Drawings to mark 500th anniversary of death of the Renaissance master

To mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, a collection of twelve of the Renaissance master’s greatest drawings from the Royal Collection are on display at National Museum Cardiff (1 February – 6 May 2019) as part of a UK wide exhibition of drawings across a number of venues.


Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, will give the widest-ever UK audience the opportunity to see the work of this extraordinary artist.  Twelve drawings, selected to reflect the full range of Leonardo’s interests – painting, sculpture, architecture, music, anatomy, engineering, cartography, geology and botany – will be shown in Cardiff as well as in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Derby, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Southampton and Sunderland.


The drawings in the Royal Collection have been together as a group since the artist’s death 500 years ago, and provide an unparalleled insight into Leonardo’s investigations and the workings of his mind.


The Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibitions will include examples of all the drawing materials employed by the artist, including pen and ink, red and black chalks, watercolour and metalpoint.  They will also present new information about Leonardo’s working practices and creative process, gathered through technical research using a range of techniques including ultraviolet imaging, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence.


Leonardo used ink made from oak galls and iron salts, which is transparent in infrared light, allowing his black chalk underdrawing to be seen for the first time.  Examination of A Deluge, c.1517-18 (shown at the National Museum Cardiff) revealed that beneath the pattern-like arrangement of rain and waves in brown ink, Leonardo drew a swirling knot of energy in black chalk at the heart of the composition.


Alongside the works from the Royal Collection, the display in Cardiff examines the cross-over between art and science and features works from Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s art and natural history collections, as well as loans from Cardiff University Library’s Special Collections, including the Blaschka glass models, taxidermy, botanical prints and wax models.



David Anderson, Director General of Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, said:


“We are delighted to be working in partnership with Royal Collection Trust in bringing this exhibition of exceptional drawings by one of the great artists of the Renaissance to National Museum Cardiff.


“It is very exciting to be part of this ambitious programme which makes the work widely accessible to audiences across the UK.  I hope our visitors here in Wales take the opportunity to see this extraordinary collection of drawings in person and learn more about Leonardo da Vinci’s fascinating life.”


Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, said, “We are delighted to work with National Museum Cardiff, as one of Royal Collection Trust’s 12 partner venues in the Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing nationwide event. In 2019, in collaboration with our partners we will be giving the widest-ever audience across the UK the opportunity to see the work of this extraordinary artist.


“The exhibition at National Museum Cardiff demonstrates the extraordinarily wide range of Leonardo’s work throughout his lifetime, and is a thrilling opportunity for audiences to engage directly with one of the greatest minds in history. His drawings were central to his work in every field, both his artistic projects and his scientific investigations: they allowed Leonardo to work out his ideas on paper, and can be viewed as his private laboratory.”


Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales operates Wales’ seven national museums, which together attract around 1.7 million people a year and are all free entry thanks to the support of the Welsh Government. They include:


  • National Museum Cardiff
  • St Fagans National Museum of History
  • National Waterfront Museum, Swansea
  • National Wool Museum, Dre-fach Felindre
  • National Slate Museum, Llanberis
  • Big Pit National Coal Museum, Blaenavon
  • National Roman Legion Museum, Caerleon


Together, we are the nation’s most visited heritage organisation by the people of Wales.


Our purpose is to inspire people through our museums and collections to discover, enjoy and learn bilingually, and to understand Wales’s place in the wider world.