NEW YORK • This year marks the quincentennial of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance master who died in May 1519.
To celebrate the prodigious polymath's life and work, museums are hosting special exhibitions and tour operators are taking travellers on da Vinci-inspired journeys across Western Europe.
In Britain, the Royal Collection Trust opened a nationwide exhibition of drawings, Leonardo Da Vinci: A Life In Drawing, this month. Museums and galleries in 12 cities, from Belfast to Southampton, are each displaying 12 of da Vinci's drawings through May 6.
Then the entire collection will be shown, along with more than 50 additional drawings, at The Queen's Gallery, in Buckingham Palace, until Oct 13; this assemblage will form the largest exhibition of da Vinci's work in more than 65 years.
The exhibit's last leg, from Nov 22 until March 15 next year, will showcase 80 drawings at the Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The collection, curated to highlight the artist's varied interests from engineering to botany, "allows us to enter one of the greatest minds in history", said Mr Martin Clayton, head of prints and drawings for Royal Collection Trust.
Italy will celebrate its native son with honorary exhibits across the country, and one of the most comprehensive will be Leonardo Da Vinci: Drawing The Future, running from April 15 to July 14, at the Royal Museums of Turin.
More than 50 drawings will be on display, including Codex On The Flight Of Birds and Face Of A Young Girl. The artist's famous Self Portrait will also be on show.
During a similar time period (April 19 to July 14), the Gallerie dell'Accademia in Venice will exhibit 25 drawings, including the rarely displayed masterwork Vitruvian Man, while the Sforza Castle in Milan is set to debut the newly restored Sala delle Asse room and show more of da Vinci's work on May 2, the anniversary of his death.
In Florence, the Palazzo Strozzi will unveil a retrospective showcasing 120 paintings, sculptures and drawings devoted to Renaissance maestro Andrea del Verrocchio; work from da Vinci and other pupils will be featured (March 9 to July 14).
In September, a curated version of the show will head to The National Gallery of Art in Washington. Also in the United States, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science's Leonardo Da Vinci: 500 Years Of Genius exhibit (March 1 to Aug 25) will present reproductions of da Vinci's inventions, historical enactors and the only 360-degree replica of the Mona Lisa ever made.
The Louvre Museum in Paris, which houses nearly a third of his surviving artwork, including the Mona Lisa, plans to show a retrospective of the artist's paintings starting on Oct 24.
"We want to illustrate how he placed utmost importance on painting," said Mr Vincent Delieuvin, an exhibit co-curator, "and how his investigation of the world, which he referred to as 'the science of painting', was the instrument of his art, seeking nothing less than to bring life to his paintings."
To explore these exhibits, other groundbreaking masterpieces and the places that shaped the artist's life and art, travel outfitters are organising tours across Western Europe.
Audley Travel is offering a customisable 12-day trip through Italy, France and Britain designed to provide insight into da Vinci's muses, peers and the socio-political climate of the Renaissance.
"We've created a trip that traces the full arc of da Vinci's lifetime, providing travellers a holistic and immersive look at his life and inspirations," said Ms Isabel NormanButler, a manager at the company.
Red Savannah recently launched a new series of European itineraries that can be tailored to highlight art historian-guided visits of The Last Supper in Milan and jaunts to da Vinci's birthplace in Tuscany that include private tours of Museo Leonardiano Vinci.