A video message from HRH Prince Charles has helped launch a major exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci’s work.

The Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing exhibition opened last Friday at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens as part of a national tour to mark the 500th anniversary of his death.

Sunderland is one of only 12 UK venues chosen by Royal Collection Trust to simultaneously host the exhibition, which features a total of 144 of Leonardo drawings. The exhibition will run to May 6.

At the launch, Mrs Sue Winfield, Lord Lieutenant for Tyne and Wear, explained she was the representative of HRH The Queen, who owns the drawings through Royal Collection Trust. Mrs Winfield thanked The Queen for her generosity in sharing the works across so many venues.

“This is the most widely accessible celebration ever held to honour the work of this great man,” she said.

Mrs Winfield went on to introduce a specially-filmed message from Prince Charles, who is Chairman of Royal Collection Trust.

“Five hundred years have passed since Leonardo’s death and yet the drawings are as fresh as the day they were drawn. Leonardo used drawing to record, to explore and to think and these studies cover the wide range of his artistic and scientific genius. Through each group of 12 drawings, we can begin to comprehend the many aspects of his boundless intelligence. It may truly be said of Leonardo that ‘all human life is here,” said the Prince.

Declaring the exhibition open, the Mayor of Sunderland, Coun Lynda Scanlan, added: “We are honoured that Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens is part of this nationwide event and will be the North East home for these exquisite drawings during the Leonardo 500 celebrations.

“The team at the Museum tell me they expect over 25,000 people to come and see this exhibition. We hope it will inspire the artists, scientists and inventors of the future.

“I also hope that people from our city and across the region will make the most of this once in a generation opportunity to see the works of this incredible artist.”

Following the exhibitions at the 12 venues the drawings will be brought together to form part of an exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, the largest exhibition of Leonardo’s work in more than 65 years. A selection of 80 drawings will then travel to The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse in November, the largest group of Leonardo’s works ever shown in Scotland.

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture who deliver the programme at the museum on behalf of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re delighted that the exhibition is now open and we’re hoping that people across Wearside and beyond will take this unique opportunity to see the work of a genius.

“It’s a real thrill to be able to get so close to the work, drawn 500 years ago, and which gives us such an important insight into the Renaissance world.”

A range of artistic projects, organised by Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, will complement the exhibition.

These include school programmes, a family programme and an adult learning programme.

They also include a project involving students from the University of Sunderland imagining what Leonardo would invent using the university’s FabLab facility, and an exhibition of stunning portraits of residents from three Washington care homes drawn by the acclaimed artist Andrew Tift.

Tickets for Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, costing £2.50, can be pre-booked online by visiting www.sunderlandmuseum.org.uk or at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens’ reception during opening hours. Entry for under-16s is free, but they will need a ticket.

For information and updates on the supporting activities and events, log on to the museum’s website or check social media using the hashtags #SunderlandLeo and #Leonardo500.

Leonardo, who lived from 1452 to 1519, painted some of the most famous images in world art, with The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper among his most famous pieces.

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