Ulster Museum opens exceptional exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s greatest drawings

A new exhibition featuring a selection of some of Leonardo da Vinci’s finest drawings will open to the public on Friday 1 February at the Ulster Museum.

Exit Menu

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibition is part of a nationwide event, organised by Royal Collection Trust, to mark 500 years since the Renaissance master’s death. It sees twelve museums and galleries across the UK open simultaneous exhibitions of Leonardo’s drawings on the same day – giving the widest-ever UK and Ireland audience the opportunity to see the work of this extraordinary artist. 

The twelve drawings selected for display in the Ulster Museum reflect Leonardo’s expansive knowledge of architecture, anatomy, engineering, cartography and botany. Famous works include The Head of St Anne, made around 1510 in preparation for his famous masterpiece The Virgin and Child with St Anne, which hangs in the Louvre, and an anatomical drawing from 1489, The Skull Sectioned.

Works selected for display in Belfast mirror Ulster’s heritage in manufacturing and engineering such as his commissioned maps of Florence, Italy and studies of the Italian Trivulzio monument. The exhibition also includes examples of all the drawing materials employed by the artist, including pen and ink, red and black chalks, watercolour and metalpoint.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing is a unique opportunity to see Leonardo’s work in Belfast. Because of the age of the pieces dating back to the 15th and 16th century, the delicate works on paper can never be on permanent display due to the potential risk of damage from exposure to light. 

Senior Curator of Art at National Museums NI, Anne Stewart, comments: “We are thrilled to partner with Royal Collection Trust to host this very special exhibition of one of the world’s most celebrated artists and to be a part of this fantastic celebration of Leonardo’s life.”

She added, “Beyond a handful of drawings, most of Leonardo’s great projects were never completed.  His surviving drawings are therefore our main source of knowledge of his extraordinary achievements.  Each drawing in the exhibition offers its own fascinating story and insight into the exceptional talent and mind of Leonardo.  I have no doubt all our visitors will be enthralled by this wonderful display of Leonardo’s works.”

Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, said, “We are delighted to work with the Ulster Museum, 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 the Ulster Museum 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.”

In May 2019, the drawings exhibited at Royal Collection Trust's partner venues will be brought together to form part of an exhibition of over 200 sheets at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the largest exhibition of Leonardo's work in over 65 years.  A selection of 80 drawings will then travel to The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in November 2019, the largest group of Leonardo's works ever shown in Scotland.

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibition is accompanied by a series of events including special tours, lectures, art sessions and sketching workshops.  The exhibition runs at the Ulster Museum from 1 February until 6 May 2019. Admission to the exhibition is free.