In February 2019, to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, 12 of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings from the Royal Collection will go on display at Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Derby is the twelfth, and final location, to be announced as part of the nationwide event.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing from Royal Collection Trust on Vimeo.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, will give the widest-ever UK audience the opportunity to see the work of this extraordinary artist. Twelve drawings selected to reflect the full range of Leonardo’s interests – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany – will be shown at each venue in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton, Sunderland and Derby.

Tony Butler, Executive Director of Derby Museums said:

“We are thrilled to be announced as the final partner in this extraordinary exhibition event to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo. Working with Royal Collection Trust has enabled us to bring these fantastic works to Derby, a city of makers. Leonardo is an inspiration to makers worldwide, and this exhibition will create an amazing buzz across the whole city.”

Following the exhibitions at Royal Collection Trust’s partner venues, in May 2019 the drawings will be brought together to form part an exhibition of over 200 works at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in over 65 years. A selection of 80 drawings will then travel to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in November 2019, the largest group of the artist’s work ever shown in Scotland.

Revered in his day as a painter, Leonardo completed only around 20 paintings; he was respected as a sculptor and architect, but no sculpture or buildings by him survive; he was a military and civil engineer who plotted with Machiavelli to divert the river Arno, but the scheme was never executed; he was an anatomist and dissected 30 human corpses, but his ground-breaking anatomical work was never published; he planned treatises on painting, water, mechanics, the growth of plants and many other subjects, but none was ever finished. As so much of his life’s work was unrealised or destroyed, Leonardo’s greatest achievements survive only in his drawings and manuscripts.

The drawings in the Royal Collection have been together as a group since the artist’s death, and provide an unparalleled insight into Leonardo’s investigations and the workings of his mind. Leonardo firmly believed that visual evidence was more persuasive than academic argument, and that an image conveyed knowledge more accurately and concisely than any words. Few of his surviving drawings were intended for others to see: drawing served as his laboratory, allowing him to work out his ideas on paper and search for the universal laws that he believed underpinned all of creation.

Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, said,

“The drawings of Leonardo da Vinci are a national treasure, both incredibly beautiful and the main source of our knowledge of the artist. We hope that as many people as possible across the UK will take this unique opportunity to see these extraordinary works, which allow us to enter one of the greatest minds in history, and to understand the man and his achievements.”