Titled ‘Leonardo 1452-1519’, this exhibition takes place in the stunning former Palazzo Reale beside the Duomo in Milan. It is the largest show of its kind ever staged in Italy. If you’re hoping to see the Mona Lisa or the Virgin of the Rocks I'm afraid you’ll be disappointed, but there are a lot of excellent reasons why you shouldn’t miss this show.
The theme of the exhibition is “Drawing as the foundation” and instead of paintings it mainly focuses on Da Vinci's drawings. Many of these superb pieces have been lent to the show and they include familiar compositions like the Vitruvian Man from the Accademia, Venice, the 1473 landscape drawing from the Uffizi in Florence and the Lily drawing from Queen Elizabeth II’s collection in Windsor Castle.
Both the drawings and the handful of Leonardo paintings (St. Jerome, Portrait of a Musician, La belle ferronnière, La scapigliata, St. John the Baptist) are displayed alongside work by his contemporaries which reveal just how talented and forward thinking he was.
The incredible, meticulous precision of pen and ink drawings of female figures in flowing draperies in the space of just 3 or 4 centimetres, the broad gestures of his rough compositional sketches, and the confident touch of drawings such as the Vitruvian man, in ink, without an error or correction, demonstrate his superlative skills.
Most of the drawings are not alone on the paper, but are accompanied by a few sums, lots of notes in his mirror-image handwriting, and perhaps some other sketches of a machine or an optics theorem.
Unlike polished finished paintings, these rough and ready drawings suggest a sense of how Leonardo actually worked: slaving away at a table in a room in Milan’s Castle, forever short of fresh paper and always just grabbing the first drawing he could find to sketch out what he had in mind at that moment, perhaps on a corner or the back of a sheet. And it is for this reason that this exhibition is truly unforgettable.
If you are in town for Design Week or Expo you shouldn't miss it.
15 April-19 July, Palazzo Reale Piazza Duomo 12, open Monday 2.30-7.30pm, Tuesday-Sunday 9.30am-7.30pm, open until 10.30pm on Thursdays and Saturdays. €11. Book online at www.vivaticket.it