Famous Drawings by Leonardo da Vinci Celebrated in a New Series of Stamps

No spe­cial occa­sion is required to cel­e­brate Leonar­do da Vin­ci, but the fact that he died in 1519 makes this year a par­tic­u­lar­ly suit­able time to look back at his vast, inno­v­a­tive, and influ­en­tial body of work. Just last month, “Leonar­do da Vin­ci: A Life in Draw­ing” opened in twelve muse­ums across the Unit­ed King­dom. “144 of Leonar­do da Vinci’s great­est draw­ings in the Roy­al Col­lec­tion are dis­played in 12 simul­ta­ne­ous exhi­bi­tions across the UK,” says the exhi­bi­tion’s site, with each venue’s draw­ings “select­ed to reflect the full range of Leonar­do’s inter­ests – paint­ing, sculp­ture, archi­tec­ture, music, anato­my, engi­neer­ing, car­tog­ra­phy, geol­o­gy and botany.”

The Roy­al Col­lec­tion Trust, writes Art­net’s Sarah Cas­cone, has even “sent a dozen draw­ings from Wind­sor Cas­tle to each of the 12 par­tic­i­pat­ing insti­tu­tions.” They’d pre­vi­ous­ly been in Wind­sor Castle’s Print Room, the home of a col­lec­tion of old mas­ter prints and draw­ings rou­tine­ly described as one of the finest in the world.

Now dis­played at insti­tu­tions like Liv­er­pool’s Walk­er Art Gallery, Sheffield­’s Mil­len­ni­um Gallery, Belfast’s Ulster Muse­um, and Cardif­f’s Nation­al Muse­um Wales, this selec­tion of Leonar­do’s draw­ings will be much more acces­si­ble to the pub­lic dur­ing the exhi­bi­tion than before.

But the Roy­al Mail has made sure that the draw­ings will be even more wide­ly seen, doing its part for the 500th anniver­sary of Leonar­do’s death by issu­ing them in stamp form.

“The stamps depict sev­er­al well-known works,” writes Art­net’s Kate Brown, “such as The skull sec­tioned (1489) and The head of Leda (1505–08), a study for his even­tu­al paint­ing of the myth of Leda, the queen of Spar­ta, which was the most valu­able work in Leonardo’s estate when he died and was appar­ent­ly destroyed around 1700. Oth­er stamps show the artist’s stud­ies of skele­tons, joints, and cats.”

While none of these images enjoy quite the cul­tur­al pro­file of a Vit­ru­vian Man, let alone a Mona Lisa, they all show that what­ev­er Leonar­do drew, he drew it in a way reveal­ing that he saw it like no one else did (pos­si­bly due in part, as we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly post­ed about here on Open Cul­ture, to an eye dis­or­der).

Though that may come across more clear­ly at the scale of the orig­i­nals than at the scale of postage stamps, even a glimpse at the intel­lec­tu­al­ly bound­less Renais­sance poly­math­’s draw­ings com­pressed into 21-by-24-mil­lime­ter squares will sure­ly be enough to draw many into his still-inspi­ra­tional artis­tic and sci­en­tif­ic world. To the intrigued, may we sug­gest plung­ing into his 570 pages of note­books?

Note: If you live in the San Fran­cis­co Bay Area, con­sid­er attend­ing the new course–The Genius of Leonar­do da Vin­ci: A 500th Anniver­sary Cel­e­bra­tion–being offered through Stan­ford Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies. Reg­is­tra­tion opens on Feb­ru­ary 25. The class runs from April 16 through June 4.

via Colos­sal/Art­net

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Down­load the Sub­lime Anato­my Draw­ings of Leonar­do da Vin­ci: Avail­able Online, or in a Great iPad App

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Bizarre Car­i­ca­tures & Mon­ster Draw­ings

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Ear­li­est Note­books Now Dig­i­tized and Made Free Online: Explore His Inge­nious Draw­ings, Dia­grams, Mir­ror Writ­ing & More

The Doo­dles in Leonar­do da Vinci’s Man­u­scripts Con­tain His Ground­break­ing The­o­ries on the Laws of Fric­tion, Sci­en­tists Dis­cov­er

New Stamp Col­lec­tion Cel­e­brates Six Nov­els by Jane Austen

Postage Stamps from Bhutan That Dou­ble as Playable Vinyl Records

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


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