Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan

National Gallery

9 Nov 2011 – 5 Feb 2012

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Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan is the largest-ever exhibition of the artist's rare surviving paintings.

Featuring more than 60 of his paintings and drawings as well as works by his collaborators, the exhibition concentrates on the Leonardo's early professional life in Milan.Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan is the largest-ever exhibition of the artist's rare surviving paintings. Featuring more than 60 of his paintings and drawings as well as works by his collaborators, the exhibition concentrates on the Leonardo's early professional life in Milan.Famously, when writing to his future employer Ludovico Maria Sforza, the Duke of Milan, Leonardo gave his own painting ability only a perfunctory mention at the end of a long list of suggestions for developments in military engineering. Nevertheless, some of the paintings he produced in the Duke's employ throughout the last two decades of the 15th century would prove to be milestones in the history of the genre.Nearly every surviving picture from this period will be exhibited, including Saint Jerome, owned by the Vatican, the National Gallery's own recently restored Virgin of the Rocks, and a trio of portraits, displayed together in London for the first time: Portrait of a Musician (a loan from the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan), La Belle Ferronnière (from the Musée du Louvre, Paris) and Portrait of a Lady with an Ermine (from the Czartoryski Foundation in Cracow) " a rendering of Sforza's mistress, Cecilia Gallerani.The exhibition also includes the newly attributed Salvator Mundi (see image five, above) " an image of Christ holding a globe, with his right hand raised in blessing. A statement from the gallery said:'Leonardo is known to have painted the Salvator Mundi ... The version in a private collection in New York was shown after cleaning to the Director of the National Gallery and to the curator of the exhibition as well as to other scholars in the field. We felt that it would be of great interest to include this painting in the exhibition as a new discovery. It will be presented as the work of Leonardo, and this will obviously be an important opportunity to test this new attribution by direct comparison with works universally accepted as Leonardo's.'Many drawings have been sourced from UK collections, including the Royal Collection, the British Museum, the Courtauld Gallery, the Fitzwillam and Ashmolean Museums and the National Galleries of Scotland. Further contributions come from Paris, Florence, Venice and New York.The exhibition will include all the surviving drawings which are connected to the Last Supper, and in place of the real thing (which adorns a wall in the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan) the Royal Academy is lending the exhibition a full-scale copy by Leonardo's pupil Giampietrino.

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The portrait of Cecilia Gallerani, dated 1490" 91, has been acclaimed by some as the first truly modern portrait. The significance of the ermine has been much discussed. It could be a pun on her surname, since the Greek for ermine is 'galay'. It could also refer to Sforza: he had been awarded the Order of the Ermine by the King of Naples, and was known as 'l'Ermellino'. The ermine was also written about by Leonardo as a symbol of purity and honour.St Jerome (1481"2), painted in oil and tempera on panel, is an intriguing composition. With its sinuous depiction of the saint kneeling in front of a roaring lion, it owes much to the artist's celebrated studies of the relative anatomy of humans and animals.The exhibition's curator Luke Syson describes the energy and poetry behind Leonardo's sketches for a Saint Mary Magdalene by Leonardo which belong to the Courtauld Gallery in London: Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan by Art Fund

Venue information

Opening times

Daily, 10am – 6pm (Fri, 10am – 9pm)

Closed 24 – 26 Dec and 1 Jan

"Art Fund" is the operating name of the National Art Collections Fund, a charity registered in England and Wales (209174) and Scotland (SC038331)