At long last! After high hopes, interrupting illnesses and weeks of waiting, I finally got to experience the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition in my hometown. Following a captivating lecture last month with Martin Clayton from the Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle, which I wrote about in my last blog post — I was expecting nothing short of amazement to see Da Vinci's works with my own eyes.
Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens certainly did not disappoint. As Martin had explained, each of the twelve cities which are holding exhibitions to mark the 500 year anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci's death received a fair distribution of the drawings held by the Royal Collection Trust. Within the exhibition at Sunderland, you can see examples of Da Vinci's portraiture, his medical illustrations, his cartography commissions, botanical drawings, costume designs and his military interests. It's clear that a lot of thought had been put into how this display was curated. There's something for everybody.
The exhibition had a clear layout, showing a visual timeline of Da Vinci's life through his works. Each piece was accompanied by a wealth of information which naturally guided us around the room. My boyfriend and I were pleasantly surprised that the exhibition comfortably lasted its full duration of one hour. Although an hour was the allocated time slot which was stated on our tickets, the gallery itself isn't too big and there was no guided tour to fill up our time.
That being said, outside of the gallery, there was a seating area with a recorded video which explained Da Vinci's technical process and delved into the background information of what was on display. This was a good spot to wait and brush up on the facts before going in. Honestly, there was no real need for a guided tour. Our mid-afternoon booking had reached full capacity and the atmosphere was relaxed and informal with visitors meandering around the room, enjoying the exhibition at their own pace.
We were so taken aback by the actual size of Leonardo da Vinci's works. His handwriting was minute. It became more cramped and messy the further he got down the page which was so relatable. In a way, the subtleties of his doodles and the faint errors in his drawings were even more magnificent than the pieces which were worked up to full completion. In every piece of work, however, his genius still undoubtedly shines through.
One man brought a magnifying glass which was a brilliant idea that I highly recommend. Da Vinci's artworks are filled to the brim with the finest of details at a scale so tiny, we were just glad there was no rope to keep us at a distance. Whether you're an art enthusiast or just curious to see what all the fuss is about, this exhibition at Sunderland is a must-see if you're anywhere nearby. After all, it's not everyday you get so close to 500 year-old drawings from one of the most well-known artists in history.
For just £2.50, don't miss out. It's on until 6th May at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.