Birmingham & Black Country

Leonardo da Vinci drawings tour UK for Queen's Jubilee

Leonardo da Vinci drawing of a woman
Image caption The study of Leda's head is believed to have been completed in about 1505

A collection of 10 rarely seen drawings by Leonardo da Vinci is to go on display in Birmingham.

The works include designs for a chariot, anatomical sketches and a study of the head of Leda, the mythological mother of Helen of Troy.

They form part of the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.

The touring exhibition will be at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery from 13 January till 25 March to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee year.

A spokesman for the Royal Collection said the drawings were among the finest in its almost 600-piece collection and had been selected to show the scope of Leonardo's interests in painting, sculpture, engineering, botany, mapmaking, hydraulics and anatomy.

'Serious scientific investigation'

They form a mini retrospective of his career and complement his court works loaned to the National Gallery for a major Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

Martin Clayton, senior curator for prints and drawings at the Royal Collection, said the drawings represented a mix of preparatory studies for paintings as well as scientific research. Due to the risk of light damage, the drawings have never been on permanent public display.

He added: "This group of drawings will hopefully give people a concrete sense of who Leonardo was.

"Often when people think of Leonardo they associate him with the Mona Lisa, a flying machine and an anatomical drawing, but his scientific interest is seen as something peripheral.

"Science and engineering was not just a dalliance for him him, they were serious fields of investigation in which we can see from his drawings that he achieved significant success.

"This also informed his paintings as he tried to present as accurate a representation of life as possible."

City engineering connection

He said the drawings also had special significance for being among those the Renaissance artist most valued and kept.

They were found in his studio in the Loire Valley in France on his death in 1519 and have been kept together as a collection ever since, passing into the Royal Household in the 17th Century during the reign of Charles II.

Rita McLean, the head of Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, said: "It's hugely exciting that we have been chosen to host this exhibition.

"Birmingham, of course, has a very strong history of innovation, engineering and design as a manufacturing centre, so it is appropriate that Leonardo's drawings should be on display here and, although it is only a small collection, we expect it to attract a very large audience."

After Birmingham the exhibition will visit Bristol Museum & Art Gallery from 30 March until 10 June; Ulster Museum, Belfast, from 15 June until 27 August; The McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery & Museum from 31 August until 4 November and Ferens Art Gallery in Hull from 10 November until 20 January 2013.

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