A blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci exhibition, opening this week, is expected to prove one of the most popular art shows ever staged in Sheffield.
At least 50,000 people are predicted to pour into Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery to see 12 of the great man’s most extraordinary drawings, which will be on display from Friday, February 1.
It has been described as an unparalleled opportunity for Sheffielders to see so many of the Italian master’s works, during the 500th anniversary of his death, with more on display simultaneously in nearby cities including Leeds, Manchester and Derby.
The drawings can be viewed alongside a companion show called The Vehicle of Nature – a 21st-century take on the great artist and inventor’s work which plunges audiences into the flow of everything from rivers and crowds of people to human blood cells.
Organisers hope the free exhibitions will give viewers a new insight into arguably the world’s most renowned artist, whose work still resonates so strongly with modern audiences, and encourage a fresh generation to take creative inspiration from the world around them.
Kirstie Hamilton, director of programmes at Museums Sheffield, said: “We’re thrilled to be showing this amazing collection of Leonardo da Vinci’s works. This is huge for us.
“We haven’t had this many of his extraordinary drawings here for over a decade and there’s never been this opportunity for people living in Sheffield to see so many within an hour’s travel of the city.
“These drawings have been selected to reflect his many interests, and they give a real sense of the man.
“It’s not art in a box. It’s art as a tool to look at the world around you and to experiment, which is really exciting.”
The drawings are described as being da Vinci’s private laboratory, through which he worked out his ideas on paper, and giving a unique insight into his ‘miraculous’ way of viewing the world.
They are taken from the Royal Collection, which contains by far the greatest number of da Vinci’s drawings in one place. Being too delicate to remain on permanent display, they are usually stored in the Print Room at Windsor Castle.
Those on display in Sheffield will include The Head of St Philip, which was a study for the Last Supper; The Vessels of the Liver, based on a dissection he performed; and Studies of Water, which captures the flow of water into a pool.
The Sheffield exhibition is one of 12 running simultaneously in cities across the UK ahead of larger shows at Buckingham Palace and Edinburgh’s Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Together, it is said, they will give the widest-ever audience across the UK the chance to see his extraordinary work.
The Vehicle of Nature was created specially for the Millennium Gallery by Universal Everything, an acclaimed digital studio which has worked with everyone from the Science Museum to Radiohead, in response to da Vinci's ground-breaking Studies of Water.
Matt Pyke, the studio’s creative director, said he felt a natural affinity with the artist because they were both ‘obsessed' with the science behind nature.
Ms Hamilton believes da Vinci himself would have loved The Vehicle of Nature, in which visitors can walk through a world of constantly changing projections and sounds, because as a man who was always pushing boundaries and exploring new technology he would be fascinated by the idea of ‘big data’ were he around today.
“Leonardo da Vinci’s nature was to keep moving, keep observing and keep learning more,” she said.
“I really hope this will open up his work to many more young people and illustrate to them, and to those of all ages, the importance of learning through observing, and the connections between science and art.
“We live in an increasingly busy world, and this invites people to be like da Vinci and participate and be part of that world, rather than just viewing it.”
Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing will be at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery, on Arundel Gate, from February 1 – May 6.
The Vehicle of Nature opened at the Millennium Gallery on January 19 and will run until May 26.
The exhibitions will be accompanied by a wide range of talks, events and activities inspired by Leonardo and his ideas. More information on these is available at museums-sheffield.org.uk.