2.1 Opening hours
2.2 Ticket prices
2.3 Other important information
3.1 The “Vitruvian Man”
3.2 Studies of “The Battle of Anghiari”
1. Why visit the exhibition?
To celebrate the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death on 2nd May 1519, the Gallerie dell’Accademia is hosting an exhibition called “Leonardo da Vinci. The man model of the world” (Leonardo da Vinci. L’uomo modello del mondo). As a huge fan of Leonardo, I flew to Venice just to attend the exhibition immediately. Here are some reasons why you shouldn’t miss the exhibition.
- In the exhibition, over 70 works are displayed and half of them are by Leonardo himself.
- The highlight of the exhibition is undoubtedly Leonardo’s “Vitruvian Man”, which is iconic and among the artist’s best known works, along with “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa”.
- It is rarely shown to the pubic due to its fragility. I read from BBC News that in 2013 it was displayed to the public for a few months and before that it hadn’t been seen by the public for 30 years! For da Vinci fans, to see the original of the “Vitruvian Man” is absolutely a once-in-a-life-time experience.
- The Gallerie dell’Accademia owns 25 sheets by the genius and in this exhibition, you can see works from the Royal Collection of the Windsor Castle and some pages of the Codex Huygens coming from the Morgan Library of New York.
- The works on display show the master’s interest in a large variety of subjects including proportion of the human body, botany , optics, physics, mechanics, weapons and so on.
- In the exhibition, you can also see preparatory drawings for some paintings such as the studies for the famous “Battle of Anghiari” and for “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne“.
- The selected works represent the essential stages of Leonardo’s existence, starting from two studies for an “Adoration of the Shepherds” dating to his youth period up to the splendid three female dancing figures (as you can see in the 4th picture above) attributed to the French period.
2. Practical information
2.1 Opening hours
- The exhibition will be held from 17th April to 14th July 2019.
- Monday: 8:15 – 14:00
- From Tuesday to Sunday: 8:15 – 19:15
- Please note, ticket sales end one hour before the gallery closes.
2.2 Ticket prices
Please note, admission to the exhibition is included in the admission to the Gallerie dell’Accademia.
- Full price ticket: € 15.00 (€ 12.00 admission fee to the gallery + € 3.00 exhibition fee)
- Reduced price ticket (young people who are between 18 and 25 years old): € 3.50 (€ 2.00 admission fee to the gallery + € 1.50 exhibition fee)
- For information about free admission please click here.
It is possible to book tickets online with a booking fee of € 1.50 each (applicable to reduced price and free tickets as well). The purchase of the online ticket does not include the skip-the-line option at the entrance of the gallery. However, once you make your way into the building, you can go straight to the reservation-only cashier.
2.3 Other important information
- Audio guide is available for the permanent collection of the gallery but not for the temporary exhibition. As for the exhibition, explanations (in Italian and English) are shown on the info boards on the walls.
- In general you can take photos without flash in the gallery but taking photos in the temporary exhibition area is strictly forbidden.
- In my opinion, you should spend about one hour in the exhibition learning about the fabulous works and Leonardo’s achievements. After that, visit the gallery and its permanent collections including fantastic paintings by artists of the Venetian school such as Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto and Veronese and sculptures by Antonio Canova. To read about the masterpieces of the Gallerie dell’Accademia please click here.
3.1 Vitruvian Man
I still remember my first visit to the Gallerie dell’Academia about 1.5 years ago when I was informed that the drawing, despite of being one of the most previous treasures of the gallery, is rarely exhibited to the public due to its fragility. Upon hearing the news that on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, his famous “Vitruvian Man” would be displayed from 17th April to 14th July 2019, I decided to visit the gallery again immediately. It’s such a great opportunity because rumor has it that for preservation reasons, this is the second time in almost 36 years that it’s displayed to the public.
The “Vitruvian Man” (also called “The proportions of the human body according to Vitruvius”) was made by the Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci around 1490, and is accompanied by notes based on the work of the architect Vitruvius. The drawing, which is in ink on paper, depicts a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square. It is based on the correlations of ideal human body proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius in Book III of his treatise “De architectura”, a building guide written between 30 and 15 BC. He described the human figure as being the principal source of proportion among the classical orders of architecture, and determined that the ideal body should be eight heads high. Leonardo’s drawing is traditionally named in honor of the architect, however, it combines a careful reading of the ancient text with his own observation of actual human bodies. In drawing the circle and square he observes that the square cannot have the same centre as the circle, but is centered at the groin. This adjustment is the innovative part of Leonardo’s drawing and what distinguishes it from earlier illustrations. He also departs from Vitruvius by drawing the arms raised to a position in which the fingertips are level with the top of the head, rather than Vitruvius’s much lower angle, in which the arms form lines passing through the navel.
