picselect at or through the PA bulletin board.

Notes to Editors

1. The drawings by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) have been in the Royal Collection since the 17th century and were probably acquired during the reign of Charles II (1660-85).

2. Touring exhibitions are an important part of the Royal Collection’s work to broaden public access. The millennial exhibition Ten Religious Masterpieces was the most popular art exhibition in Britain outside London in 2000, attracting over 200,000 visitors. Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci: A Golden Jubilee Celebration was seen by 169,000 visitors in 2002; and Ten Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci: An Exhibition to Celebrate the 80th Birthday of Her Majesty The Queen was seen by more than 200,000 visitors in 2006-7.

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