Leonardo da Vinci is famous for many things. His portfolio of work ranges from his most recognizable masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, to his Vitruvian Man and The Last Supper. His brilliance was virtually endless, touching realms of art, science, and engineering. This boundless genius is captured in the over 1,000 pages of his notebooks which are bound together in the Codex Atlanticus. Twelve pages from this volume are free to be viewed by the public in a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit in Washington, D.C.
Da Vinci designed countless machines, including visionary ideas such as self-propelling carts and flying machines. He designed hoists to lift heavy objects and weapons for use in warfare. Meanwhile, he was also a student of human anatomy and angles. His notebooks are packed with knowledge. The hundreds of pages were collected into 12 volumes known as the Codex Atlanticus in the 16th century by sculptor Pompeo Leoni. Da Vinci's writings and sketches date to between 1478 and 1519. Although the records are voluminous, only 12 sheets have traveled to America to be displayed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C.
Seeing da Vinci‘s notebooks outside of Italy is an extreme rarity. The Codex normally lives at Milan’s Biblioteca Ambrosiana. The pages are delicate and extremely light sensitive. The dozen pages currently on display will only be viewable for two months to limit their exposure. After the exhibit ends, they will rest in darkness for three years. The exhibit has limited capacity so it’s recommended for those seeking to see the pages to arrive earlier in the day to get on the virtual line. If you cannot make it to D.C., the Codex can also be explored online.
Da Vinci's exhibition at a branch of the D.C. public library is a special moment in and of itself. Richard Reyes-Gavilan, the library system’s executive director, noted that the Renaissance painter and inventor is not the usual subject of their exhibitions, which tend to shed light on more obscure figures. “But frankly,” Reyes-Galvin says, “it didn’t take a long time for me to get really excited about the possibility of introducing Leonardo to an audience that may never see him in a museum setting. And they may never, regardless of whether they go to museums or not, see something like this ever again.”
Da Vinci’s sketches are now on display in an exhibit titled Imagining the future at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C., through August 20, 2023.
For the first and likely only time in the United States, pages from Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks are on display in the U.S. for free.
h/t: [Smithsonian Magazine]