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Leonardo da Vinci, "Lady with an Ermine", 1483-1490, from the exhibition at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, 2010, photo by Mariusz Grzelak/SE/East News
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece "Lady with an Ermine" from the collection of the Princes Czartoryski Foundation is on show at Britain's National Portrait Gallery
"Leonardo: Painter at the Court of Milan" is the most complete overview yet of rarely shown paintings by the Italian master. The exhibition brings paintings from various collections around the world, on loan from international galleries such as the Louvre in Paris as well as Rome, Krakow, St. Petersburg and Milan, where the artist served as court painter in the 1480s and 1490s, to date they have never before been exhibited in the UK. The exhibition includes nine of Leonardo's 15 known paintings. The works are estimated to be worth a combined $2 billion.
Unlike many exhibitions which celebrate Leonardo da Vinci as an inventor, scienist and draftsman, the London show focuses on his painting techniques, his skill as a painter. In particular the curators placed emphasis on the work he produced as a court painter to Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan (1452-1508). The preparation of the exhibition was inspired by the restoration of the painting "The Virgin of the Rocks", from the collection of London's National Gallery.
"Lady with an Ermine" from the collection of the Czartoryski Museum in Kraków is the only da Vinci in any Polish collection and is one of the artist’s most valuable masterpieces. Painted with oil and tempera on a panel in the years 1483-1490, shows most likely the Duke of Milan's Lodovico Sforz’s mistress Cecilia Gallerani (1473 – 1536). The London exhibition ends the ongoing tour for several months of the "Lady" in European museums. Returning from Madrid's Royal Palace ("Poland, Treasures and Artistic Exhibitions") and Berlin's Bode-Museum ("Renaissance Faces. Masterpieces of Italian Portraiture"). The masterpiece will not be released for an extended time from the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow. It will instead serve as the subject of a research project on its origins.
Once the painting was released by the Princes Czartoryski foundation earlier this year and permission given to it to travel, the "Lady" became one of the focal pieces in the Golden Age of the Polish Republic exhibition in Madrid in the summer of 2011 - a major point on the cultural calendar accompanying Poland's EU Presidency.
"Lady with an Ermine" is featured alongside "La Belle Ferronière" (Musée du Louvre, Paris), "Madonna Litta" (Hermitage, St. Petersburg), "Portrait of a Musician" (Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan) and "Saint Jerome" (Vatican, Rome).
The exhibition opens on the 9th of November 2011 and runs until the 5th of Febuary 2012.
The National Gallery