Lovers of the fine arts should begin making their travel plans now for the upcoming exhibit at London's National Gallery, "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan." The exhibit is scheduled for November 9, 2011 to February 5, 2012 and promises to be a major blockbuster. The focus will be on da Vinci's artistic work while he served as a court painter for Duke Lodovico Sforza in Milan during the 1480s and 1490s.

Recent exhibitions on Leonardo da Vinci have focused largely on his work as a scientist, inventor and draughtsman, such as Leonardo3's traveling "Leonardo da Vinci's Workshop," currently at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania through May 2011. With this new exhibition, the National Gallery turns the emphasis instead on da Vinci's exceptional skills as an artist, inspired by the museum's newly completed restoration of "The Virgin of the Rocks." Several major paintings by Leonardo to be included, on loan from other museum collections, include "La Belle Ferroniere," "Madonna Litta," "Saint Jerome" and a near-contemporary full-scale copy of "The Last Supper." The exhibition is being billed as the most complete display of da Vinci's rare paintings ever held and many of these works have never been seen on exhibit in the United Kingdom before now.

Also on display for "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan" will be all of the surviving preparatory drawings executed by da Vinci for "The Last Supper." The exhibition as a whole promises to examine da Vinci's quest as an artist to create and explore ideals of beauty and the mysterious, awe-inspiring quality of his work.

The restoration of "The Virgin of the Rocks" was carefully executed to return the painting to its original color and beauty as much as possible. An earlier restoration attempt in the 1940s ended up obscuring much of the painting, as a varnish layer applied then had since degraded, discolored and cracked. Through this new restoration, investigators were able to reveal much of da Vinci's skillful sculptural painting effects, as well as make new discoveries about the work and his painting methods. The painting has also been reframed to more accurately represent what a northern Italian frame of the 1500s would look like.

Tickets for "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan" will go on sale May 10, 2011 via the National Gallery website. Those interested in attending are advised to purchase their tickets as soon as possible, as this exhibit is certain to be a sell-out event drawing art lovers from all over the world.

* "Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan." National Gallery.
* "Restoring Leonardo's 'Virgin of the Rocks.'" National Gallery.
* "The Year Ahead 20011: The Guide to This Year's Exhibitions and Fairs Worldwide." The Art Newspaper, annual publication.