Leonardo da Vinci Hid Invisible Drawings in His Sketches and High Tech Scanners Have Brought Them to Light

As a scientist, an inventor, an artist, and a writer, the work of Leonardo da Vinci has long been a fascination to experts in many fields. Next year is the 500th anniversary of his death and to mark this occasion, there is a special collection of his drawings doing a tour of the UK next year. This show is called ‘Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing’. However, it is not exactly what you would expect as it contains some surprises.

The tour is being split into 12 different exhibitions which will be held in various cities across the UK. There are 144 illustrations across these exhibitions which will all open in February 2019. The exhibits will then be brought back together for one large exhibition that will be hosted at the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace in May 2019. There will also be some additional exhibits at this event with 200 sheets of illustrations on display. This means it is set to become the largest exhibition of the work of Leonardo da Vinci in more than 65 years.

These exhibitions are rather different to previous displays of the artist’s work and this is all thanks to modern technology. Experts have found some amazing secrets in Leonardo da Vinci’s work with the use of infrared light technology. Below his famous works, it has been discovered that there are hidden drawings in some of his illustrations and others reveal alternative versions of his sketches.

Two of the most striking exhibits would appear at first glance to be nothing more than two blank pieces of paper. However, the use of infrared light has revealed that they are actually invisible studies of hands. These are titled ‘Studies of hands for the Adoration of the Magi’ and were revealed when experts used high-energy X-ray fluorescence.

The technology does much more than simply reveal the sketches; it also shows how it was possible for the drawings to seemingly disappear since they were drawn over five centuries ago. Scientists were able to learn that the metal stylus used by da Vinci contained a high level of copper. Due to a chemical reaction, the copper was transformed into a transparent copper salt.

Another example of an interesting exhibit is the ‘Studies of Water’. The technology has now made it clear that the sketches were built up in stages. Using infrared, experts have been able to reveal that the first stage of this was the structure of water created with chalk. The initial sketch was a simple design to which da Vinci later added more composition in the form of rosettes of bubbles.

Although da Vinci is a historic figure of fascination, much of his life’s work has been destroyed, lost or unrealized over the years since his death. His buildings, sculptures, and inventions are no longer in existence and the only evidence of these that remains, in many cases, are his sketches and prototypes.

In addition to the illustrations, the exhibition will also display a range of the materials used by Leonardo da Vinci. These include metal point, red and black chalks, pen, ink, and watercolors. The exhibitions around the UK will run between February 1 and May 6, 2019, before coming together at Buckingham Palace between May 24 and October 13, 2019.


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