Leo’s back at the National Gallery this Autumn and it seems we can’t get enough of him. This exhibition concentrates on his career as a court painter in Milan, working for the city’s ruler Ludovico Maria Sforza, il Moro (‘the Moor’) in the 1480s and 1490s.
The National Gallery
9 November 2011 – 5 February 2012
|Gift Aid* adult||£17.60|
|Gift Aid* senior (60+)||£15.40|
|National Art Pass (Art Fund) holders||£8.00|
With timed ticket entry where you must enter the exhibition at the Sainsbury Wing during the half hour time slot on their ticket and completing the final part of the exhibition in the Sunley Room which must be visited last. It looks as though the NG is planning on quite the crowd when it comes to the latest exhibition of Leonardo Da Vinci. Bringing together the largest ever number of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings, it will include international loans never before seen in the UK.
While numerous exhibitions have looked at Leonardo da Vinci as an inventor, scientist or draughtsman, this is the first exhibition to be dedicated to his aims and ambitions as a painter. ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan’ will display more than 60 paintings and drawings by the great artist, as well as pictures by some of his closest collaborators. Nearly every surviving picture that he painted in Milan during this period will be exhibited. These include the ‘Portrait of a Musician’ (Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan), the ‘Saint Jerome’ (Vatican, Rome), ‘The Lady with an Ermine’ (Czartoryski Foundation, Cracow), the ‘Belle Ferronnière’ (Musée du Louvre, Paris) and the National Gallery’s own recently restored Virgin of the Rocks.
The portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, painted in 1488–90 has been acclaimed as the first truly modern portrait. The sitter’s twisting pose and nuanced expression convey her inner life, mind, soul – and what we would now call psychology. Cecilia was renowned for her beauty, wit, scholarship, and poetry. Still in her teens in 1489 when she became Ludovico’s mistress, the painting of her portrait allowed Leonardo to demonstrate how a painter could capture a beauty that time would destroy. He portrayed Cecilia holding a white ermine, an enigmatic feature that has multiple meanings. It may be a visual pun on her surname since the Greek for ermine or weasel is ‘galay’. It could also stand for her lover, Ludovico Sforza, since he had been awarded the order of the ermine by the King of Naples and was known as ‘l’Ermellino’ as a result. The ermine was also written about by Leonardo as a traditional symbol of purity and honour.
More than 50 drawings relating to the paintings will be exhibited for the first time. Highlights include 33 sketches and studies from the Royal Collection. The many Leonardo drawings owned by Her Majesty the Queen were probably purchased during the reign of Charles II but were rediscovered by chance only in 1778, when writer, Charles Rogers wrote: ‘Mr Dalton fortunately discovered the album of drawings at the bottom of a chest at the beginning of the reign of his present Majesty [George III]’. UK collections are rich in drawings by Leonardo – and other graphic masterpieces will be lent by the British Museum, the Courtauld Gallery, the Fitzwillam and Ashmolean Museums and the National Galleries of Scotland. From further afield come drawings from Paris, Florence, Venice and New York. The exhibition will include all the surviving drawings which are connected to the ‘Last Supper’ and the ‘Madonna Litta’, which will be lent by the Hermitage, St Petersburg.