Magical Leonardo

During my London trip I managed to get a slot to see the Da Vinci drawings in the Queen’s Gallery.

Marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, this exhibition showed more than 200 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings in the Royal Collection. There was but one word to describe them: they were magical.

 

 

 

Loving works on paper as I do, I literally did not know where to look first: there were the most delicate flowers and plants, drawn with the precision of a botanist, yet filled with life in a unique way. It was a known fact that if Leonardo had to put a few flowers in the corner of a painting, he made dozens of studies before deciding which to use. Look at those acorns below, they seem to glow on the page.

 

 

 

Then there were maps which must have made the adventure-loving amongst his peers long to go off and explore.

 

 

The drawings in the Royal Collection used to be bound up in a book that was acquired by Charles II. The pages have now been separated so that the drawings can be shown in their full beauty. They provide an extraordinary insight into the workings of Leonardo’s mind and reflect the full range of his interests, including painting, sculpture, architecture, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.

See below his scheme on how to breach a fortress’s walls.

 

 

 

Drawing was Leonardo’s obsession, allowing him to work out his ideas on paper and try to set out the universal laws that he believed underpinned all of creation. He observed everything closely and sketched every aspect, as can be seen in his wonderful drawings of horses.

 

 

 

Although Leonardo was widely admired and extremely productive in his life, he finished few projects. He only completed around 20 paintings, and no sculpture or buildings by him survive. His scheme to divert the river Arno, which he planned with Machiavelli, was never realized. None of the treatises he planned on anatomy, light, botany or mechanics was ever completed.

Below is one of his drawings of the human body, observed live during a dissection.

 

 

 

It seems to me his mind boiled with so many ideas and plans that, as soon as something was set down on paper, he lost interest and moved on to the next thing. Many of his multiple achievements survive only in his drawing or manuscrits, but these are so wonderful, it hardly seems to matter.

 

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