Scotland's Largest Leonardo Exhibition Launches New Queen's Gallery

Release date: 
Tuesday, 5 November 2002

The opening of the new Queen's Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse is celebrated with the largest exhibition devoted to Leonardo da Vinci ever held in Scotland and the first to focus on the artist's life-long obsession with the human form.  All the 73 works in the exhibition come from the Royal Collection, which holds the world's finest group of Leonardo's drawings.

For  Leonardo,  drawing  was  the  principal  means  of  exploring  both  the  real world and the boundless possibilities of the imagination.  This ground-breaking exhibition  looks  at  his  work  in  the  context  of  contemporary  ideas  of  beauty, notions of perfection, popular imagery, and accepted modes of artistic creation and social behavior.

Through studies of the body (The proportions of a standing, kneeling and sitting man), the face (The proportions of the head) and internal anatomy (The skeleton), Leonardo attempted to define the ideal human figure.  His highly accurate anatomical drawings, such as The skull sectioned, broke new ground in the history of scientific illustration.  Several are annotated with his characteristic mirror-writing, most notably The anatomy of the mouth.

Leonardo's compulsion to draw imaginary heads is one of the most striking aspects of his work.  His study of human physiognomy went hand in hand with his delight in distorting the human face to explore the comic potential of the 'grotesque'.  These were among his most influential works and were largely responsible for the supreme Renaissance master's reputation as a bizarre genius.

A group of highly finished drawings of male heads, such as The head of a youth in right profile, represent the ideal types that recur throughout Leonardo's drawings and paintings - the angelic youth, the fierce warrior and the decrepit old man. Yet it was his playful transformations of the human face that are among his most distinctive and revealing creations.  The most famous of these images is the sheet of five grotesque heads, now reinterpreted as A man tricked by Gypsies.

Among the other highlights are Leonardo's drawings of fantastic animals and bizarre inventions, which he intended to be as hideous or terrifying as possible.  Little evidence remains of his work as a designer of festival costumes and masks, but the exhibition includes one of the finest surviving examples, A masquerader as an exotic pikeman.  Studies for Leonardo's masterpiece, The Last Supper, and portraits of the artist and his circle are also among the selection.

The exhibition is accompanied by the catalogue Leonardo da Vinci: The Divine and the Grotesque by Martin Clayton, (The Royal Collection) 192 pages, 149 illustrations, £30.00 (Hardback) and £20.00 (Softback).
Press information and photographs are available from Public Relations and Marketing, the Royal Collection, telephone: 020-7839 1377,  Images are also available from the Royal Collection's folder in the Arts section on PA's Picselect or through the PA bulletin board.

Admission details
Leonardo da Vinci: The Divine and the Grotesque
The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
30 November 2002 - 30 March 2003 (Closed 25 and 26 December 2002)       
09:30 - 16:30 every day (last admission 15:45), entry by timed ticket.
(The exhibition will be shown at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, from 9 May to 9 November 2003.)
Advance tickets from or 0131 556 5100. On-the-day tickets from The Queen's Gallery, subject to availability.

Ticket prices:
Adult £4.00
Over 60/Student £3.00
Under 17 £2.00
Family (2 adults and 3 under 17s) £10.00
Under 5 Free
Annual Gallery Season Ticket:
Adult £16.00
Over 60/Student £12.00
Under 17 £8.00 

Notes to Editors
1. The drawings by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) have been in the Royal Collection since before 1690 and were probably acquired during the reign of Charles II (1660-85). These works can never be on permanent display, because of the potential for damage from exposure to light, and are housed in controlled conditions in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. However, they are regularly lent to exhibitions in the UK and around the world and are shown in the Royal Collection's own exhibitions, including the changing display of treasures from the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.
2. The Royal Collection is held in trust by The Queen as Sovereign for her successors and for the Nation. It is administered by the Royal Collection Trust, a registered charity.  It is entirely self-funding, through monies from public admission to the official residences of The Queen and a range of retail activities.