500 Years: A Nationwide Celebration of Leonardo da Vinci

Portrait of Leonardo da Vinci attributed to Francesco Melzi

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One of the most talked about art events of recent years is taking place in Britain this year. Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing marks 500 years since the death of the Renaissance master.

Those visiting the exhibition will see a collection of rarely displayed works that give a glimpse into the mind of the creative genius who painted the Mona Lisa – perhaps the world’s most famous artwork – and whose talent extended into many other disciplines including anatomy, engineering, astronomy, mathematics, music, sculpture, architecture, and natural history.

Leonardo was born in Italy on 15 April 1452, close to the Tuscan town of Vinci from which he took his name. Apprenticed to Andrea del Verrocchio, a Florentine sculptor and painter, he became an independent master at the age of about 26.

Moving to Milan, he worked as a painter, sculptor, architect and engineer for the ruling Sforza family, and it was here, between 1495 and 1497 that Leonardo painted his iconic mural The Last Supper in the refectory of the Monastery of Santa Maria Delle Grazie.

When his employer had to flee Milan in 1499 following an invasion of the city by French forces, Leonardo returned to Florence. Although he is known to have painted several portraits while working in the city, only the Mona Lisa survives from this period of his life.


Da Vinci Work

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Leonardo moved back to Milan in 1506, working there for seven years before spending a further three years based in Rome. In 1517, at the age of 65, he moved to France at the invitation of the French king Francis I. He died on 2nd May 1519 at the Château of Cloux, near Amboise.

Based on his surviving paintings, Da Vinci is primarily remembered as an artist, but his notebooks and drawings show that he was much more than this. They reveal a spirit of scientific inquiry and a mechanical inventiveness that were centuries ahead of their time.

Leonardo used his astonishing artistic skills to present his observations and ideas on a wide range of subject matters. His diagrams and sketches reveal concept drawings for the helicopter, aeroplane, parachute and bicycle – pre-dating their actual invention by some 500 years!

When Leonardo died, his drawings and notebooks passed on to his pupil Francesco Melzi, who arranged the drawings by subject matter. Part of the collection found its way to England in the early 1600s, and by the end of the century had been acquired by Charles II.

Today, the collection of more than 550 drawings remains in the hands of the British Royal family, constituting what is considered by many to be the finest collection of Da Vinci’s drawings anywhere in the world.

Held at Windsor Castle, the drawings are not normally accessible to the public, but from February to April this year, 144 selected drawings from the Royal Collection are being displayed simultaneously in 12 exhibitions in cities across the UK including Glasgow, Cardiff, Leeds, Birmingham and Southampton. At each venue, 12 drawings will be shown: selected to reflect the full range of Leonardo's interests,

In May, over 200 drawings will go on display at the Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, and in November, 80 drawings will be shown at the Queen’s Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Scotland.


Celebrate the genius of Leonardo da Vinci 

500 years on, the surviving artworks of Leonardo da Vinci continue to captivate new generations of art lovers. To celebrate his genius and mark this important anniversary, Signare is delighted to offer a range of unique, high-quality tapestry bags adorned with Da Vinci designs.

There are three new patterns to choose from:

 New Mona Lisa Tapestry Collection

  • Mona Lisa

Probably the best-known and most studied painting of all time, Mona Lisa depicts Lisa Gherardini, wife of Francesco Del Giocondo. Her husband commissioned the work around 1503, and her enigmatic smile has been the subject of much debate. The painting continues to entrance millions of visitors who flock to see it every year in the Louvre Museum in Paris, where it’s been on display since 1797.

 Lady with an Ermine New Tapestry Collection

  • Lady with an Ermine

Leonardo’s Lady with an Ermine was probably painted around 1490, pre-dating his Mona Lisa by around ten years. At the time, he was in the employ of Duke Ludovick Sforza, and the subject of the portrait is thought to be the Duke’s mistress, Cecilia Gallerani. A renowned beauty, Scholar and poet, Cecilia was just sixteen years old when she sat for the painting. There is debate over the symbolism of the ermine she holds, and one interpretation is that the animal represents purity.

 Da Vinci Stamp Design Tapestry Collection

This intriguing and eye-catching design is made up of postage stamps featuring some of Leonardo’s most famous paintings and drawings. Alongside the Mona Lisa, Lady with an Ermine and Vitruvian Man are details from the mechanical drawings Leonardo made for a flying machine.


Shop with Signare online now and join in the nationwide celebrations of Leonardo da Vinci!

You can find out more about the nationwide exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing by visiting the Royal Collection Trust website at www.rct.uk.

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