Leondardo da Vinci Comes to Nottingham

As you may have spotted advertised across our castle walls over the past few weeks, an extraordinary exhibition has recently been opened in the Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

Having taken almost 3 years to plan and coordinate, we can finally announce that a selection of sketches by Italian Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci have been released for public viewing at the castle, following a launch event last week.

Nottingham Castle Leonardo Da Vinci

On the 29th of July 2016, the very first guests flocked in to see ten of Leonardo’s finest drawings at an exclusive launch party, hosted in the gallery itself, all incredibly excited to view the work of an artist many of us only dream of seeing.

Drinks event

The exhibition itself has been loaned to the museum from the Royal Collection Trust, where the drawings are usually housed at Windsor Castle, and consists of ten ink and chalk sketches found in his own personal notebooks, with works taken from his studies into human biology, to the wild illustrations of his own mental states. And, as noted during the launch event, each sketch is actually adorned with a very small ER stamp as administered by the Crown – definitely something to try and spot when viewing the collection!

ER stamp

Attendees of the launch event were also treated to a series of exciting speeches from members of the Royal Collection Trust, as well as music from Lutenist Stewart McCoy and the rather unusual opportunity to physically become the Mona Lisa herself…

Mona Lisa Selfie

Tristram Aver, Exhibitions Officer for Nottingham City Museums & Galleries, explains that whilst the launch event was, of course, ‘thoroughly enjoyable’, it was also a chance for the guests to fully understand exactly why Nottingham was chosen for such a special exhibition. As described in a speech made by Jonathan Marsden, Director of the Royal Collection Trust, ‘we wanted to give the visitors to the town the opportunity to view this [exhibition] as it is improbable that, after its removal from Nottingham, it will ever again be on view in the neighbourhood’.

Drinks reception

Wall display

Aver goes on to explain that, alongside Leonardo’s works, he also curated a ‘salon’ display of other similar works on paper from the Nottingham Collection – a series of incredibly fragile and beautiful sketches, framed and displayed on a gallery wall within the main exhibit. These sketches work in combination with da Vinci’s as they too were taken from the notebooks and scribblings of artists such as Richard Parks Bonington, Paul Sandby, Frank Auerbach, Stanley Spencer, David Bomberg, Harold Knight, Henry Dawson, Marion Adnams and Graham Sutherland; often unfinished, they give an insight into the working mind of the artist as they were drawn for private research or study, rather than finished ‘exhibitable’ pieces.

Guests enjoying Wall Display

He worked alongside many other people and organisations to help organize, not just this event, but others surrounding the exhibit. For example, a Public Programme has been designed with events, lectures and performances relating to the exhibit, taking place in various spaces within the Nottingham community…the most popular and ingenious amongst them being a feline life drawing class at the ‘Kitty Café’! This is a concept based around Leonardo’s own drawings and sketches of animals, later named ‘Cats, lions and a dragon’, taken from his notebooks around 1517.

Study of Cats, Lions and a Dragon

Other extra-curricular events include an educational and creative Leonardo workshop (the Leonardo Lab) within a brand new gallery where visitors can draw, experiment and build things just as he did over 500 years ago, set up by Young Artists Programme ‘Illuminate’; and a visual timeline of Leonardo’s life, devised by Dr. Gabrielle Neher & Tristram and supported by ten students from the University of Nottingham.

Wall display

It’s clear to see that the hard work put in by both Tristram, the Castle’s Team, and the dedicated artistic community of Nottingham is paying off. With over 2,500 visitors in the opening weekend alone, and an estimated 80,000 during the course of the exhibition, this is definitely an opportunity you don’t want to miss out on.

The Leonardo da Vinci exhibition is open from now until October so make sure you pop in before it moves to its final destination in Swansea! 

Credit goes to @trisaver for both his work and his words in contribution to this blog post.