The chance to see eight major paintings by Leonardo da Vinci in one go is an opportunity the artist himself never had, nor any after him. So the National Gallery exhibition is not simply once-in-a-lifetime but, once-in-any-lifetime. So I’m incredibly grateful for my invitation to a private evening opening of the exhibition last night. To see the National Gallery (later) version of the Virgin of the Rocks in the same room as the Louvre (earlier) version of the same subject was fascinating. For the record both me and my friend preferred the earlier painting, shown here.
The paintings were stunning. However, what really made a connection for me across the 500 years between myself and Leonardo were the sketches and drawings. The drawings, with re-stated lines, pin pricks for transferring onto frescoes or traced over and redrawn on the other side of the sheet of paper (like illustrators do now using a lightbox) convey the struggle and thoughts of the artist in a way that the completed paintings can never do.