A route to discover Leonardo cannot be limited to visiting the places where he was born, where he worked and where his works are stored. It also has to give the chance to understand the spirit of knowledge and progress which enhanced him and the cultural and historical landscapes which inspired him, i.e. the Tuscan Renaissance territories and Florence in the 15th century, where he moved as a young boy to work at Verrocchio’s workshop, where he was taught the art of painting, drawing and sculpting, whilst immersed in the literary and philosophical culture of the time.
Uffizi Gallery: early works
Room 15 of the Uffizi Gallery hosts some of the early works of Leonardo, before he moved to Milan in 1482 to the court of Duca Ludovico il Moro: The Baptism of Christ (1470-1475 circa): mostly painted by the master Verrocchio, some parts are evidently painted by Leonardo, such as the head of the angel on the left and the “shaded” landscape; The Annunciation (1472 circa): an extraordinary painting, where Leonardo’s scientific approach to the representation of nature and its phenomena is testified by the detailed wings of the angel, painted as if it were a real bird, and the realistic landscape in the background; The Adoration of the Magi (1481): although incomplete, it transmits great emotional intensity due to the power of the volumes, re-emerged thanks to the restoration in progress, and the efforts of the scientific team of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure: with delicate cleansing, they brought back to light techniques and important details which demonstrate both the genius and artistic inspiration of the painter.
Florence, where he lived and worked
Walking through downtown Florence means exploring the roads Leonardo used to walk, discovering traces of his works and feeling the atmosphere of the places of his youth. At the Palatine Gallery of Palazzo Pitti and at the Bigallo Museum many works by Leonardo are exhibited, and also his workshop. At the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe of the Uffizi many drawings and sketches are stored. Preserved at the Museo degli Argenti and at the Stibbert Museum are works of applied arts, along with documentary and iconic references to Leonardo.
The Sala del Gran Consiglio of Palazzo della Signoria, although it does not host actual works, has a legend: the mystery of the great fresco of the Anghiari Battle, in opposition to the Cascina Battle given in commission to Michelangelo – a sort of challenge between geniuses - has not been solved, but some say that the cardboard sketched by Leonardo is still behind the walls.
The cenacoli fiorentini by Andrea del Castagno, Perugino and Domenico Ghirlandaio, serve as a fundamental pause in order to understand the iconographic and stylistic features of the Last Supper, in Milan, which may be visited digitally in HD in his native home, i.e. for the understanding of his iconographic, historical and artistic path, as well as the restoration process of the fresco.
Testimonies from his native places
Leonardo was born in Anchiano, near Vinci, near the southern slopes of Monte Albano, in a landscape of vineyards and olive groves. Here one may visit his home, a XV century farm house, connected to the small village of Vinci by the so-called “Green Road”, an ancient path, 3 km long, viable on foot, which is part of the Association of Memory Houses (Case della Memoria) and the museum course of Leonardo’s figure.
The Leonardian Museum in Vinci exhibits one of the widest and original collections of Leonardo interests: technology, architecture, science and more generally the story of renaissance technology, which followed Leonardo’s path. The museum course is in two parts: the Palazzina Uzielli and the Castello dei Conti Guidi – which offer machines and models made following sketches and notes using digital and interactive applications; and Leonardo’s research areas – constantly striving to see the limits and go beyond them– which were mostly on the Four Elements: earth, air, water and fire. Among his inventions, we therefore find those inspired by Earth: the spinning crane and the oil press; Water: the blade (propeller) boat and the hydraulic saw; Air: parachutes and the first wing experiment, with which he anticipated the principles of physics on which modern aeronautics is based: starting from the study of the bird flight he got the intuition for the actual dynamics; Fire: machines for artillery, like the machine gun, the bombard (a type of cannon) and the turtle-shaped tank; which were very futuristic projects in those days.
The itinerary then goes to his native home, the XV century font where he was baptised in the church of Santa Croce, the museum Institutes which operate for the studies and the divulgation of Leonardo’s cultural inheritance and the Biblioteca Leonardiana, the centre of the specialized documentation of his works, a reference point for those who study his genius and those who are passionate about him on an international scale, and where a copy of every manuscript and every drawing he made, may be seen, along with all the editions of every print of each and every one of his works since 1600.
In Vinci one may also visit the works of contemporary artists who reinterpreted Leonardo’s artistic inheritance: Piazza Guidi, by Mimmo Paladino: with shapes inspired by the polyhedron, symbol of the Renaissance, evoking Leonardo’s belief in geometry; The great wooden sculpture by Mario Ceroli, The Vinci Man (l’Uomo di Vinci), inspired by the famous representation of Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man; Leonardo’s horse, a great bronze monument by the sculptress Nina Akuma, inspired by several of Leonardo’s drawings.
The whole landscape speaks of Leonardo: along the Strada Olio e Vino del Montalbano and the Colline Di Leonardo – woods, vineyards, olive groves, fields, villas, churches and parish churches – and not far away, the Fucecchio Wetlands and the Barco Reale, some of the first nature reserves created by man. Here, one may also taste excellent products.