Leonardo Da Vinci in Nottingham: Ten Drawings, Ten Facts!

When we found out that Nottingham Castle was displaying ten original drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, we couldn't wait to head over and see them for ourselves. Not only are the drawings intricate and beautiful to look at but they are from one of the most renowned artists of all time!

Leonardo worked using a variety of mediums from pen and ink to red chalk and his drawings were just as varied. Leonardo did technical, scientific drawings and also sketched anatomy and the body. He really was good at everything!

In honour of Leonardo's ten drawings being displayed in Nottingham Castle, we are going to give you ten interesting facts about the artist and his work.

1. Leonardo was dyslexic.

I doubt there is a better example of how someone didn't let their disability affect their success. Leonardo's dyslexia gave him the ability to write his notes in reverse (now, that is a talent)! It has been said that a lot of the time dyslexic writers aren't even aware they are writing in reverse, so he would have thought he was writing the same as everyone else.

We saw this first hand in one of his drawings titled 'Studies for casting an equestrian monument' as it is covered in his reverse scribbles.

Studies for casting an equestrian monument.
2. Leonardo was the first person to invent contact lenses. 

In 1508, Leonardo drew sketches that showed how the human eye could be changed by placing the cornea directly in contact with water. This is the basic idea of contact lenses.

3. Leonardo loved cats.

It has been said that in the last years of his life, Leonardo started sketching a cat. This then led to him sketching a whole group of cats, all doing different things. Some were grooming themselves, fighting each other and, strangely, a dragon baring its teeth.

It seems like Leonardo wanted to pick out their personalities as each cat is doing something different.

Cats, lions and a dragon.
4. Leonardo was named after the town of Vinci.

Leonardo was born in Italy in Tuscany, near the town of Vinci. His full name was Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci which translated to Leonardo, the son of Messer Piero of Vinci.

We thought that it was strange to be named after your town or city... Imagine if your surname was Nottingham!

5. Leonardo was a vegetarian. 

Leonardo chose to be a vegetarian due to his love of animals. This love is apparent through a lot of his work and animals featured heavily in the ten drawings we saw.

In 'Expressions of fury in Horses, a Lion and a Man' Leonardo aimed to depict powerful emotion through their bodies. He drew these around the time he was asked to paint a mural for the Battle of Anghiari.

We loved how he was able to show the movement and emotions of the horses in battle. His love of animals is definitely obvious as he seems to have a real understanding of them.

Expressions of fury in Horses, a Lion and a Man.
6. Leonardo didn't go to school.

Leonardo did, in fact, have little formal education. He had basic skills in reading, writing and maths but his Father noticed that he had a talent in art.

His father sent him to Andrea del Verrocchio, an Italian painter and sculptor. This is where Leonardo spent six years studying to improve his technical drawing, sculpting, carpentry and metalwork.

7. Leonardo was an expert in human anatomy.

Leonardo wasn't just a painter he was an anatomist, as well! He did many studies of the human body and how it worked. It has been said that Leonardo was the first man to show the correct shape of the spine and pelvis.

He dissected muscles to see how they worked and this soon became a large part of his work. 'A male nude' is displayed in Nottingham Castle and it shows a man standing at rest.

Leonardo practised drawing tense muscles (if in battle) and also relaxed muscles like shown in the drawing. We particularly liked the shading and how subtle but effective it was.

A male nude.
8. Leonardo was an inventor.

When we say it seems like Leonardo can do anything, we really mean it. Through his drawings, it is apparent that he invented the idea of a parachute, helicopter and the armoured car.

He modelled his flying machines on a bat in flight and it was the starting point of the creation of these objects.

9. Leonardo was fascinated with destruction.

It was towards the end of his life that Leonardo became fascinated with destruction. This was apparent through his writing and his art.

In 'A deluge', he used black chalk to create the effect of mountains collapsing into a flooded landscape. You can see coils of wind and rain all through the drawing and it is only a tree in the bottom right that has stayed standing.

This drawing is a lot darker than the others, but still very expressive and full of emotion! Maybe Leonardo knew he was nearing the end of his life?

A deluge.
10. Leonardo bought caged animals so he could let them free. 

This is a nice fact to end on. Leonardo would go to his local market and purchase caged animals just so he could let them free again!

We were really pleased to have the opportunity to go and see some of the drawings of such a revolutionary figure in history like Leonardo da Vinci.

Thank you to Nottingham Castle for putting on such an interesting exhibition. 
You still have time to go as the exhibition is on from 30th July - 9th October 2016, we really recommend it!

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