Original Pages From Leonardo da Vinci's 'Codex Atlanticus' Are Set to Display in Australia for the First Time

Penned by the artist and inventor, the priceless sheets will be on display at The Lume in Melbourne as part of its immersive da Vinci exhibition.
Sarah Ward
February 29, 2024

Thanks to airport reads and movies based on them, everyone has heard of The Da Vinci Code. Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus is the true stunner, though. The 12-volume set is filled with the artist and inventor's drawings and writings, detailing his thoughts and featuring his sketches on a wide array of topics. It dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries. It's priceless. Original pages from it are also on their way to Australia.

From Saturday, March 16, Australia's first permanent digital-only art gallery The Lume will exhibit Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius, the Melbourne venue's major 2024 exhibition. In its immersive fashion — because creating walkthrough art experiences is its approach — the site is paying tribute to the Italian Renaissance master. Most of the showcase will involve towering versions of artworks such as the Mona Lisa on the walls, plus pieces from his contemporaries as well; however, Codex Atlanticus will be a big feature, too.

This is the first time that sheets from Codex Atlanticus will be on display in Australia. Since 1637, it has called Milan's Biblioteca Ambrosiana home. It's thanks to a relationship between the latter and Grande Experiences, which is behind The Lume and also Rome's Museo Leonardo da Vinci, that some of its pages can head this way.

The Codex Atlanticus features entries from da Vinci from between 1478–1519, dating up to the year of his death. In his handwriting — in Italian, of course — and as sketched by his fingers, everything from flying machines and architecture to engineering and hydraulic systems are covered.

Biblioteca Ambrosiana

"These pages from the Codex Atlanticus represent not just a collection of sketches and writings but a gateway into the brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci's mind," said The Lume founder Bruce Peterson.

"Their arrival in Australia is profound, allowing visitors to explore Leonardo in a once-in-a-generation opportunity."

Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius is clearly more than the world's most-famous enigmatic smile beaming down, then. The gallery is calling it its "most ambitious, immersive and breathtaking yet", which is quite the claim for a collection that follows a van Gogh celebration, a focus on Monet and his peers and the First Nations-centric Connection.

The Last Supper will also enjoy the spotlight in a big way, while the Mona Lisa will link in with the segment of the exhibition that's all about French optical engineer Pascal Cotte, who invented a multispectral camera and has peeled back the artwork's layers using his research. Accordingly, get excited about Mona Lisa Revealed, which will include an exact 360-degree replica — the only one in the world — as created thanks to Cotte's 240,000,000-pixel multispectral camera.

Also among Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius' highlights: 50 of da Vinci's "machine inventions", which will be on loan from the Museo Leonardo da Vinci in Rome. This part of the exhibition will hero recreations made in Italy from the artist and inventor's sketches, and also using the materials and techniques he would've at the time.

The exhibition will step through da Vinci's life, as well, including journeying through Florence's streets, Venice's canals and Milan — as brought to attendees via sight, sound, scent, touch and taste.

That said, Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius isn't solely about its namesake's well-known works, with the 3000-square-metre multi-sensory gallery also exploring his inspirations and those creating their own masterpieces at the same time. Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling and works by Caravaggio will feature, for instance.

In Queensland, at HOTA, Home of the Arts, Grande Experiences's Italian Renaissance Alive will also take a broader look at the period — but anyone wanting a glimpse of Codex Atlanticus will need to head to Melbourne.

Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius opens at The Lume, Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre, 5 Convention Centre Place, South Wharf, Melbourne, from Saturday, March 16, 2024 — head to the venue's website for tickets and further information.

Published on February 29, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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