Art News

London’s National Gallery to Ration Access to Leonardo Da Vinci Exhibition

artwork: Leonardo da Vinci - "St. Jerome Praying in the Wilderness", circa 1482 - Oil and tempera on walnut wood - 102.8 x 73.5 cm. Collection of the Musei e Gallerie Pontificie, Vatican City, on loan for "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan" at the London National Gallery, London from 9 November 2011 – 5 February 2012.

London (BBC).- London’s National Gallery is to limit visitor numbers to a major exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci works in an attempt to prevent large crowds detracting from the viewing experience. Admissions will be fixed at 180 every half hour, 50 fewer people than the gallery is legally allowed to let in. “We’ve looked hard at the problems caused by very popular exhibitions… and decided to take action,” gallery director Nicholas Penny told The London Times. Advance booking for the exhibition, which will run from 9th November until 5th February 2012, has just opened.

artwork: Leonardo da Vinci -  "Lady With an Ermine", 1489-90 Oil on wood panel - 54 x 39 cm. Collection of the Czartoryski Museum, Kraków, PolandIn a statement, the gallery said it expected there to be “unprecedented demand” for tickets and advised patrons to book in advance. Its decision to reduce the number of admissions, it added, had been “in response to visitors’ comments regarding overcrowding in exhibitions”.‘Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan’ is the most complete display of Leonardo’s rare surviving paintings ever held. This unprecedented exhibition – the first of its kind anywhere in the world – brings together sensational international loans never before seen in the UK.

While numerous exhibitions have looked at Leonardo da Vinci as an inventor, scientist or draughtsman, this is the first to be dedicated to his aims and techniques as a painter. Inspired by the recently restored National Gallery painting, “The Virgin of the Rocks”, this exhibition focuses on Leonardo as an artist. In particular it concentrates on the work he produced as court painter to Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan in the late 1480s and 1490s. As a painter, Leonardo aimed to convince viewers of the reality of what they were seeing while still aspiring to create ideals of beauty – particularly in his exquisite portraits – and, in his religious works, to convey a sense of awe-inspiring mystery. Featuring the finest paintings and drawings by Leonardo and his followers, the exhibition examines Leonardo’s pursuit for perfection in his representation of the human form.

artwork: Leonardo da Vinci -  "The Virgin of the Rocks", 1495-98 Oil on panel - 189.5 x 120 cm. Collection of the National Gallery Works on display include ‘La Belle Ferronière’ (Musée du Louvre, Paris), the ‘Madonna Litta’ (Hermitage, Saint Petersburg) and ‘Saint Jerome’ (Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome). The final part of the exhibition features a near-contemporary, full-scale copy of Leonardo’s famous ‘Last Supper’, on loan from the Royal Academy. Seen alongside all the surviving preparatory drawings made by Leonardo for the ‘Last Supper’, visitors will discover how such a large-scale painting was designed and executed.

The History of London’s National Gallery dates back to April 1824 when the House of Commons agreed to pay £57,000 for the picture collection of the banker John Julius Angerstein. His 38 pictures were intended to form the core of a new national collection, for the enjoyment and education of all. In 1831 Parliament agreed to construct a dedicated building for the National Gallery at Trafalgar Square. The new building designed by William Wilkins finally opened in 1838. After receiving some criticism, in 1869 the architect E.M. Barry was asked to submit designs for rebuilding the entire Gallery. After much discussion, it was decided that the existing building should remain, and instead, a new wing should be added. This was completed in 1876, and added seven new exhibition rooms at the east end, including the impressive dome. Continuing expansion of the collection led the trustees to campaign long and hard for additional space. Eventually, in 1907, barracks at the rear of the Gallery were cleared and work began to construct five new galleries.

Further expansion was carried out in 1975, when the ‘Northern Extension’ was completed, providing 9 large rooms and 3 smaller ‘cabinet’ rooms of additional exhibition space. In 1985 Lord Sainsbury and his brothers agreed to finance the construction of a new wing on a site next to the Gallery which had been vacant since the Second World War. The new Sainsbury Wing, designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Robert Venturi and his wife, Denise Scott Brown, was opened in 1991, to display the entire early Renaissance collection. With a commitment to free admission, a central and accessible site, and extended opening hours the Gallery has ensured that its collection can be enjoyed by the widest public possible, and not become the exclusive preserve of the privileged. Following the completion of the Sainsbury Wing, the Gallery has a total floor area of 46,396 metres squared and is visited by more than 4 million people every year. Visit the National Gallery’s website at