Birmingham Art Gallery and Museum, along with 11 other venues, is currently hosting an exhibition of the work of Leonardo da Vinci.
There are 12 works being exhibited in Birmingham, all from the Royal Collection, and 12 in each of the other venues, that is 144 works being shown across the country.
The event in Birmingham is free; no tickets required. Just show up.
I visited, with our daughter Kate, mid-afternoon on Monday 25th Feb. There was no queue; contrary to Kate’s previous visit of a few days before when she waited for an hour and a half.
I’m not sure what I expected but I was surprised by what met my gaze. The images are wonderfully rendered drawings, sketches even. Acutely observed and flawlessly made in charcoal and sepia. In the main, they are light, airy and elegant. I suppose at over 500 years old the degradation in the medium is to be expected, and yet that seems to add to the evanescence of the pieces.
But, it’s the size which surprises the most. These images are not large; sketchbook sized at most. Why I was expecting anything else I don’t know, but the small scale – precision and elegance in miniature – was what hit me most.
You have to get close. For me that meant using the reading glasses part of my lenses, standing with my nose no more than a few inches from the glass covering the frames. I was nearer than I have ever been to the works of a master, and what a master. They drew me in and immersed me in their scant and elegant line form.
Would I go again? Yes. And would it be worth a 90-minute wait to see them? Yes – if I could stand for that long.
The image above is of the Head of St James in the Last Supper and architectural sketches. It dates from circa 1495.
Royal Collection Trust. Copyright Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2018.
The Exhibition in Birmingham runs until 6 May 2019
Monday – Thursday 10am – 5pm
Friday 10.30am – 5pm
Saturday and Sunday 10am – 5pm
Other Da Vinci works in the Royal collection are being exhibited at:
Ulster Museum, Belfast
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Derby Museum and Art Gallery
National Museum Cardiff
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow
Leeds Art Gallery
Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Manchester Art Gallery
Millennium Gallery, Sheffield
Southampton City Art Gallery
Sunderland Museums and Winter Gardens