Leonardo seen as artist and scientist

Further fueling the great interest in da Vinci which has swept through Greece the past few months, yet another exhibition has opened on the enigmatic artist and his career. Following the two exhibitions in Patras and Athens, and while the public eagerly awaits the release of the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling novel «The da Vinci Code,» which is scheduled to open the Cannes Film Festival on May 17, the «Leonardo da Vinci: Secrets of his Creations in Art and Science» display opened at the Athens Concert Hall last week. The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Museo Ideale Leonardo da Vinci in Vinci, Italy. Housed in the old cellars of the Vinci Castle, the museum, which was founded in 1993, conducts research into the complex personality of Leonardo as an artist, scientist, inventor and designer in relation to the influence he has exerted throughout the centuries. Its permanent collection includes works and texts on Leonardo as well as authentic material. The concert hall exhibition is intended to showcase all aspects of Leonardo’s imagination and creative spectrum, concluding that all his seemingly different activities were, in fact, connected. Featuring more than 150 exhibits, including some original sketches, reproductions of machines he designed, texts and engravings, it will run to May 7 in the concert hall’s foyer. One-off exhibition As Italian Ambassador in Greece Gian Paolo Cavarai pointed out at the recent press conference, the display was put together especially for Greece and is meant to highlight Leonardo’s relationship with Greece. The exhibition will travel no further and once it is over, the artifacts will return to the Museo Ideale. At the press conference, art critic Efi Andreadi, who jointly organized the exhibition with Alessandro Vezzosi, director of the Museo Ideale, pointed out aspects of the artist that dissociate him from the myth that currently surrounds his personality and from the stereotypical image of Leonardo: that of an old man with a long, white beard. Andreadi described him as a natural charmer, a highly active, outgoing and outdoorsy individual, always surrounded by friends, with a strong joie de vivre and respect for his body. She went on to link his many activities with his passion for analysis and interpretation of what went on around him and how nature worked. «We must not differentiate between Leonardo the artist and Leonardo the scientist, there was only one Leonardo,» she said. She explained that his sketches are, in fact, the link between his art and science and that they demonstrate the extent of his genius. «He sought the essence of things… He was highly analytical and maintained stringent organization even in his paintings, which are recognizable from the minute detail. The core of his work is analysis. The expressions on the people’s faces (in his paintings) are never superficial, they are the result of hidden mechanisms and that is why they are subject to many interpretations.» «We believe we know everything about Da Vinci, but every day we discover something new in his work, the manuscripts and the texts,» said museum director Alessandro Vezzosi, who is also curator of the current exhibition. Vezzosi was keen to point out that Leonardo is not only a very popular personality, but also much misunderstood, mostly because people try to interpret him through literature and not through his work. Could this be an effort to distance the great artist from the image projected by Dan Brown’s hugely popular novel and the whole controversy that has surrounded it? Vezzosi explained that the aim of the exhibition is to point out Leonardo’s complex personality, his entirely scientific character and the multidimensional methods that he used. Set up as a display that highlights Leonardo’s chain of thought, he said that it provides information on three different levels: First, there is information on the artist’s science, technology and design, including exhibits such as the design of a bridge that also has a symbolic meaning. The second level is where Leonardo’s art becomes interwoven with science and third is his special relationship with Greece, (Leonardo was greatly influenced by Plato, Aristotle and Euclid). Among the many interesting things one can admire at the exhibition is the impressive darkroom and the room with mirrors where one can have a full view of oneself from all 360 degrees. Leonardo himself highlighted the importance of mirrors for artists, as is written on the explanatory note outside the room. Other exhibits include a device for walking on water (two leather bags filled with air to be fitted on the feet with two poles), sketches that range from studies of birth and lovemaking to the designs of machines, engravings inspired by Leonardo’s work and more. On the whole though, one has to make an effort to find a connection between the exhibits on display; the exhibition does give the impression of different things thrown together just because they are, somehow or another, related to da Vinci. What is more, the explanatory notes that accompany the exhibits are only in Greek; the same applies to the catalog, which, nonetheless, is richly illustrated and records the development of Leonardo’s thinking as well as the influence he had on painting techniques. The exhibition takes place under the auspices of the president of the Italian Republic and the Italian Embassy in Athens. Athens Concert Hall, 1 Kokkali & Vas. Sofias, tel 210.728.2000. The exhibition runs to May 7.