Five Hundred Years Later and Leonardo Still Inspires

Leonardo is widely considered one of the greatest artists of all time, and 2019 marks 500 years since his death. His drawings, in which he explored fields as diverse as botany, anatomy, portraiture, design and the nature of the world around him, continue to fascinate. To celebrate, UK’s Royal Mail just released a 12-stamp set featuring some of Leonardo da Vinci’s most beautiful and intriguing works.

The drawings featured on the stamps were chosen to coincide with the 12 exhibitions, ‘Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing’, taking place in 2019 across the UK – one drawing from each of the 12 exhibitions is featured on a stamp.

Leonardo da Vinci was one of history’s greatest polymaths – a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer and map-maker who also pursued the scientific study of subjects as diverse as human anatomy, the theory of light, the movement of water and the growth of plants.

The common thread to all Leonardo’s work was drawing. He drew incessantly, for new ideas, to refine compositions, to record his observations and to test his theories. Many of his drawings are accompanied by extensive notes in ‘mirror-writing’: Leonardo was left-handed, and throughout his life he habitually wrote in perfect mirror image, from right to left.

Fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo survive, and nothing in sculpture or architecture. But because Leonardo hoarded thousands of his drawings and dozens of notebooks, many of which have been passed down through succeeding centuries, we have a detailed knowledge of the workings of his extraordinary mind.

The Royal Collection holds the greatest collection of Leonardo’s drawings in existence, housed in the Print Room at Windsor Castle. Because they have been protected from light, fire and flood, they are in almost pristine condition and allow us to see exactly what Leonardo intended – and to observe his hand and mind at work, after a span of five centuries. These drawings are among the greatest artistic treasures of the United Kingdom.

Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, said: ‘Alongside an ambitious programme of 12 exhibitions around the UK, then exhibitions at The Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh, we are thrilled to be working with Royal Mail on this special 12-stamp set, which invites everyone to join the celebration of Leonardo and his work in 2019.’

Philip Parker, Royal Mail, said: “500 years after his death, Leonardo’s drawings continue to inspire and intrigue us. We are delighted to feature 12 of the finest examples from the Royal Collection on these stamps.”

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