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Leonardo da Vinci

A portrait drawing of the head of Leonardo da Vinci, turned in profile to the left; with long wavy hair and a flowing beard. Inscribed below: LEONARDO / VINCI.<br /><br />This is the only reliable surviving portrait of Leonardo da Vinci (14

Leonardo da Vinci: Recto: Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci ©

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was famous in his day as an artist. Today he is just as well known for his scientific investigations, which he recorded in his notebooks and in thousands of drawings.

The unifying theme of Leonardo’s researches was an urge to understand the phenomena of nature. This would allow the artist to create a true image of the world, and indeed some of Leonardo’s most beautiful drawings of plants and animals were studies for his paintings and sculptures. He also intended to write a treatise on the theory of painting, which would cover many aspects of the appearance of the natural world. This in turn spawned separate treatises - never completed - on anatomy (both human and animal), on the movement of water, and on botany, concentrating on the physical structure of plants and trees.

The six hundred drawings by Leonardo in the Royal Library were acquired, probably by Charles II, in the late seventeenth century.