The Da Vinci Codex

Prestige Hong Kong - - CONTENTS -

Next year marks the 500th an­niver­sary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, spark­ing off a string of ex­hi­bi­tions around the world cel­e­brat­ing one of hu­mankind’s most pro­lific poly­maths. At the Uf­fizi Gallery, in the heart of da Vinci’s for­mer home of Florence, the Codex Le­ices­ter jour­nal has been put on dis­play, loaned to the mu­seum by Bill Gates, who bought the tome 24 years ago for US$30 mil­lion. The ex­hibit, Wa­ter as a Mi­cro­scope of Na­ture: Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Le­ices­ter, has been on show since late Oc­to­ber and re­mains at the mu­seum un­til Jan­uary 20. In light of tech mae­stro Gates’s in­volve­ment, it’s fit­ting that ex­hi­bi­tion cu­ra­tor Paolo Gal­luzzi and the Uf­fizi have worked to en­hance many of the Codex Le­ices­ter’s pages through tech­nol­ogy, bring­ing some of the hardto-de­ci­pher hand­writ­ing to life on scrol­lable screens that al­low the viewer to “turn pages” dig­i­tally. The beauty of the il­lu­mi­nated manuscripts, the fas­ci­nat­ing quirks of da Vinci’s “back­wards” hand­writ­ing and, of course, the au­thor’s star power are at­tract­ing science nerds and art buffs alike. This is only the sec­ond time the jour­nal has been on mu­seum dis­play in Italy. The Uf­fizi’s pro­gres­sive di­rec­tor, Eike Sch­midt, has stated that this par­tic­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tion demon­strates the in­sti­tu­tion’s ef­forts in “mak­ing ac­ces­si­ble for ev­ery­one com­plex themes about sci­en­tific re­search”. The ex­hi­bi­tion, high­light­ing da Vinci’s mus­ings on the na­ture of wa­ter (which he be­lieved to be the driv­ing force of all na­ture) as well as the ce­les­tial realm, re­veals the work­ings of one of the Re­nais­sance’s great­est minds. Of­ten con­tra­dict­ing the Catholic Church’s the­o­ries on the

struc­ture of the so­lar sys­tem and na­ture, da Vinci’s writ­ings in the Codex Le­ices­ter of­fer the sci­en­tific back­ground and ob­ser­va­tions to many of his the­o­ries, in­ven­tions and works of art, ex­plains Gal­luzzi. This is not an ex­hi­bi­tion that you’ll scan quickly, for the devil is in the de­tails. Its im­por­tance lies in the rad­i­cal ideas ex­plored by the pain­ter of The Last Sup­per and the Mona Lisa – his see­ing proof of pre­his­toric life in fos­sils, his ex­traor­di­nary draw­ings, his mus­ings on phe­nom­ena yet to be re­alised: “Once you have tasted flight, you’ll for­ever walk the Earth with your eyes turned up­wards.” Then there’s da Vinci’s fas­ci­nat­ing the­o­ries about the Moon and Earth – even when he in­cor­rectly pos­tu­lates that the Moon’s glow comes from the sun’s light be­ing re­flected off wa­ter on the Moon’s sur­face. The Codex Le­ices­ter ex­hi­bi­tion is also in part an ode to Florence, at da Vinci’s time an im­por­tant cen­tre of Eu­ro­pean thought, art and cul­ture. The Arno river that flows through the city fea­tures heav­ily in his the­o­ries of how wa­ter is a re­flec­tion of the nat­u­ral sys­tem as a whole. In­deed, da Vinci’s time spent in Florence means that much of his work is a tri­umphant tes­ta­ment to the city’s arts, his­tory and cul­ture, which is one of the rea­sons that the Uf­fizi ex­hibit is partly sponsored by na­tive Floren­tine lux­ury men’s brand Ste­fano Ricci. As is com­mon in Italy, it is fash­ion houses that are the saviours of much of the coun­try’s his­tor­i­cal her­itage. The €22 mil­lion spon­sor­ship of the Colos­seum ren­o­va­tions in Rome by Tod’s, Fendi’s restora­tion of the Fon­tana Trevi, Bvl­gari’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion of the Span­ish Steps and Foun­da­tion Prada’s work with art and ar­chi­tec­ture are cases in point. Ste­fano Ricci’s sup­port of Floren­tine her­itage has also been in the spot­light. In re­cent years the mai­son bought an an­cient silk mill – An­tico Seti­fi­cio Fiorentino, the old­est in Europe – from the fam­ily of Emilio Pucci. A loom built on a da Vinci de­sign is one of the fash­ion house’s most prized pos­ses­sions. The night be­fore the Uf­fizi open­ing, dur­ing an in­ti­mate din­ner at An­tico Seti­fi­cio, the brand hosted a spe­cial dis­play of an­other da Vinci tour de force: draw­ings and writ­ings from the Codex At­lanti­cus. “We are hon­oured to bring all these spe­cial vol­umes to Florence,” said brand CEO Filippo Ricci, ad­dress­ing the VIPs gath­ered for the oc­ca­sion. “It was some­thing which started about a year ago when we started con­ver­sa­tions with the Uf­fizi Gallery, for this spe­cific an­niver­sary. We also have a spe­cial doc­u­ment that states the birth of Leonardo da Vinci noted down by his grand­fa­ther.” That tome, too, is re­mark­able. And not long after the day­time crowds fin­ish am­bling across Ponte Vec­chio, the magic of Florence, es­pe­cially un­der flick­er­ing can­dle­light, is all too real – even half a mil­len­nium after da Vinci’s death.


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