Four exhibitions on Leonardo da Vinci at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, with a focus on the Codex Atlanticus

Four exhibitions on Leonardo da Vinci are coming to the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, with a focus on the Codex Atlanticus.

On the occasion of the celebrations for the five hundredth anniversary of his death, the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan is proposing an enhancement of its heritage of works by Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci, 1452 - Amboise, 1519), among the most important in the world, and the artists of his circle, with four high-profile scholarly exhibitions. The series, programmed by the Ambrosian Library’s College of Doctors and curated by leading experts on the Tuscan genius, is sponsored by the National Committee and the Territorial Committee for the celebrations of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death. Official partner of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana is Fondazione Fiera Milano, which will actively collaborate both in the cycle of initiatives dedicated to Leonardo’s celebrations and in the enhancement of the preparatory cartoon by Raphael Sanzio (Urbino, 1483 - Rome, 1520) for the fresco of the School of Athens in the Vatican.

The Leonardo Year at the Ambrosiana opens on December 18, 2018 with an exhibition in two stages, lasting three months each, which presents in its entirety 46 sheets, chosen from among the most famous and important ones of the Codex Atlanticus, the Ambrosiana’s true Leonardo treasure, capable of retracing the artist’s career in its near totality, from his youthful Florentine years to his last period spent in France in the service of Francis I. In particular, the exhibition The Secrets of the Codex Atlanticus. Leonardo at the Ambrosiana, curated by the Collegio dei Dottori of the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana, will focus on those sheets that preserve the most fascinating drawings that Leonardo was able to elaborate with the artistic expertise that is universally recognized.

The Codex Atlanticus came to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in 1637 as a gift from Count Galeazzo Arconati, a member of Milan’s finest aristocracy. It is an extraordinary collection of 1119 autograph sheets by Leonardo da Vinci, totaling about 1750 drawings. The name “atlantic” does not indicate the contents of the codex, but rather the format of the large pages (which were normally used to package atlases) on which Leonardo’s sheets were glued to better preserve them and protect them from possible dispersion. The Codex Atlanticus is the most important and complete Leonardo collection in the world: in it are mingled all the disciplines cultivated by the great genius of Vinci from his youthful years until shortly before his death: architecture and hydraulics, medicine and optics, mechanics and town planning, geometry and astronomy, anatomy and the various figurative arts. Remarkable are the designs for self-propelled machines, increasingly sophisticated weapons, gears and contraptions, of which Leonardo left stupendous drawings that often became true works of art.

The first part of the exhibition (Dec. 18, 2018 to March 17, 2019) opens with Leonardo’s drawings related specifically to the city of Milan, including the famous city plan with a bird’s-eye view of downtown Milan, the study for the San Cristoforo canal, the design for the equestrian monument in honor of Duke Francesco Sforza, and studies for the Duomo’s tiburium; the exhibition continues with a number of perspective studies and projects of an architectural-military nature, as well as a number of sheets preserving beautiful drawings of weapons of war (crossbows, slingshots and mortars), studies for the construction of mechanical wings intended for stage performances and the famous project for the so-called “Leonardo’s automobile.”

The second part (from March 19 to June 16) will offer some designs for war machines, but will focus particularly on civil engineering studies: hydraulic devices, machines for ropes, for textile activity, for the production of mechanical instruments, automatic punching machines and roasters. The third review, Leonardo in France. Drawings from the French period from the Codex Atlanticus, from June 18 to September 15, 2019, curated by Pietro C. Marani, among the leading experts on Leonardo, will delve into the last years of the master’s activity through a selection of 23 sheets from the Codex Atlanticus datable to Leonardo’s French sojourn at the court of Francis I.

“The exhibition,” says Pietro C. Marani, “focuses on Leonardo’s architectural and hydraulic drawings executed in France between 1516 and 1518, all traditionally placed in relation to the French King Francis I’s plans for a new royal residence to be erected at Romorantin. Here the old château, inhabited by the king’s mother, Louise of Savoy, had already undergone modernization and restoration work in the preceding years, but the new residence desired by the king was developed in a monumental and urbanistic sense, and Leonardo, in his drawings, seems to be oriented toward the design of twin palaces, one for the king, the other for Queen Claude of France, surrounded by canals and pavilions. Perhaps Leonardo’s drawings were not followed up, but Chambord Castle, built beginning in 1519, seems to convey some of Leonardo’s ideas for Romorantin.”

Accompanying the exhibition is a catalog, edited by Pietro C. Marani, which will also include a list of all Leonardo’s other French folios, mostly devoted to studies of geometry, lunulae and curvilinear stars, with a new study on papers and watermarks.

The Leonardo year at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana ends with the exhibition Leonardo and His Legacy: Artists and Techniques, curated by Benedetta Spadaccini, scheduled from Sept. 17, 2018 to Jan. 12, 2020, dedicated to drawings made by Leonardo and the artists in his circle. “The idea of this exhibition,” Benedetta Spadaccini explains, “stems from the need to present in a new way, to scholars and the general public, a selection of drawings made by Leonardo da Vinci and the artists of his circle. For this reason, the sheets have been chosen with an emphasis on execution techniques and following two lines of study, which complement each other perfectly, to broaden the research and attract the attention of the non-specialist public. The fundamental premise of this exhibition is the central role played by Leonardo in introducing new drawing techniques to Milan, as well as the improvements and experiments he made with already known techniques. All aspects, the latter, widely investigated and developed by a long tradition of studies. The first line of study presents the different executive techniques, from metal points to pencils and from ink to colored chalks, according to a chronological and historical-critical path that highlights the individual personalities of the artists involved. The second line of research is based on non-invasive diagnostic investigations carried out in situ, which will be presented within the exhibition itinerary through the presence of media such as macrophotographs and videos.”

Exhibition hours: Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., closed Mondays. Admission: full 15 euros, reduced 10 euros, reduced schools 5 euros, reduced university 10 euros. For more info you can Ambrosiana website.

Image: Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus (Codex Atlanticus), folio 1069 recto. Left, tube fitted with float to allow underwater breathing; machines to lift, pump and collect water; top right, two long augers to carry river water to two towers; bottom left, bucket with siphon. Copyright Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana/Mondadori Portfolio

Four exhibitions on Leonardo da Vinci at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, with a focus on the Codex Atlanticus
Four exhibitions on Leonardo da Vinci at the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan, with a focus on the Codex Atlanticus

Warning: the translation into English of the original Italian article was created using automatic tools. We undertake to review all articles, but we do not guarantee the total absence of inaccuracies in the translation due to the program. You can find the original by clicking on the ITA button. If you find any mistake,please contact us.