As the 500th anniversary of the death of Renaissance great Leonardo da Vinci approaches, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is reaching deep into its archive to exhibit four rarely shown drawings by the Old Master.
The incredibly fragile artworks, normally kept in storage due to their sensitivity to light, will go on view in the museum’s prints and drawings galleries on January 29. There, they will be joined by other works on paper by masters such as Rembrandt and Wenceslaus Hollar to illustrate Leonardo’s lasting legacy. (A full-scale exhibition, “Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing,” is being held across 12 cities in the UK to mark the occasion.)
It is the first time that the four Leonardo drawings—taken from six in the museum’s collection—will be shown together in over 15 years. The last time was during the Met’s 2003 blockbuster “Leonardo da Vinci: Master Draftsman,” although all four have been on view separately in the years since.
Highlights of the display will include two separate takes on his famed Last Supper, including a sketchy rendition by Rembrandt van Rijn (who never saw the work in person) and a skillful engraving by Giovanni Pietro da Birago, which is the earliest surviving copy of the painting, and which helped to make the artwork renown. The installation will also feature a number of Wenceslaus Hollar etchings after Leonardo, which are being exhibited at the Met for the first time.
The four Leonardo works in the installation represent a wide range of his output. A number of preparatory sketches for an altar piece resembling his Virgin of the Rocks can be seen in Designs for Altarpieces of the Virgin Adoring the Christ Child (circa 1482–85), while Study for the Head of the Virgin (circa 1510–15) and Man in Bust-Length, Profile View (circa 1490–94) illustrate his talent for portraiture.
The last piece, Sketch and Notes for an Allegory on the Fidelity of the Lizard (recto), from 1496, is likely a drawing of a medal or brooch that would have been worn during a stage production at the court of Milan, where Ludovico Sforza employed Leonardo as set designer as well as his official artist.
See more works from the presentation below.
“Selections from the Department of Drawings and Prints: Leonardo da Vinci” is on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gallery 690, 1000 Fifth Avenue, New York, January 29–April 28, 2019.
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