Although Leonardo is commonly known as a “universal genius”, the exhibitions dedicated to him have almost always focused on some specific area of his activity: art, anatomy, technology, studies on water, on flight, and so on.
The Mind of Leonardo offers its visitors a different point of view, inviting them to explore the Genius’ very mode of thinking and his unitary conception of knowledge as the effort to assimilate, through bold theoretical syntheses and inventive experiments, the laws that govern all of the wondrous operations of man and nature.
The exhibition makes use of innovative educational tools, including: 3D animations and high-definition reproductions, functioning models carefully constructed using historically accurate techniques and materials (of particular interest is the premiere presentation of the mechanical lion designed by Leonardo for the arrival of Frances I in Lyon in 1515), PC stations with access to interactive contents, virtual reconstructions of some of Leonardo’s lost works and films which illustrate for the first time sensational new discoveries in his drawings and paintings (in particular related to the Adoration of the Magi).
The first venue in Florence, at the Uffizi Gallery (28 March 2006 – 7 January 2007), displayed precious originals (the Saint Jerome from the Vatican Museums, the self-portrait from Turin, the “exploded skull” of the Weimar Sheet). From October 3, 2006 it has been enriched by an additional section under the title “At the time of the Battle of Anghiari (1504-1508)”, hosted by the Print and Drawing Department of the Uffizi Gallery. This section represents a real “show within a show”, displaying over 30 Leonardo’s autograph sheets, lent by prestigious cultural institutions from all over the world, a precious original manuscript (the well-known Codex on the flight of birds), paintings of great beauty derived from Leonardo’s lost works, as well as sculptures, remarkable engravings and ancient prints. The Florence show was visited by over 1,100,000 persons.
The Florence display of The Mind of Leonardo inaugurated the series of events entitled Universal Leonardo, which are part of the prestigious programme of the 28th Exhibition of Art, Science and Culture promoted by the European Council.
The second venue of the exhibition at the Tokyo National Museum (20 March – 17 June 2007) was promoted by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Italian Embassy in Tokyo, in collaboration with Asahi Shimbun, NHK and NHK Promotions, in the framework of the prestigious “Primavera Italiana 2007”. The extraordinary display of the original painting of the Annunciation, exceptionally loaned by the Uffizi Gallery, was the exclusive privilege of the Japanese venue of The Mind of Leonardo. The exhibition attracted nearly 800,000 visitors in less than three months, getting the highest daily average for any exhibition all over the world in the decade 1997-2007.
Afterwards (16 August – 2 December 2007) The Mind of Leonardo has been presented in Debrecen (Hungary), at the MODEM–Museum of Modern Art, under the title Az igazi Da Vinci.
The Hungarian show, promoted in collaboration with the Debrecen Museum of Modern Art and the Municipality of Debrecen, displayed the main sections of the original exhibition, supplemented with a new section devoted to Leonardo’s studies on horses and the extraordinary life-size reconstruction of the Sforza Horse, a gigantic equestrian monument over 7 metres high.
Two precious originals made the exhibition richer: a small bronze equestrian statue from the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts, related to Da Vinci’s projects for the Sforza Monument, and an early folio by Leonardo from the Uffizi Print and Drawing Collection in Florence.
From September 27, 2008 to January 25, 2009 The Mind of Leonardo has been displayed at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San José, California, for the first time ever together with Renaissance Engineers, under the title Leonardo: 500 Years into the Future. The twin exhibitions offered visitors the unique occasion to admire Leonardo in context and to penetrate the secrets of a mind that conceived and achieved extraordinary results. The San José exhibition featured the gigantic model of the Sforza Monument and two 16th-century paintings from Leonardo’circle on loan from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence – the so-called Leda Spiridon and the Virgin and Child with St. Anne by Gian Giacomo Caprotti.
From May 1 to August 30, 2009 The Mind of Leonardo will be hosted in the prestigious Palazzo Venezia in Rome. The Roman venue is adorned by significant art works, which include the well-known Leda Borghese and Leda Spiridon, a Virgin with Child and St. John after Leonardo (respectively coming from the Galleria Borghese, the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria Palatina in Florence) and two outstanding drawings from the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi. The exhibition also features a drawing and two autograph fragments recently discovered in a private collection, bearing witness to Leonardo’s studies for the staging of Poliziano’s Orpheus dated to 1506-1508. The gigantic model of the Sforza Monument will tower over Piazza Venezia.