A Leonardo da Vinci study of hands revealed in what appears to be blank sheets of paper is going on display in a new exhibition of the Renaissance master’s work.
Windsor Castle is unlocking the Royal Collection’s da Vinci drawings to mark the 500th anniversary of his death, with simultaneous exhibitions across the UK.
The “treasures” will be shown in February next year, with each venue displaying 12 of da Vinci’s finest drawings.
The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace will then show, in May next year, “the largest exhibition” of his work in over 65 years.
The Buckingham Palace exhibition of 200 works will include, for the first time, what appears to be two completely blank sheets of paper.
They were among the 550 da Vinci sheets which had been bound into a single album, acquired by Charles II.
Recent examination of the papers in ultraviolet light revealed the sheets to be studies of hands for the Adoration Of The Magi and among Leonardo’s most beautiful drawings.
The sheets of paper will be shown alongside the ultraviolet photographs revealing the studies.
Leonardo da Vinci: A Life In Drawing will give the “widest-ever UK audience the opportunity” to see the polymath’s work.
The drawings reflect his interest in painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany.
Most of the surviving drawings were intended “for his eyes only”. They have remained in the Royal Collection since the 17th Century.
Martin Clayton, head of prints and drawings at the Royal Collection Trust, said that da Vinci “excites the popular imagination like no other artist”.
He said: “None of Leonardo’s scientific work was ever published and, of his artistic work, only about 20 paintings survive today. But the common link to all his work was drawing.
“Leonardo drew incessantly throughout his life, not just to prepare his artistic projects but to spawn new ideas, record his observations and to test his theories on every subject under the sun.
“And because he hoarded thousands of drawings and pages of manuscripts right to the end of his life, we have an unrivalled knowledge of the workings of Leonardo’s extraordinary mind.”
He added: “Leonardo’s most important drawings have been in the Royal Collection for more than 350 years.
“Because they have been protected from light, fire, insects… they are in almost pristine condition and among the greatest treasures of the Royal Collection and among the greatest artistic treasure of the United Kingdom.”
The exhibitions will bring Leonardo’s genius to the widest-ever audience, he said, adding that “more than half the population will be within an hour’s journey of one of these exhibitions”.
After the Buckingham Palace exhibition, a selection of 80 drawings will travel to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, in November 2019, the largest group of his works to be shown in Scotland.
The drawings are kept under lock and key at Windsor Castle and are only available usually on request.
Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing (February 1 – May 6 2019)
Exhibitions of 12 drawings are at the following locations:
Ulster Museum, Belfast
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
National Museum Cardiff
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
Leeds Art Gallery
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Manchester Art Gallery
Millennium Gallery, Sheffield
Southampton City Art Gallery
Sunderland Museums & Winter Gardens