A LEONARDO da Vinci sketch currently on display at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens has been included in a set of recently issued stamps.

A sprig of guelder-rose features in Royal Mail’s 12-stamp issue, chosen to coincide with a series of exhibitions, ‘Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing’, taking place across the UK – one drawing from each of the exhibitions is featured on a stamp.

The national tour marks the 500th anniversary of the Italian master’s death. Sunderland is one of only 12 UK venues chosen by the Royal Collection Trust to simultaneously host the exhibition, which features a total of 144 of Leonardo drawings. The exhibition will run until May 6.

Almost 14,000 tickets for the Sunderland exhibition have so far been snapped up.

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. Fewer than 20 paintings by Leonardo survive, and nothing in sculpture or architecture.

But Leonardo hoarded thousands of his drawings and dozens of notebooks, many of which have been passed down through succeeding centuries.

The Royal Collection holds the greatest collection of Leonardo’s drawings in existence, housed in the Print Room at Windsor Castle. Because they have been protected from light, fire and flood, they are in almost pristine condition.

Martin Clayton, Head of Prints and Drawings, Royal Collection Trust, said: “Alongside an ambitious programme of 12 exhibitions around the UK, then exhibitions at The Queen’s Galleries in London and Edinburgh, we are thrilled to be working with Royal Mail on this special 12-stamp set, which invites everyone to join the celebration of Leonardo and his work in 2019.”

Keith Merrin, Chief Executive of Sunderland Culture, said: “I think the Royal Mail stamps are a great idea and hopefully will help to raise the profile of the exhibition, Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens and the city generally. The image of a sprig of guelder rose on the Sunderland stamp is particularly striking and I’m sure will become a collectors’ item.”

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, who was at the launch of the stamp, said: “I was thrilled to learn work from such an important artist was coming to Sunderland and delighted that so many people have already visited the Leonardo exhibition at the Museum and Winter Gardens.

Through the work of Sunderland Culture, the city is enjoying a cultural renaissance and key, national exhibitions like this will keep the momentum going.

“The Royal Mail stamp is part of that and I hope it will help raise the profile of the city as well as prompting even more people to attend the exhibition – it’s well worth a visit!”

Philip Parker, Royal Mail, said: “500 years after his death, Leonardo’s drawings continue to inspire and intrigue us. We are delighted to feature 12 of the finest examples from the Royal Collection on these stamps.”

The stamps are available from www.royalmail.com/leonardo and in 7,000 Post Offices.

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.

Details of the Sunderland stamp:

A sprig of guelder-rose, c.1506–12

Red chalk on orange-red prepared paper

A beautifully rendered study of guelder-rose (Viburnum opulus) has been drawn in red chalk on paper rubbed all over with powdered red chalk. Although it may be connected with Leonardo’s Leda and the Swan, it is far more detailed than necessary as a study for a painting; indeed, it surpasses anything found in contemporary herbals. The leaves are

shown curling and sagging, for Leonardo was interested not merely in their shape but also in their living form when subject to the natural forces of growth and gravity.

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