From the 'Mona Lisa' to 'Codex Atlanticus': A Look Inside The Lume's Multi-Sensory Leonardo da Vinci Exhibition

The only 360-degree exact replica of the world's most-famous enigmatic portrait, da Vinci's notebook pages, 40 of his machine inventions brought to life: they're all on display.
Sarah Ward
March 13, 2024

No one alive today was living and breathing during Leonardo da Vinci's lifetime in the 15th and 16th centuries; however, Melbourne's The Lume is doing its best to help its patrons experience the Italian Renaissance-era great's existence. Opening on Saturday, March 16, Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius sees the venue — which is Australia's first permanent digital-only art gallery — devote its surfaces to stepping into the artist and inventor's tale. His paintings grace the walls. His machines are dotted around its halls. Even original sheets from his notebooks, that boast his writing and sketches, are on display.

Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius was first announced in 2023, and is understandably The Lume's major 2024 exhibition, alongside a massive reason for folks living outside of Melbourne to head to the Victorian capital this year. Back in February, the venue also revealed that pages from da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus feature, displaying in Australia for the first time ever. Add them to the must-see list next to the world's most-famous enigmatic smile, The Last Supper, the artist's anatomical drawings and more.

Attendees at the Grande Experiences-run Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre site can see what The Lume is calling its "most ambitious, immersive and breathtaking yet". That's quite the claim for a collection that follows a van Gogh celebration, a focus on Monet and his contemporaries and the First Nations-centric Connection. Given everything that's a part of Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius, though, that statement also isn't surprising.

No one will forget the Mona Lisa after heading to the exhibition. The artwork is almost everywhere within the 3000-square-metre space, and in a larger-than-life fashion — because that's how Grande Experiences' whole setup works. The iconic piece also links in with the segment of the showcase 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. So, get excited about Mona Lisa Revealed, which includes an exact 360-degree replica — the only one in the world — as created thanks to Cotte's 240,000,000-pixel multispectral camera.

The Last Supper also enjoys the spotlight in a big way, with emphasis on the 'big'. Similarly among Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius' highlights: 40 of da Vinci's machine inventions, which are on loan from the Museo Leonardo da Vinci in Rome. Leonardo is just as well-known for his flying machine concepts, with his 15th-century vision of human flight scoring The Lume's attention. This part of the exhibition heroes recreations made in Italy from the artist and inventor's sketches, and also uses the materials and techniques that he would've at the time.

Letting visitors check out pages from Codex Atlanticus is a huge coup. The 12-volume set is filled with da Vinci's drawings and writings, detailing his thoughts and featuring his sketches on a wide array of topics. It's priceless. It includes entries from its author from between 1478–1519, dating up to the year of his death. Since 1637, it has called Milan's Biblioteca Ambrosiana home — and it's thanks to a relationship between it and Grande Experiences, which is also behind Rome's Museo Leonardo da Vinci, that some of its sheets can display Down Under.

Stepping through da Vinci's journey at Leonardo da Vinci — 500 Years of Genius also spans recreations of Florence's streets, Venice's canals and Milan — as brought to life via sight, sound, scent, touch and taste. Flying over Florence using virtual reality, dining at a Renaissance-themed experience where The Last Supper provides the backdrop, being turned into a da Vinci sketch thanks to AI, seeing how you align with the artist's Vitruvian Man drawing: that's all on offer, too.

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 can all be sighted, for instance.

In Queensland, at HOTA, Home of the Arts, Grande Experiences's Italian Renaissance Alive will also take a broader look at the Italian Renaissance period from late March — but anyone wanting to be steeped in da Vinci's works in particular 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.

Images: Alicia Taylor.

Published on March 13, 2024 by Sarah Ward
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