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Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look

Scientific analysis of Leonardo's drawings

Alan Donnithorne

 204 pages

A Closer Look book cover

Book cover of Leonardo da Vinci: A Closer Look ©

Winner of the 2019 Leonardo Da Vinci International Award

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.


SKU 978-1-909-741-46-1

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

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The cardiovascular system and principal organs of a woman

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The head of an old bearded man in profile

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The head and shoulders of a woman, almost in profile

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The head of Leda

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

Three emblems

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

A sketch of the liver, heart and kidneys