His reputation as one of the world’s greatest artists has stood the test of time, but Leonardo da Vinci was no mean costume designer or drainage engineer either.
A selection of 10 of the 600 drawings held in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle, which are coming to Hull in November, shows off the ultimate Renaissance man’s many and varied achievements.
The drawings – one no bigger than a playing card and which include a design for a monument that was never cast and a map of marshland near Rome – have already gone on tour to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and are drawing 1,000 people a day through the doors at Birmingham Art Gallery.
At a launch in Hull, senior curator of prints and drawings Martin Clayton said the way the exhibition was staged allows “people to get nose to nose with the drawings – we don’t have velvet rope barriers and people can get right up close to them; with the drawings there is a sense of immediacy which you don’t get with paintings.
“They are in such good condition – they are like the day Leonardo drew them.”
Leonardo maintained that an image transmitted knowledge more accurately than words, although he wrote extensive notes on some of the drawings.
Director of the Royal Collection Jonathan Marsden said he hoped the exhibition encouraged people to take up drawing: “Leonardo didn’t have the distractions we have in the modern world. He used his drawings as a way of discovering the world around him. It is an amazing thing once you get people into the habit.”
The city council is hoping the exhibition – which comes towards the end of another high-profile show: Andy Warhol Artist Rooms – proves as big a draw as Hockney’s Bigger Trees Near Warter, which attracted a record 63,000 visitors.
The exhibition comes to the Ferens Art Gallery from November 10 to January 20.