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Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look

Scientific analysis of Leonardo's drawings

Alan Donnithorne

204 pages

Winner of the 2019 Leonardo Da Vinci International Award


Book cover of Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look©

Hardback, 290 x 275 mm, 150 colour illustrations
ISBN 978 1 909741 46 1

Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look is a revolutionary re-examination of Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings, of his techniques and of his creative thinking process. It showcases 80 of Leonardo’s finest works on paper from the Royal Collection, using specialist photographic techniques to examine his working practices. One by one, Leonardo’s processes of creation are revealed, from his choice of paper and the composition of the specialist grounds used for his drawings, to his first touches in chalk, ink or metalpoint, and on to the finished compositions.

Many of these features are of course invisible to the naked eye, and have been so for centuries, ever since Leonardo took his pen from the paper. Infrared images reveal underdrawings unseen for 500 years, published here for the first time. Ultraviolet photography brings back to life now-vanished metalpoint sketches; while spectrographic analysis allows us to explore the origin and precise chemistry of Leonardo’s papers and grounds.

Combining technical analysis with a profound understanding of Leonardo’s artistic practices, this book offers an unprecedented glimpse into Leonardo’s works and his mind as both find themselves, for the first time, under the microscope.

Alan Donnithorne is the former Head of Paper Conservation, Royal Collection Trust.


Special Royal Collection online price. Every purchase helps us to care for and increase access to the Royal Collection.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look


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The income from your ticket contributes directly to The Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity. The aims of The Royal Collection Trust are the care and conservation of the Royal Collection, and the promotion of access and enjoyment through exhibitions, publications, loans and educational activities.