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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 March 2007, 13:46 GMT
Museum first for da Vinci works
Drawing from The Royal Collection  2006 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
A sprig of guelder rose with berries, c.1505-10
The first exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci works is due to open at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff.

The 10 drawings are from the Royal Collection which holds the world's most important group of the artistic work.

Usually kept at the Royal Library at Windsor Castle, the works are going on display at the National Museum Cardiff to mark the Queen's 80th birthday.

It includes anatomical drawings, engineering designs and studies for painting and sculpture.

National Museum curator Charlotte Topsfield said the 10 drawings had been selected to illustrate da Vinci's diverse interests and show the range of drawing materials he used such as red chalk and pen and ink.

"The lead image is a study of two hands," she said. "It uses a white pigment which gives the hands a beautiful 3D quality. It was drawn as a study for a famous portrait which is now in a museum in Poland."

Drawing from The Royal Collection  2006, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
A study of a woman's hands c.1490

One engineering study, of gun barrels and mortar, was created because da Vinci was trying to impress the ruler of Milan to gain employment, she explained.

Another drawing shows a design for a canal to be built between Florence and Pisa.

Da Vinci's fascination with anatomy is also in evidence in a highly-detailed study of the shoulder and muscles from several different angles.

"Most Renaissance artists could draw people brilliantly," Ms Topsfield added. "But he actually dissected bodies. He did it because we think he was planning to write an atlas of the human body. He was an incredibly curious man."

The touring exhibition - which coincides with the National Museum Wales' centenary year, also includes designs for a horse sculpture.

It will be a fantastic opportunity for visitors to understand more about how Leonardo worked and thought
Dr Ann Sumner, head of fine art

A small drawing of a guelder rose has already proved popular among museum volunteers who saw computer images of the drawings while training for the guided tours.

It is likely to be a busy time if response to a similar exhibition for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 is anything to do by.

Swansea's Glynn Vivian Art Gallery saw a record 30,000 visitors during the two months it had 10 da Vinci drawings on display.

Head of fine art at the museum, Dr Ann Sumner: "We are thrilled to be able to show these fascinating and spectacular works in Wales" said Head of Fine Art, Dr Ann Sumner.

"It will be a fantastic opportunity for visitors to understand more about how Leonardo worked and thought."

The exhibition runs from 23 March until 3 June and entry is free.




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