Monday, November 12, 2007

Leonardo Da Vinci Exhibition in Brussels

We visited the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition on view at the Basilica Koekelberg in Brussels. This is one of the most complete exhibitions ever on one of the greatest thinkers of the Renaissance, Leonardo da Vinci .

The exhibition, Leonardo - The European Genius, will run until 15 March 2008 at the Koekelberg Basilica, the fifth largest church in the world and the largest Art Deco building ever constructed.

It is presented in four separate themes:
– Leonardo the man from Tuscany to the Loire Valley
- Leonardo the artist with sketches, paintings, sculptures
- Leonardo the engineer with reconstructions including machines and bridges
- Leonardo the humanist with his mysterious reversed writing and collection of codices by the master.

As such, the exhibition presents all the different aspects of his work and the legacy that he left behind to Renaissance art and science, through to the modern day.

There are original works including the Codex of the Flight of Birds and Leonardo's only self portrait, many of which have been lent by major museums worldwide. Obviously, the Mona Lisa "La Giconda" is too fragile and valuable to be lent. The original "Last Supper" is a fresco in Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan but the copy in Belgium's Tongerlo copy is apparently so faithful to the original, that it was used as a model for renovation of the original. Interest in the Last Supper has been heightened by the novel "The Da Vinci Code" and reference is made to this and the possible significance of Mary Magdalene. The semi-nude portrait of Mary Magdalene holding a veil over her bare breasts had been unseen for fifty years when it was found five years ago in a private Swiss collection. It had previously been attributed to Da Vinci's pupil Giampetrino.

Leonardo (1452-1519) was also a famous engineer and the exhibition shows 45 working models based on the master's designs and all built to scale, including a parachute, helicopter, sailplane, automobile carriage, floating bridge, a double-hulled boat and a 20 metre swing bridge that has never before been built. My children loved seeing these models and wanted to borrow a book about Leonardo's inventions from the library.

This exhibition is spread over 3,000m² so there is plenty to see, interspersed with short videos which set the scene of the various locations in Leonardo's life. Over 100 original works from other artists are also displayed giving context to themes and subjects including Raphael, Michelangelo, Canaletto, Albrecht Dürer and Hieronymus Bosch.

An interesting fact is that Leonardo was left-handed and developed backwards mirror writing so that he did not smudge the ink. Many facsimile copies of his original notebooks are on show.

I most enjoyed the section on the Vitruvian Man. Leonardo (1492) based this on studies made earlier in the 1st Century calculating the exact proportions of every part of a man's body to another. Extremely detailed measurements and calculations were made of this average sized man.

Leonardo -The European Genius site is
Entrance price: 10,00 € adults, 8,50 € 6-18 years, Free 0-6 years
Walkman audio guide available in choice of four languages: 2,50 € (recommended)

For ways to travel to Brussels visit Euro Travel

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