Written by Ellis Ian Fields
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Wednesday, 30 November 2011

image for Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter At The Court Of Milan, National Gallery. Exhibition Review. Why is it, whenever there's a piece about art... oh, I give up!

One of the most eagerly anticipated exhibitions ever, Leonardo Da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan brings nine of the Renaissance genius's paintings together for the first time.

The show is a complete sell-out and queues for the few daily walk-in tickets are forming in the small hours.

Proserpine Gainsborough-Halfwit joined the throng at the National Gallery...

Have you ever tried to look at paintings at a blockbuster exhibition like this?

'Course you have.

Isn't it just simply frightful?

Ronnie Wemyss-Blott asked if he could come along with me to this one and I said "OK" but I'm pretty sure he didn't enjoy it. He looked absolutely terrified when we came out - he was all pale-green, damp-browed and wide-eyed - and no-one's seen him for days. Daddy says he's not a strong boy but to keep an eye on his bonus - he works at a big bank.

Ordinary exhibitions are bad enough but this one was doomed to be horrid from the moment it was announced. How long did it take for the tickets to sell out? Nano-seconds or something.

(And how on Earth are those online agencies able to get hold of tickets to flog at £150? Disgraceful!)

So, of course the exhibition is packed and while I know it's Leonardo, I don't understand why.

I mean I've lost count of how many times I've been to the National Gallery or the Louvre. (I'm not boasting: it's my job, looking at paintings, right?)

And you never see hordes of people trying to look at either museum's version of the Virgin of the Rocks. In the Louvre they're all too busy trying to see the Mona Lisa - who's not in this exhibition - and in the National I doubt they realise the Virgin's there, unless they've got one of those talking tour things clamped to their ears.

And I bet you can spend hours in front of the Madonna of the Yarnwinder at Drumlanrig Castle - constant interruptions by guided tour parties of hordes of Koreans notwithstanding.

Anyway, I couldn't see a thing at this National show. Whether the great man wanted us to see his brushstrokes or not is immaterial - I couldn't get near enough to make up my own mind how successful he was.

So I thought of a better idea: get away from the hordes and pay a visit to the 'Museum without walls.'

That's right - look in books, go online. The internet hadn't been invented when André Malraux came up with his wall-less museum notion - he was just referring to books, prints, postcards - so he would marvel at what's available now.

"Oh, but it's not like getting up close and personal with the real thing, is it?" I hear.

But that's just the point, isn't it? You can't in these exhibitions, either. All you can get intimate with is smelly oiks, sweaty fat people with bad breath (Ronnie ran out at one stage - I'm sure it was to be sick), and bored, spoiled brats who mummy and daddy had to bring along - "It'll be good for little Benjamin" - forgetting, of course, that the little darling is three-feet tall and the paintings are four or five feet off the ground!

So, look them up:

Madonna of the Yarnwinder
Madonna of the Rocks (Louvre and National Gallery versions)
Portrait of a musician
Saint Jerome
La Belle Ferronniere
Madonna Litta
Portrait of Cecilia Gallerani (The Lady with an Ermine)
Copy of the Last Supper
Plus a load of drawings

You don't even need to buy the £30 catalogue or a book about Da Vinci, just pop into a decent library. I found them all online.

No, it's not completely satisfactory - but it's better than being squashed in a heaving mass like on the Tube or having your Jimmy Choos run over by dirty, sticky pushchairs containing whining, bored toddlers.

Ugh! So I've decided to seek out these works when they're back where they normally hang - which means a trip to St Petersburg or Poland sometime for a couple of them. Ronnie keeps threatening to sweep me off for a weekend somewhere... and he's got all that banker's bonus...

The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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