Leonardo da Vinci, the ultimate Renaissance man, died 500 years ago. To mark the occaision the Queen is putting her collection of Leonardo da Vinci drawings on display at the Queen’s Gallery next to Buckingham Palace.  A selection of them have already been on show in twelve different cities, over a million people have visited.  They will move to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the autumn.  Leonardo da Vinci on Tour!

Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing


Everybody has heard of Leonardo.  He painted the world’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa.  He painted the world’s most expensive painting Salvator Mundi.  Most of all Leonardo drew.   There are more drawings still in existence by Leonardo than any other Renaissance painter.  More than that more of Leonardo’s writing exists than any other Renaissance person.  He painted, drew and wrote about a vast variety of things.  One thing I never knew …. he was a skilled cartographer. Drawing this map of  Imola and several other of the River Arno when he trying to come with a plan to divert the river for Cesare Borgia.

Leonardo da Vinci map of Imola
Map of Imola

Leonardo spent years working in Milan for the Sforza family.  He was to make a juge equestrian statue showing the Duke in fearsome splendour.  Many drawings were made.  A clay model was made.  Then afer 10 years of hard work, just as the statue was about to be cast the French invaded. All that bronze that was destined for Leonardo’s horses went to make cannon.  Only the drawings remain.

Equestrian design Leonardo da Vinci
A design for an equestrian monument, c.1485-8 © 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 de Vinci 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.

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

I’ve known about the Queen’s collection of Leonardos for long time.  I like to think of her leafing through them on wet Wednesday afternoons (that is what I would do) and confess that I have always wondered how Charles II came to have so many of them.  Now I know ….. toward the end of his life Leonardo was a disappointed man.  Many of his grand schemes had come to nothing.  Sculptures not made, books not published, paintings unfinished. 

Leoni binding for Leonardo da Vinci drawings
Leoni binding

 To ensure that his papers were not destroyed or scattered when he died, he left them to his trusted assistant Francesco Melzi.  When Melzi died, the sculptor Pompeo Leoni bound them into two books.  Charles II acquired one of these at some point and it has been in the Royal Collection ever since.  These papers have been together for over 500 years!

Leonardo da Vinci fingerprint
Leonardo fingerprint © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II


  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!

      • June 1, 2019 / 10:25 am

        I like that idea! Fancy playing with a few million quid’s worth of Fabergé! Commenting again here from #wbps

  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!

  9. May 31, 2019 / 11:05 pm

    I find the works of Leonardo Da Vinci extremely interesting. When in Milan, we went to his 3D exhibit (well not HIS, but a 3D exhibit of his work) and I was inspired and blown away by his forethoughts and confused how many of the “inventions” did not come to pass in that time.

    • Catherine
      May 31, 2019 / 11:16 pm

      It is amazing how he had ideas that were so far ahead of his time

  10. June 20, 2019 / 6:59 am

    What I hadn’t realised is how much da Vinci suffered from depression. Londoness is also very excited at the prospect of the Escape Room!

    • Catherine
      June 20, 2019 / 7:25 am

      All those projects started and never finished

  11. June 20, 2019 / 5:26 pm

    I used to work in Milan for more than 10 years in front of Cenacolo, where you can see Da Vinci Last Supper.. I am curios to visit the Queen’s Gallery, I din’t know this is the finest collection of Leonardo de Vinci drawings in the world!

    • Catherine
      June 20, 2019 / 5:28 pm

      That must have been incredible, I need to visit Milan to see the Last Supper

  12. June 22, 2019 / 9:11 am

    wow its great to see the sketches looking great and real i want to be there to see the natural beauty of this place

    • Catherine
      June 22, 2019 / 11:03 am

      Seeing them up close is very special

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