The real da Vinci Code

 

The head of St Anne

Just sometimes, the best things in life really are free.

On Wednesday, President Michael D. Higgins opened a Leonardo da Vinci exhibition of Ten Drawings from the Royal Collection in the National Gallery of Ireland. It is the very first time any works from the Royal Collection in Windsor Castle have ever been exhibited in this country. Almost exactly one hundred years since the Crown forces executed James Connolly, it is finally deemed appropriate to lend the Micks a few sketches and drawings for a couple of weeks. Incidentally, apart from the Queen, the other owner of the most da Vincis in the world is Bill Gates.

Of course, these aren’t any old drawings, but breathtaking masterpieces offering a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the archetypal Renaissance man; including studies of an infant’s limbs, a map of the River Arno in Florence, a male nude, study of the head of St. Anne (above) and illustrations and explorations of the human heart, liver, horses, cats, lions and a dragon.

They’re in remarkable condition for work that dates back to approximately 1590, and display just some of the staggering range of subject matter that engaged one of most beautiful minds of all time. While I was viewing a map of the Arno east of Florence, I overheard a mother helpfully explaining to her son, “This is an old map, because they didn’t have Google Maps back in those days.”

With eery timing, as this show opens in the National Gallery, a new investigation to determine exactly where da Vinci is buried is launched. It is believed that the artist was originally buried in a chapel in the Loire valley that was destroyed during the French revolution, so Leonardo was relocated to a smaller chapel, but the memorial plaque to this day warns that only his presumed remains rest there. In a bid to crack this real life da Vinci code, a new project is exhaustively examining DNA culled from his paintings, drawings and sculptors to try to finally solve this mystery.

Over 70,000 visitors are expected to flock to the National Gallery over the next ten weeks. Tickets are free, but it is advisable to pre-book here.

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