This great skillful man, who passed away 500 years ago, was also the designer of precious pieces and appraiser at the court of Ludovico il Moro in Milan, where he founded a prestigious academy
Leonardo da Vinci is the symbol of Italian creativity. In the year of the 500thanniversary of his death, we are pleased to remember that, besides being a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, musician and who knows what else, our Renaissance genius had also an interest in jewelry.
Many sketches and notes witness Leonardo’s interest in the goldsmith’s art, since he arrived in Milan at a young age, at the court of Ludovico il Moro. In the sumptuous and exciting environment of Milan, our versatile genius began to design pendants, tiaras, bracelets, cameos and even accessories such as bags for ladies. In addition, he manufactured tools for goldsmiths and machines to cut and polish gems, to mint coins and work ivory and metals. Among the many notes of that period, many refer to jewels, beginning with the famous “Vincentian knots”: interwoven textures that were then reproduced in fabrics, embroideries – like the hem of the dress of the Mona Lisa – and, jewels, where he transformed objects of daily use, from sword hilts, to buckles and belts, into real small art pieces. He was also known as a gem expert, and was often invited to the Moro court as a consultant in the purchase of expensive precious items. Leonardo da Vinci also devoted himself to research, in the attempt to create artificial stones. He succeeded in creating synthetic pearls. The “secret recipe” is guarded in the famous Atlantic Codex, the largest collection of Vincentian papers: it is necessary to dissolve small pearls in lemon juice, dry them and mix them with egg white, obtaining a paste to be molded into larger and fake pearls.
The testimonies of the time also mention the fact that Leonardo da Vinci managed an academy: “a fruitful seminar of absolute perfect creators… in carving crystals, gems, ivory, iron and in the casting arts of gold, silver, bronze”, says Giovanni Ambrogio Mazenta. Leonardo da Vinci’s school and his incredible legacy in the art of jewelry were passed on and reproduced, influencing the fashion of Italian and European courts.
Leonardo da Vinci’s designs at the Academy of Venice
The museum guards 25 sketches of the Master from Florence, including the famous Vitruvian Man
The Galleries of the Academy of Venice guard twenty-five original sheets of the genius of Vinci. Drawings from the collection of Giuseppe Bossi, which offer an excursus of enormous interest on Leonardo da Vinci’s production and document scientific research all through his activity. Proportion studies of the human body, botany, optics, physics, mechanics, weapons, and the preparatory phases for some paintings such as the studies for the Sant’Annawith the Virgin and the Child, the famous Battle of Anghiari.
One stands out among all: the Vitruvian Man, which is the symbol of classic perfection of body and mind, of a microcosmos of human size that reflects the entire cosmos. The Venice Museum presented this year the collection as part of the show “Leonardo da Vinci. The model man of the world”. A highly-suggestive journey, with over seventy works, of which thirty-five original of da Vinci.
The designs and prints of the collection are not permanently displayed; they are kept in an environment that is protected from light and keeps microclimatic values constantly under control. If you wish to find out when they will be visible again for the public and if you wish to visit the exhibitions and works of the world’s most important Venice painting collection, you can consult the following website: Gallerieaccademia.it