This image demonstrates the blend of mathematics and art during the Renaissance and is a prime example demonstrating Leonardo’s deep understanding of proportion. In addition, this picture represents a cornerstone of Leonardo’s attempts to relate man to nature. Encyclopædia Britannica online states, “Leonardo envisaged the great picture chart of the human body he had produced through his anatomical drawings and Vitruvian Man as a cosmografia del minor mondo (cosmography of the microcosm). He believed the workings of the human body to be an analogy for the workings of the universe.” The drawing itself is often used as an implied symbol of the essential symmetry of the human body, and by extension, the symmetry of the universe as a whole.
The content of the sheet can be divided into three sections, namely the upper text, the drawing and the lower text. It may be noticed by examining the drawing that the combination of arm and leg positions creates sixteen different poses. The pose with the arms straight out and the feet together is seen to be inscribed in the superimposed square. On the other hand, the spread eagle pose is seen to be inscribed in the superimposed circle. According to Wikipedia, the upper text reads:
Vetruvio, architect, puts in his work on architecture that the measurements of man are in nature distributed in this manner: that is a palm is four fingers, a foot is four palms, a cubit is six palms, four cubits make a man, a pace is four cubits, a man is 24 palms and these measurements are in his buildings.
If you open your legs enough that your head is lowered by one-fourteenth of your height and raise your hands enough that your extended fingers touch the line of the top of your head, know that the centre of the extended limbs will be the navel, and the space between the legs will be an equilateral triangle.
and the lower text reads:
The length of the outspread arms is equal to the height of a man; from the hairline to the bottom of the chin is one-tenth of the height of a man; from below the chin to the top of the head is one-eighth of the height of a man; from above the chest to the top of the head is one-sixth of the height of a man; from above the chest to the hairline is one-seventh of the height of a man. The maximum width of the shoulders is a quarter of the height of a man; from the breasts to the top of the head is a quarter of the height of a man; the distance from the elbow to the tip of the hand is a quarter of the height of a man; the distance from the elbow to the armpit is one-eighth of the height of a man; the length of the hand is one-tenth of the height of a man; the root of the penis is at half the height of a man; the foot is one-seventh of the height of a man; from below the foot to below the knee is a quarter of the height of a man; from below the knee to the root of the penis is a quarter of the height of a man; the distances from below the chin to the nose and the eyebrows and the hairline are equal to the ears and to one-third of the face.
The drawing reminded me of one sheet from Leonardo’s “Codex Atlanticus” (which I saw in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan), on which notes show the master’s attempt at solving “squaring the circle”, a problem proposed by ancient geometers. It is the challenge of constructing a square with the same area as a given circle by using only a finite number of steps with compass and straightedge. In 1882, the task was proven to be impossible, as a consequence of the Lindemann–Weierstrass theorem which proves that pi (π) is a transcendental, rather than an algebraic irrational number; that is, it is not the root of any polynomial with rational coefficients. Some argue that this diagram shows that Leonardo had a sophisticated understanding of the problem, which other mathematicians would not develop until much later.
Next to the “Vitruvian Man” I saw another drawing by Leonardo which shows his studies of anatomy, movement and horse.
3.2 Studies of “The Battle of Anghiari”
The “Battle of Anghiari” is a lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci, which some commentators believe to be still hidden beneath one of the later frescoes in the Salone dei Cinquecento (Hall of the Five Hundred) in the Palazzo Vecchio, Florence. Its central scene depicted four men riding raging war horses engaged in a battle for possession of a standard, at the Battle of Anghiari in 1440. The composition of the central section is best known through a drawing by Peter Paul Rubens in the Louvre, Paris. This work, dating from 1603 and known as “The Battle of the Standard”, is based on an engraving of 1553 by Lorenzo Zacchia, which was taken from the painting itself or possibly derived from a cartoon by Leonardo. Rubens succeeded in portraying the fury, the intense emotions and the sense of power that were presumably present in the original painting. Similarities have been noted between this “Battle of Anghiari” and the “Hippopotamus Hunt” painted by Rubens in 1616, which is exhibited in the Alte Pinakothek in Munich.
Some preparatory studies of the painting by Leonardo still exist, and in this exhibition, you can see two of them.
Some other works that interested me were the study of hand, study of flowers and study of “The Last Supper”. All in all, do not miss the opportunity to visit the Gallerie dell’Accademia between 17th April and 14th July 2019 because unlike “Mona Lisa” or “The Last Supper”, the works shown in the exhibition can not be seen whenever you want to see them.