Leonardo da Vinci died 500 years ago, big exhibitions are planned in Milan and Paris. Here in the UK we have Leonardo da Vinci on tour. Leonardo Da Vinci: A life in Drawing has twelve British cities playing host to twelve Leonardo da Vinci drawings from the Royal Collection. Then in May they all come together in the Queen’s Gallery in London and then on to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh …. a royal progress but of art rather than people.

Head of Leda Leonardo da Vinci
Head of Leda, c.1505-8,on show in Liverpool
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


The Queen, well to be precise the Royal Collection, has what is reckoned to be the finest collection of Leonardo’s drawings in the world. She has more than 550 sheets covered in his drawings. King Charles II bought them in around 1670 and they have been in the collection ever since. Because paper is easily damaged light, the drawings are not often displayed and certainly not in the quantity that is on offer in 2019.

Leonardo da Vinci fingerprint
Leonardo fingerprint on show in Cardiff
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


Well yes he was but before he put brush to canvas he made many meticulous drawings. Horses, hands, heads anything and everything. He didn’t just draw in preparation to paint, he drew practically everything he lay his eyes on. He disected animals and drew them to better understand how they worked. He drew fantastic machines, designing a flying machine centuries before such a thing actually existed. The Queen has examples of all of these, I like to think of her leafing through them on wet Wednesday.

Leonardo da Vinci muscle drawings
Leonardo anatomical drawings on show in Southhampton


Most regions of the UK will play host to a dozen of the Queen’s Leonardos, except East Anglia. You can find them here:

Equestrian design Leonardo da Vinci
A design for an equestrian monument, c.1485-8, on show in Leeds
© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


I headed down to Southampton City Art Gallery to see Leonardo da Vinci: A life in Drawing. Confession time, I have never been to the Southampton City Art Gallery before, what a stunning place. The gallery itself is housed in light airy 1930’s building and permanent collection has real gems in it. Did you know that Edward Burne Jones’ Perseus series, all ten of them, lives here? They are displayed all together in a fine wood panelled room, worth a visit to Southampton at any time.

Leonardo da Vinci self portrait
Could this be a Leonardo self portrait?

If you are a day trip or a weekend break distance from any of the ten cities then go while you can. Not only are Leonardo’s drawing exquisite, this is probably the only chance you will get to see so many of them. Many of the host galleries are old friends of mine either from student days or from visits when I travelled widely across the UK as the Outside Broadcast Producer for BBC Working Lunch and have fine collections that are well worth seeing in their own rights. I’m especially fond of Birmingham and Leeds.


  • Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing will be on tour until 6 May 2019
  • Buckingham Palace Queen’s Gallery, London 24 May – 13 October
  • Ticket prices vary at each location in London they will be £13.50 and in Edinburgh £7.50
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse Queen’s Gallery, Edinburgh 22 November 2019 – 15 March 2020
  • Tickets at both Queen’s Galleries can be stamped and become a year long pass enabling you to visit as often as you want.
  • Click on the blue words to book tickets.

Where will you catch Leonardo da Vinci on Tour? For more inspiration about what to see in London check out my London Exhibitions Spring 2019 post.

Oregon Girl Around the World



  1. March 1, 2019 / 8:01 am

    This will be amazing – and thanks for the tip about Southampton Art Gallery – I always like to hear about the buildings …

    • Catherine
      March 1, 2019 / 11:28 am

      Right next door to the Southampton City Art gallery is the Sea City Museum housed in the old court building, they have made the most of the magnificent architecture there too.

  2. March 5, 2019 / 2:54 pm

    Makes me want to plan a trip to the U.K. just to see one of these! What a great moment in time to be able to see so many important pieces. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

  3. March 9, 2019 / 2:06 pm

    I think they were showing in Glasgow when I was there a couple of weeks ago but annoyingly I couldn’t do much with my broken ankle so I missed out! Frustrating. Just imagine what HM’s collection is worth!

    • Catherine
      March 9, 2019 / 4:32 pm

      Oh no! So annoying when you break a limb, my wrist slowed me down last year. Unimaginable amounts …. she has a gorgeous collection of Faberge farm animals that I fancy playing with!

  4. March 10, 2019 / 4:15 pm

    I love discovering new galleries and museums. I saw an exhibition of Leonardo’s works a number of years ago here in the States and really enjoyed it. What an amazing person he was, almost as if he knew the future… #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      March 10, 2019 / 4:16 pm

      It is incredible that he came up with a viable design for a helicopter centuries before one actually existed!

      • March 10, 2019 / 4:18 pm

        I did a report on him when I was in school, and have always been fascinated by him…

        • Catherine
          March 10, 2019 / 4:19 pm

          I’m sure that the Queen will let you browse through her collection the next time you are over!

          • March 10, 2019 / 4:20 pm

            Absolutely! I’ll just give her a ring and let her know I’m coming. 😘

          • Catherine
            March 10, 2019 / 4:24 pm

            She’s good like that!

  5. March 14, 2019 / 10:16 am

    What a treat! I love the year long entry pass available from the Queens Galleries. #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      March 14, 2019 / 4:34 pm

      It is a great perk, carefully timed you can get entry into Buckingham Palace two years in a row!

  6. March 14, 2019 / 4:54 pm

    OH! Reason alone to come to England! I studied Leonardo in university for my Art History degree – would LOVE to see these in person. Looking at Skyscanner immediately. Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles – cheers from this side of the pond.

    • Catherine
      March 14, 2019 / 5:06 pm

      Give me a shout when you get here!

  7. March 15, 2019 / 8:49 pm

    This sounds amazing – I’m trying to catch it In Manchester #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      March 15, 2019 / 9:09 pm

      It is incredible to see the drawings up close and personal

      • March 19, 2019 / 3:19 pm

        Thank you Catherine, another lovely reason to head back to Buckingham Palace Queen’s Gallery May 24th onwards! X

  8. April 14, 2019 / 6:20 am

    Wow this looks like such an interesting exhibition, especially as it can’t be displayed often because of the light.

    • Catherine
      April 14, 2019 / 7:51 am

      Not an opportunity that will happen often!

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