Leonardo da Vinci live at a movie theater near you!

Okay, so you weren’t able to get to England or sell your kidney to buy a scalped ticket for the sold out blockbuster Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan exhibition at London’s National Gallery. For the many of us all over the world in that sad boat, we will have to content ourselves with a viewing of an HD documentary on the exhibit: Leonardo Live (which isn’t live for us but was broadcast live originally).

Captured live on November 8, 2011, LEONARDO LIVE provides a virtual walk-through of the exhibit, with exclusive commentary from scholars and curators. Hosted by highly respected art historian Tim Marlow and presenter Mariella Frostrup, the exhibition brings together the largest number of da Vinci’s rare surviving painting and some international loans. While numerous exhibitions have looked at da Vinci as an inventor, scientist or draughtsman, this is the first to be dedicated to his aims and techniques as a painter.

When I last blogged about this, the screening dates hadn’t been published yet. Now they have and you can buy your tickets in advance. It opens in 450 theaters around the country on February 16. Since most of the screenings are a one-night-one-showing-only event, I suggest you book early. You can plug your zip code into this site to get a listing and map of the theaters nearest to you that are showing the movie.

For some fascinating background on the Herculean effort it took to put together this unprecedented exhibit, read this article from the Telegraph. It took five years from idea to exhibition, and it would never have happened if Queen Elizabeth II hadn’t agreed up front to allow Luke Syson, the National Gallery’s curator of Italian paintings before 1500, to offer loans of important Leonardo drawings from the Royal Collection in return for loans of Leonardo paintings.

So Syson started by negotiating the loan of the Lady with an Ermine from the Czartoryski Foundation in Cracow. Next he asked his colleagues at the Louvre for La Belle Ferronnière. With two such stunning portraits secured for the show, it would have been hard for Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan to turn down his request for Leonardo’s Portrait of a Musician, because with the addition of the two versions of the Virgin of the Rocks it looked like every surviving picture painted by Leonardo in Milan would be in the show.

Every picture he painted in Milan (the frescoes in the Castello Sforzesco and The Last Supper excluded, of course, on account of they’re attached to walls) is fully half the total number of the Leonardo paintings known to survive.