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Exhibitions | From 29/10/2018 to 19/01/2019

Water as Microscope of Nature. Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester

Water as Microscope of Nature. Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester

The famous manuscript returns to Florence after a quarter of a century as part of a spectacular exhibition.

The Codex Leicester is a world-famous manuscript, that contains ground-breaking thoughts and notes by Leonardo da Vinci, one of the most genius artists and scientists in the history of mankind.
Now this precious and unique collection of writings and drawings on the movements of water, astronomy and celestial light returns to Florence after a quarter of a century – as part of a spectacular exhibition, that will fascinate the visitors as a cultural highlight and multimedia experience. The Water as Microscope of Nature. Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester exhibition presents more than 80 original pages by Leonardo and other precious manuscripts. It will be open for public in the Aula Magliabechiana of Uffizi Galleries from 30th October 2018 until 20th January 2019. 

The element of water: Leonardo da Vinci conducted haunting experiments to understand its nature, to use water as a source for energy and to search for solutions to keep its potentially destructive forces under control. The Renaissance genius’s thoughts on this topic are an important part of the Codex Leicester, that consists of 18 sheets of paper – each of them folded in half and written on both sides, composing the complete 72-page document. The manuscript offers also innovative ideas on other issues, especially on the material nature of the moon, its luminosity and on the history of planet Earth with its continuous and radical transformations. 

The main parts of the Codex Leicester originated between 1504 and 1508, a truly "magical" season in Florentine history. The city witnessed the simultaneous presence of some of the world's greatest people in the fields of literature, art and science – a period, that the artist Benvenuto Cellini (1500-1571) called "the school of the world". For Leonardo da Vinci this was a time of intense artistic and scientific activity. He was pursuing anatomical studies in the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova, working on possibilities to enable human beings to fly, attempting to paint the Battle of Anghiari on the wall of Palazzo Vecchio and studying solutions to make the river Arno navigable from Florence to the Mediterranean Sea.

This is the Codex Leicester’s second "trip" to Florence. It was last shown in the Sala dei Gigli in Palazzo Vecchio in 1982 – when, within three months, more than 400,000 visitors came to see the exposition. It has taken more than two years to prepare this event and to set up the innovative technology that allows visitors now to leaf through the individual pages of the Codex on digital screens, to access a transcription of the texts and to receive multiple information on the issues they address. They will also have access to a vast range of digital footage produced by the Museo Galileo; these features can be found not only in the exhibition itself but also on the websites of the Uffizi Galleries and of the Museo Galileo.

Alongside the Codex Leicester the exhibition will present a number of spectacular original drawings by Leonardo and codex sheets of outstanding importance, for example the 17th century anthology Del moto et misura dell’acqua (Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana) or the Codex on the Flight of Birds (Biblioteca Reale di Torino) compiled in the same months as Leonardo was working on the Codex Leicester. The visitors will see for instance four sheets from the Codex Atlanticus (Biblioteca Ambrosiana Milano), that illustrate Leonardo's studies of the moon and his invention of the crane, to enforce the canal project from Florence to the Mediterranean Sea. Also two double-sided sheets from the British Library's Codex Arundel are shown, that contain surveys of the Arno. Altogether the exposition includes more than 80 pages and the Codex on the Flight of Birds from Leonardo da Vinci and, in addition, 10 very precious manuscripts and incunables.

The exhibition of the Uffizi Galleries and the Museo Galileo is supported by the Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze.

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