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Leonardo At Leeds
Simon Bartle, Visual Arts Correspondent
An exhibition of 12 of Leonardo Da Vinci drawings from the Royal Collection Trust at Leeds Art Gallery is now open and runs until 6th May 2019.

Leonardo da Vinci, Studies of casting apparatus, and miscellaneous notes, c.1492–93. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019
The exhibition provides a once in a generation opportunity to sample the private drawings and thoughts from Da Vinci's personal notebooks, and marks the 500th anniversary of his death.

In all 144 of his greatest drawings from the Royall Collection are being displayed simultaneously in 12 separate exhibitions across the United Kingdom.
Each of the 12 venues has a particular theme covering Leonardo's many interests, including painting, anatomy, sculpture, botany, music, engineering, map-making and architecture.

Leonardo da Vinci, The bust of a man, c.1510. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019
Leeds Art Gallery is displaying 12 drawings, which focus on Leonardo's drawings for sculptures and designs for monumental sculptures. No completed Leonardo sculptures survive, but the drawings are magnificent. The drawings in Leeds are the art world's equivalent of a 'taster menu'. They are tantalising in what they reveal, but what is left unseen and untasted at the other venues is vital to a fuller understanding of Leonardo's genius.

However, that state of affairs will not last long, as in May, the drawings from each of the 12 venues, and others from the Royal Trust Collection, 200 in all, will go on display at The Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace. In November, they move to The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh.

We could wax lyrical about Leonardo's brilliance, and the ingenuity of his mirror writing. We could contemplate whether the latter was a attributable to his left handedness, or was the product of a highly tuned intellect. We may speculate on his sexuality, or whether or not he was a vegetarian, but to do so would be to do him a monstrous disservice.

Leonardo da Vinci, The bust of a child in profile, c.1500. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019
Leonardo's works tell the true story, and the works in the Leeds exhibition are proof of his genius, and confirm that he has most certainly earned the label of renaissance polymath. On the evidence of the 12 drawings in Leeds, the accolades showered upon him through the centuries have most definitely been earned.

In the Leeds exhibition, Leonardo's sculptural drawings, are shown alongside three masterpieces of drawing: The bust of a man (c 1510), the bust of a child in profile (c 1500), and the skull (1489). All three are sublime. The latter breaks the mould, and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Leonardo was not only a genius, but that he was first and foremost, an innovator. Quite simply a man who was ahead of his times.

Leonardo da Vinci, A design for an equestrian monument, c.1485-8. Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2019
This exhibition is wonderfully curated, and serves up the full 12 courses of a taster menu. At the very least it wets the appetite, and leaves you wanting more, and that is the very point. You will most certainly wish to book your ticket to either Buckingham Palace, or the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and judging by what is on display in the Leeds Art Gallery, you will not be disappointed.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibition run until 6 May in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Derby, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Sunderland

Leonardo At Leeds, 7th February 2019, 8:56 AM