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Leonardo sketches go on show at Walker Art Gallery

Fourteen intricate sketches created by Leonardo Da Vinci more than 500 years ago are on show in a new exhibition at the Walker Art Gallery.

Leonardo Da Vinci: A Life in Drawing is one of 12 concurrent shows taking place across the UK to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of the Italian Renaissance master.

The free exhibition features 12 pages from the artist’s sketch books held in the Royal Collection, including two double-sided pages, making 14 images in all.

Along with the Walker, other venues country wide who are also exhibiting Da Vinci work include the Manchester Art Gallery, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Kelvingrove in Glasgow and Southampton City Art Gallery.

Xanthe Brooke, National Museum Liverpool’s curator of European Art, said: “Some venues wanted to focus on a particular theme. For example, Manchester is looking at the human figure.

“I wanted to show Leonardo’s sheer diversity. That’s what’s fascinating to people. They expect artists to concentrate on the human figure, but what they don’t expect is what you get here.

"He was fascinated by both scientific and artistic projects, and the double-sided drawings on display mean you can see him jumping from one topic to another.

“On one side of a piece of paper Leonardo has sketched a series of horses in preparation for a huge mural called The Battle of Anghiari. On the other there’s another horse’s head, but then there’s a diagram of the solar system.

“The drawings came from sketch books and were working preparations. They were never meant to be discovered. That’s what makes them so fascinating. Few of his paintings actually survive, but by looking at his drawings you can see in to Leonardo’s mind.

“He thought through his projects by sketching. And you can see how he is cross-fertilising his interests.”

The sketches cover topics like botany, anatomy, the courtly life, the Sforza Monument, landscapes and costume studies.

A river landscape c.1511-13

Among the works are the Head of Leda which was used as a preparatory sketch for a painting that no longer exists, a charcoal study for the drapery of Leonardo’s Madonna and Child with St Anne, demonstrating his remarkable technical abilities, as well as a river landscape, a stormy apocalyptic scene and a chalk drawing of a masquerader on horseback in an ornate costume.

The exhibition also features information on Da Vinci himself, and suggests a treasure trail of other works by contemporaries, friends and rivals within the Walker’s permanent collection, including a copy of the Mona Lisa believed to date from the 17th century.

Leonardo Da Vinci: A Life in Drawings runs from February 1 to May 6.

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