Milan, reopens Sala delle Asse, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece at Castello Sforzesco

In Milan, the Sala delle Asse, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece in the Castello Sforzesco, reopens after restoration.

From May 16 to January 12, 2020, the Sala delle Asse, a masterpiece by Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci, 1452 - Amboise, 1519) at the Castello Sforzesco in Milan, reopens. The room had been under restoration since 2013 and is exceptionally reopened to the public thanks to the contribution of Fondazione Cariplo, which is also supporting the restoration of the pictorial decoration and the study site. Having dismantled the scaffolding of the construction site, the Sala delle Asse thus re-presents itself to the public after a new phase of work, revealing the mulberry arbor designed as a large trompe l’oeil by Leonardo as a tribute to the Duke of Milan, Ludovico il Moro (“morus” in Latin is the term for mulberry tree). The room consists of a large arbor of eighteen mulberry trees, and many portions of the preparatory drawing emerged during the work, thanks to the removal of layers of glaze made with laser tools. No one, except insiders, has so far observed gnarled trunks, landscapes, branches and leaves continuing to emerge at close range, gradually changing the perception of the Hall.

Moreover, through the scenic multimedia installation Under the Shadow of the Moor. The Hall of the Axes, curated and realized by Massimo Chimenti’s Culturanuova with the scientific collaboration of Francesca Tasso and Michela Palazzo, visitors will be guided in the reading of the integral space of the Hall, shifting the attention from the vault (greatly compromised by past restorations and which will be the subject in 2020 of a specific restoration) to the side walls, and they will discover how Leonardo developed here his concept of imitation of nature so much as to imagine an undergrowth and, beyond the trees, houses and hills on the horizon: from Duke Sforza’s room to the territory he ruled.

In addition, also at the Castle, in the Cortile delle Armi (Weapons Courtyard), a real pergola of mulberry trees, on a scale of 1:2, will be unveiled on May 15, reproducing live what Leonardo depicted in the Hall: a real plant architecture, designed and built with Orticola di Lombardia, that will grow with the natural cycle of the seasons and will be a permanent reminder of Leonardo’s work for the millions of visitors who pass through the courtyards of the Castle every year, as well as an invitation to enter the Museum to admire it directly. In fact, the project intends to promote knowledge of the Sala delle Asse by bringing it “outside” to offer a different, more purely botanical and landscape viewpoint, which will allow visitors not only to appreciate Leonardo’s work even more, but also to physically experience an arbor as it might have been conceived and created in Leonardo da Vinci’s Milanese years.

The rooms of the Castello Sforzesco will also be home to two other projects dedicated to Leonardo. In the Sala dei Ducali, open to the public from May 16 to August 18, 2019, will be the exhibition Around the Axis Room. Leonardo between Nature, Art and Science curated by Claudio Salsi, conceived around a rigorous selection of original drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and other Renaissance masters that show stringent iconographic and stylistic relationships with details of the naturalistic and landscape decoration of the Sala delle Asse, now made visible thanks to the uncovering essays carried out on the walls, clues of extraordinary importance in order to deepen our knowledge of the original compositional project. The exhibition project is conceived by the Superintendence of the Castle with the participation of major international museums, with loans from Her Majesty The Queen from the Royal Collection, the Musée du Louvre, Paris, the Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin, and the Uffizi Galleries, Florence. The proposed itinerary will give scholars and the wider public an opportunity to verify and appreciate the fascinating artistic connections established by Leonardo with the figurative culture of other masters from the Tuscan area, the transalpine countries and Milan itself.

Finally, in the Hall of Arms, from May 16, 2019 to January 12, 2020, a multimedia itinerary designed by Culturanuova with the scientific collaboration of Edoardo Rossetti and Ilaria De Palma, entitled Leonardo in Milan, will lead visitors to discover the city of Milan as it must have appeared to the eyes of Leonardo da Vinci during his stays in Milan (at various times between 1482 and 1512). The itinerary will include a georeferenced visual mapping of what is still preserved of those places, both in the city and inside museums, churches and buildings in the area: urban spaces, aristocratic residences and sacred buildings, such as the Church of San Francesco Grande, the Borgo delle Grazie, the Castello Sforzesco, the ancient Porta Vercellina, Corso Nirone and the axis of the current Corso Magenta-contrada dei Meravigli-Cordusio. The tour in the virtual city will bring to light, five centuries later, the peculiar social composition of these neighborhoods, but also their appearance, characterized by sumptuous palaces whose facades were frescoed with episodes of Roman history narrated through bold perspective views. We will then move on to visit the vast gardens within the blocks, used to host magnificent feasts and knightly tournaments.

In addition to the virtual itinerary in the city, there are 8 itineraries in the Lombardy territory-promoted by the Lombardy Region in collaboration with Explora, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary-that allow visitors to still find in art, landscape and the same food and wine culture the natural elements typical of the Lombardy land that Leonardo repeatedly represented in his works. The itineraries intend to accompany the public to rediscover not only the historical links of Lombardy with Leonardo and the Sforza court, but above all to rediscover through the eyes of the genius of Vinci the same naturalistic suggestions that characterize his great artistic and scientific work. Leaving Castello Sforzesco after visiting the exhibitions, visitors will be able to stroll around Milan and travel around Lombardy in search of the places where Leonardo lived, where he left a mark of his genius.

The program of initiatives at the Castello Sforzesco is part of the Milan and Leonardo 500 schedule, is promoted and implemented by the City of Milan|Cultura and the Castello Sforzesco, in close connection with the Territorial Committee Milan and the Legacy of Leonardo 1519 - 2019 and in connection with the National Committee for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci and is produced by Civita Exhibitions and Museums.

Image: Rendering multimedia projection Project by Culturanuova s.r.l. - Massimo Chimenti - exhibition Under the Shadow of the Moor. The Hall of the Axes

Milan, reopens Sala delle Asse, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece at Castello Sforzesco
Milan, reopens Sala delle Asse, Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece at Castello Sforzesco

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