Sheffield gallery’s biggest-ever show: Over 25,000 see Da Vinci exhibition in just 19 days

A display of drawings by Leonardo da Vinci is well on track to becoming the most popular exhibition ever at Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery.

By Richard Blackledge
Wednesday, 20 February, 2019, 11:38

The latest attendance figures show there have been more than 25,000 visitors to Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing in just the first 19 days of it being open – which means it stands a high chance of being the venue’s biggest draw since the gallery launched in 2001.

To mark the 500th anniversary of his death, 144 of da Vinci’s greatest drawings have gone on display in 12 exhibitions across the country, at cities including Leeds, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester. Each one has 12 drawings which will all be brought together for a later exhibition in The Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace at the end of May. Put together by the Royal Collection, the drawings reflect the Italian polymath’s interest in everything from architecture and music to anatomy and cartography.

Preview of Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibition at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield. Pictured is Kirsty Hamilton, the head of programme at Museums Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

Among the works being shown in Sheffield is The Head of St Philip, a study for the famous painting the Last Supper; The Vessels of the Liver, based on a dissection he did as part of an autopsy on an elderly man; and Studies of Water. There is also the Vehicle of Nature, a companion show to the main exhibition using digital technology to provide a modern response to da Vinci's creations.

Last week Kim Streets, Museums Sheffield’s chief executive, said the fact the event was part of a nationwide undertaking was crucial.

"It's great to be part of something that's national," she said. "That's important, that we're part of a national sector that's doing good stuff. It's good in terms of that benchmarking and being part of a groundswell of civic museums that are all making a difference in their respective places."

Martin Clayton, head of drawings for the Royal Collection Trust at Windsor Castle, previously said it was ‘the biggest nationwide Leonardo exhibition that there has been in this country and probably ever will be’.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The Head of St Philip, a study for The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

“We calculate that about 34 million people are within one hour of these Leonardo exhibitions, which is more than half the UK population,” he said. “There’s never been anything like this before.”

Along with Michelangelo and Raphael, da Vinci is credited with changing the way paintings looked and the way artists viewed the world – but A Life In Drawing, which runs in Sheffield until May 6, aims to put his scientific studies on a par with his artistic work.

Other highlights of Museums Sheffield’s 2019 programme include a retrospective of local artist Joe Scarborough, a look at realism in British art and a display of ceramics.

The Scarborough show will be at Weston Park Museum from August to November, while an exhibition dedicated to 'kitchen sink' pieces in Sheffield's collection, produced by artists from 1945 to 1975, is happening this summer.

Pictured is Kim Streets,CEO of Museums Sheffield............Pic Steve Ellis

From May to September – following on from a similar event in London – an exhibition commemorating John Ruskin's bicentenary is taking place called 'Art and Wonder', and from August to October the work of ceramicist Emily Taylor will come under the spotlight at the Millennium Gallery.