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Leonardo da Vinci, La Belle Ferronière, about 1490. Musée du Louvre, Paris. © RMN / Franck Raux.

LONDON.- '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, including 'La Belle Ferronière' (Musée du Louvre, Paris), the 'Madonna Litta' (Hermitage, Saint Petersburg) and 'Saint Jerome' (Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome).

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 and in particular on the work he produced during his career as court painter to Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan in the late 1480s and 1490s.

Benefiting from his salaried position, Leonardo had the freedom to explore ways of perceiving and recording human proportion, expression and anatomy and the myriad forms of plants and animals. These investigations fed into his extraordinary paintings: marvellous combinations of the real and the ideal, the natural and the divine.

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. As a painter, he 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.

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.

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Leonardo da Vinci and Workshop, Virgin and Child, also known as ‘Madonna Litta’ , about 1492. The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg. © Photo by Vladimir Terebenin, Leonard Kheifets, Yuri Molodkovets.

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Leonardo da Vinci, 'Saint Jerome', ca. 1480. Tempera and Oil on panel. (1480), . Tempera and Oil on panel. .  .     Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome

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Leonardo da Vinci, The Virgin of the Rocks, Oil on panel, National Gallery, London