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Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci on the divine and the grotesque at the Queen's Gallery

Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, plays host to highlights from the Royal Collection

Along with the large show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this month is a golden one for Leonardo lovers. This exhibition, the inaugural one at the Queen’s Gallery at Holyroodhouse, comes entirely from the Royal Collection (which has loaned to the Met’s show too). This is not surprising, because the Royal Collection has the best assemblage of Leonardo drawings in the world. They were acquired probably during the reign of Charles II at the end of the 17th century. The theme of this exhibition (until 30 March) encompasses Leonardo’s three main themes. The first is the divine, idealised beauty rendered with a delicate but considered touch. Leonardo found beauty, like many before and since, in the harmonies of proportion both in the composition of his paintings and the composition of the human figure. This led naturally to his examination of the disproportions of the human figure, his grotesques. Between the divine and the grotesque is the human, which Leonardo explored in all its facets. Thus there are some of his celebrated inventions and anatomical drawings with his mirror writing annotations (“The skull sectioned: 1489” below) and his naturalistic studies of religious subjects like those made in preparation for his painting of the Last Supper in Milan.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Leonardo da Vinci: the divine and the grotesque'

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 132 January 2003