Wealth of special Italian exhibits celebrates the genius of Leonardo da Vinci in anniversary year

March 19, 2019
Leonardo da Vinci’s accomplishments spanned from the arts to the sciences, so no wonder he is hailed as the Renaissance man. He painted, he drew, he conceptualized flying machines centuries before the helicopter was invented. He was fascinated by anatomy and geology. No surprise, then, that there is a wealth of exhibits this year in Italy celebrating the 500th anniversary of the death of the Tuscan genius.

So many possibilities to put Leonardo ‘’on display” abound in Italy that the Uffizi Galleries in Florence got a jump on the celebrations by hosting the display of Leonardo’s Codex Leicester, on a loan by owner Bill Gates. The highly popular display ran from late October to Jan. 20. But Italy’s renowned arts museum will also play a key role in what promises to be a stellar attraction of the 2019 anniversary events. A 1473 landscape that is Leonardo's earliest known drawing will go on rare display, for five weeks, starting April 15 in Vinci, Leonardo’s home town near Florence. The Uffizi’s collection includes the drawing among its treasures, but because the work is so fragile only occasionally displays it.

Before being sent to Vinci, the drawing was being given its first-ever scientific scrutiny by experts at a Florence restoration laboratory who hope to learn new details about how Leonardo worked on it. Visitors to Vinci will be able to admire “Landscape Drawing for Santa Maria della Neve” and decide for themselves, while exploring the countryside around the town, what actual scenery might have inspired Leonardo.

Florence itself will host three celebrations in 2019 with a Leonardo theme. They include a show at Palazzo Strozzi about the artist Verrocchio, Leonardo’s maestro. From March 25 until June 24, Palazzo Vecchio will display a selection of some illustrations from the Codex Atlanticus. which belongs in Milan’s Ambrosiana library collection. Later in the year, a show exploring Leonardo’s botanical studies is also planned.

In Milan, the Ambrosiana as it’s known, will put on several exhibits, with one of them running from June till September and featuring 23 sheets from the Codex Atlanticus from Leonardo's French sojourn. There will also be a display of drawings, both by Leonard and by artists of his circle, that also runs till September.

Milan, of course, boasts Leonardo’s “Last Supper” in the refectory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. In the city, one can also stroll the banks of the city’s ‘’Navigli,’’ for which Leonardo had devised a system of navigation along the waterways.

Several other temporary exhibits are being planned for that northern city with its wealth of museums. The Museum of Science and Technology will host a show that runs until Oct. 13 exploring the artist’s interests and studies in engineering and other fields.

Milan’s Palazzo Reale (the Royal Palace) will mount a show evoking “the marvelous world of nature before and after Leonardo.” Running from March 4 until June 23, it will explore how the artist changed perceptions of nature in Lombardy, the region whose capital is Milan.

Turin, the hometown of Fiat, the carmaker, will host “Leonardo da Vinci. Designing the Future.” Running from April 16 through July 15 at the Turin Royal Museum, the exhibit display more than 50 works that explore Leonardo’s genius in both science and art through his drawings. The show takes good advantage of drawing from the Turin Royal Library’s collection, including Leonardo's celebrated Codex on the Flight of Birds.” The works include drawings linked to such famed works of Leonardo as the “Virgin of the Rocks."