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The drawings

At his death in 1519, Leonardo bequeathed his drawings and notebooks to his pupil Francesco Melzi, who arranged the drawings by subject matter and annotated them with numbers, as seen on several of the sheets here.

Around 1580, the sculptor Pompeo Leoni acquired Leonardo’s drawings from Melzi’s son, and mounted them on the pages of at least two large albums. One of those albums was in England by 1630, in the collection of the Earl of Arundel. Within fifty years the album had been acquired by King Charles II, possibly as a gift from Arundel’s grandson.

The drawings were removed from the album during the reign of Queen Victoria and mounted individually, and in the early twentieth century many were stamped in the corner with the cipher of Edward VII. The empty binding of Pompeo Leoni’s album was preserved as a relic of the master – the repository for three centuries of much of what we know today about Leonardo.

The works are here grouped thematically, with sections on Leonardo’s map-making, landscapes, botany, anatomy, water studies and so on.