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The Exhibition

Leonardo da Vinci died 500 years ago, on 2 May 1519, at the age of 67.

During his lifetime Leonardo had attained fame as a painter, sculptor, architect and engineer. But many of his works had remained unfinished, and few people knew of his remarkable scientific investigations.

It is primarily through Leonardo’s drawings and notes that we can understand the man and his achievements. He drew incessantly – to devise his artistic projects, to explore the natural world, and to record the workings of his imagination.

Leonardo kept thousands of these drawings to the end of his life, bequeathing them to his favourite pupil to ensure that his legacy would be preserved.

Around 550 of these drawings entered the Royal Collection in the seventeenth century, mounted on the pages of a single album. Eighty of the finest are presented here, to give a uniquely intimate picture of the original ‘Renaissance Man’.

Florence and Milan, to 1499

Leonardo spent his twenties working as a painter in Florence, moving to Milan in 1482.

The Sforza monument

The ruler of Milan Ludovico Sforza required Leonardo to make a monument to his father Francesco

The Last Supper

Leonardo's greatest work to reach completion

Florence, 1500 – 1506/8

Leonardo tried to reestablish himself as a painter


Leonardo was appointed military architect and engineer to Cesare Borgia, commander of the Papal army

The Battle of Anghiari

The panoramic mural to celebrate the great Florentine victory was never completed

Later scientific work

Leonardo's works never reached a conclusion, and remained largely unknown at his death


Leonardo was fascinated by the interaction of water and rock

Milan, 1506 – 1513, and Rome, 1513 – 1516

Leonardo served as an all purpose designer in his final years in Italk

France, 1516 – 1519

Leonardo moved to the court of King Francis I, but his health was deteriorating

Leonardo’s legacy

Leonardo's true life work was to be found in his papers

Attributed to Francesco Melzi (1491/3-c. 1570)

A portrait of Leonardo