From March 22 2016, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana – Sala Federiciana


Tuesday – Sunday 10 am – 6 pm, last admission 5,30 pm (please note: a complete tour of the gallery lasts about 90 mins)

Closed on Mondays, December 25, January 1, Easter Day

Codex Atlanticus, f. 94 r: Studies of instruments to defend fortifications and of firearms

After the success of the exhibitions on the Codex Atlanticus of Leonardo da Vinci held from 2009 to 2015 at the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana and at the Bramante Sacristy, also for the year 2016, the drawings of the great Renaissance master will be on display in the Sala Federiciana of the Biblioteca Ambrosiana.

The first appointment is with Leonardo and the military arts. With reference to the famous letter that the Florentine artist addressed to Ludovico il Moro shortly after his arrival in Milan, the exhibition illustrates the skills and the ingenious machines mentioned by Leonardo himself through a selection of drawings from the Codex Atlanticus, some never before seen. Movable bridges, siege engines, armored ships, guns, crossbows and giant catapults populate the sheets on display, forming a varied collection of war devices.

While several drawings are influenced by the treatises on military arts widespread in the late fifteenth century – first of all the De Re Militari by Roberto Valturio – and depict machines that look almost fantastic, with no practical implication, other studies for mortars and guns testify  instead to Leonardo’s deep knowledge of the melting techniques and technical solutions needed to manufacture light and effective firearms, which should resist to the stress of repeated gunshots.

A fascinating journey through the papers of the master, which leaves us amazed by the beauty of the drawings, some intended as illustrations for a never accomplished treatise on military arts, in an intense contamination between engineering and arts, beauty and practice. At the same time, the exhibition makes us reflect on the contradiction experienced by the artist who, while noting the atrocities of war, called “beastly madness” in the Codice Urbinate, is well aware that “to maintain the principal gift of nature, that is freedom” it is necessary to “offend and defend, when being besieged by ambitious tyrants” (Ms B, f. 100 r).