In 2007, After being announced as holders of the 2015 Universal Exposition, Comune di Milano (City of Milan) and publishing company Skira decided to hold a showcase to promote Milanese culture and ideals using the themes of Milanese, Universal & exceptional. From this there was but one choice. The great artist and Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci, for an exhibition simply titled LEONARDO. Beginning in April and continuing until July 17th the exhibition is housed at the grand Palazzo Reale, next to Il Duomo. The Palazzo is a grand space and a perfect match for the exhibition. 5 years of research, acquisition and organization has culminated in the most exhaustive and complete collection of Leonardo’s lesser known drawings, paintings models and draft works, including St. John the Baptist, the Annunciation, and La Belle Ferronnière.
The collection of Leonardo’s work has been gathered from all corners of the globe for this once in a lifetime opportunity. Some works have been borrowed from the Codice Atlantico – housed in the famous Milanese library Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, with other pieces borrowed from the Pinacoteca di Brera, the Louvre in Paris, The Royal Collection in England and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The exhibition highlights his influences, most notably from his master Andrea del Verrocchio. It reveals his complete devotion to the understanding of nature, human anatomy and the construction of complex machinery. It can be seen that Leonardo drew not just for representation, but rather used it as a tool to observe the world around him and understand the laws that govern natural phenomena.
The exhibition is separated into 12 sections, ranging from nature, mechanics, expression, anatomy, proportions and more. When I entered the first section of the exhibition and saw the first works I knew I was going to take a long time in the exhibition spaces, and was thankful for the chairs dotted throughout the exhibition. As a recommendation, acquire an audio guide (it’s free), as the exhibition’s two curators, Pietro C. Marani and Maria Teresa Fiorio, narrate a collection of some of the works. They deliver an immersive experience that is missed when you just look at the drawings alone. They reveal techniques and contexts to notable works that give a greater understanding and appreciation to the genius of Leonardo.
One unique aspect that I found myself constantly inspecting up close is that in many of the drafts and drawings, Leonardo would leave inscriptions and paragraphs of information for himself, but this writing is illegible as he was constantly wary of prying eyes and would therefore write in a secretive reverse style of writing using a mirror. It really is impressive to see exactly these things up close and personal. It must also be noted that photography is strictly forbidden in this exhibition. The most notable work of Leonardo’s on exhibition is the L'uomo di Vitruvio or the Vitruvian Man, based off of the original model by Vitruvius. It is actually a lot smaller than I had anticipated, being about the size of an A4 piece of paper, but the incredible details provided are truly remarkable; it must be seen. Whether you are young or old, historian or student you will be able to appreciate the true skills that Leonardo had and this exhibition is a great chance to see his works collectively under the same roof.