Celebrating Leonardo: The Must-See Exhibitions in Italy

Silvia Donati | Fri, 05/10/2019 - 00:00
Leonardo's Codex Atlanticus at Palazzo Vecchio in Florence

May in Italy sees the opening of major exhibitions centered around the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci , on the 500th anniversary of his death. Here’s a round-up of what’s not to miss between new shows and current ones about to close.


One of the most interesting Leonardo-themed exhibitions is about to open at the Sforza Castle Sforza Castle in Milan: the Sala delle Asse is among Leonardo’s most important yet least-known work. Commissioned by the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza, in 1498, the Sala delle Asse houses a wall and ceiling painting depicting plant elements, including branches and knots all tangled together, trees, leaves, fruit, roots that look as if they were in open air. The room has been closed for restoration since 2013 and is scheduled to reopen on May 16 for the multi-media installation “Sotto l’ombra del Moro. La Sala delle Asse.” https://www.ambrosiana.it/partecipa/mostre-e-iniziative/leonardo-allambrosiana/

Codex Atlanticus Leonardo da Vinci

[Codex Atlanticus, Naviglio di San Cristoforo, Leonardo da Vinci.]


“Leonardo da Vinci. Disegnare il future,” at the Musei Reali, centers around 13 of Leonardo’s drawings that have formed the core of Turin ’s Biblioteca Reale’s collection. They include the famous Autoritratto (Portrait of a man in red chalk), which is thought to have been drawn by Leonardo at the age of 60 and has become one of his iconic representations, and the Codex on the Flight of Birds, which examines the flight behavior of birds and experiments with flight by machines. In addition, on loan from Milan is the Codex Trivulzianus, normally not available to the public. Open until July 14. https://www.museireali.beniculturali.it/events/leonardo-da-vinci-disegnare-il-futuro/


The Gallerie dell’Accademia will display for the first time in many years Leonardo’s most famous drawing, the Vitruvian Man, alongside prestigious works such as the Madonna Litta, on loan from the Hermitage Museum of St. Petersburg. The exhibition, titled “Leonardo da Vinci. L’uomo modello del mondo,” displays 25 autographed folios by Leonardo, with studies of anatomy, botany, optics, mechanics, as well as ideas for famous works of art such as the Battle of Anghiari. At the center of it all, the Vitruvian Man, prime symbol of proportion. Open until July 14. http://www.gallerieaccademia.it/leonardo-da-vinci-0


At the Galleria Nazionale, one of Leonardo’s most intense female portraits will be at the center of the exhibition “La fortuna de La Scapiliata di Leonardo da Vinci,” on display starting May 18. La Scapigliata or Head of a Woman is a painting in oil on wood dating from around c. 1508. The painting is displayed alongside other works from the same time period. Also on display will be folios from the Windsor’s Royal Collection, which owns the greatest number of Leonardo drawings in the world.

La Scapigliata by Leonardo da Vinci

[La Scapigliata, Leonardo da Vinci, c. 1508.]


In the Sala dei Gigli, 12 folios from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan document the relationship between Leonardo and Florence, where he moved as a young man and trained first as an artist, at the workshop of Andrea del Verrocchio. “Leonardo da Vinci a Firenze . Fogli scelti dal Codice Atlantico” is open until June 24. In addition, Palazzo Vecchio has set up a special itinerary in the footsteps of the Battle of Anghiari, the unfinished wall painting by Leonardo that went lost and some believe to be still hidden beneath one of the later frescoes in the palace’s Salone dei Cinquecento. The special itinerary is open until January 12. http://museicivicifiorentini.comune.fi.it/export/sites/museicivici/materiali/PVLeonardo_x_Sito_Inglese.pdf

Also in Florence, at Palazzo Strozzi, is an exhibition dedicated to Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo’s first teacher. It features more than 120 works, including paintings, sculptures and drawings, from more than 70 museums and private collections from around the world. Verrocchio's works are displayed alongside those of previous and contemporary artists, as well as along those of his disciples, such as Desiderio da Settignano, Domenico del Ghirlandaio, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Lorenzo di Credi, and of course Leonardo da Vinci. Open until July 14. https://www.palazzostrozzi.org/mostre/verrocchio-master-of-leonardo/?lang=en


At the Scuderie del Quirinale, Leonardo's technical and scientific thought is investigated in the context of the cultural debate of his time, to highlight relationships, uniqueness and the legacy of his multifaceted research, between engineering and study of the Ancient, architecture and mechanics, warfare and inventions. “Leonardo da Vinci. La scienza prima della scienza,” open until June 30. https://www.scuderiequirinale.it/mostra/leonardo-da-vinci-la-scienza-prima-della-scienza-001

In St. Peter’s Square, the unfinished Saint Jerome in the Wilderness is on display in the monumental spaces of the Braccio di Carlo Magno. The work can be observed up close within a staging that examines the relationship between Leonardo and the city of Rome . Open until June 22. http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/it/eventi-e-novita/iniziative/mostre/2019/leonardo-san-girolamo.html

For the full program of Leonardo’s exhibitions, check www.leonardocinquecento.it.