The largest retrospective dedicated to the Renaissance Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), only possible through technology, can be visited online starting today on the Google Arts and Culture platform, which in partnership with 28 museums from all over the world world set out to bring together his great scientific and artistic contributions with the help of Artificial Intelligence, in an exhibition entitled “Inside a Genius Mind” (Inside the mind of a genius). The page allows you to consult materials that were not available until now on the web.
It is a visual itinerary through 1,800 high-resolution images, a virtual exhibition with his paintings (which were no more than 20), more than 100 sketches from his personal notebooks (known as Codices), the 3D recreation of 17 of his flying machines and inventionsphotographs and views of the cities in which he lived, through Street View or some playful aspects such as a Virtual Reality app to see the works in real size in the place where you are, distributed in 80 stories, as the platform to the routes that unfold within the central project.
The great contribution of this experiment —as its creators call it— is that it allows both researchers and the general public to immerse themselves in the archive, life and work of Leonardo da Vinci digitally, free of charge and from the same place.
“The goal is to let Leonardo speak to us visually over 500 years,” said British professor Martin Kemp, an expert on Leonardo da Vinci, during a press conference with media from around the world, referring to the work that included the collaboration with the Uffizi Gallery in Florence (Italy), The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The National Gallery in London, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the National Museum in Krakow (Poland), Castle of Clos Lucé in Amboise ( France), The British Library (United Kingdom) and the National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo Da Vinci in Milan, Italy, among others.
Along the way you can leaf through his personal notebooks that intertwine disparate ideas, from anatomy to mechanics, 3,000 drawings in six volumes of his codicesorganized here by theme -curated by Kemp- such as secrets of flight, spirals, the earth as a body, perpetual motion and destruction.
«Leonardo da Vinci transformed the horizons of humanity through his art, science and ingenuity. He is amazing what he was capable of. This project allows us to understand his contribution in the different fields of knowledge. Thought for those who already know about Leonardo and for those who do not”, said the Indian Amit Sood, director and founder of Google Arts & Culture, during the virtual presentation.
The project intends to evade a widespread idea of Leonardo as a painter. Although you can visit a virtual gallery that brings together for the first time all his works of art -distributed in different museums around the world- and although he is universally recognized for “La Gioconda” or “The Last Supper”, his power of observation and His unlimited imagination made him the author of the prototype of many modern machines, such as the car, the helicopter, the airplane, the military tank, and the parachute.
Thus, the platform created flaps that refer to the “engineer”, “gourmet”, “mathematician”, “biologist”, “artist”, “architect”, “aeronaut” and “physicist”, protected under the umbrella of “The real Leonardo », a tireless curious about all the disciplines of the human being -a polymath- for whom understanding a phenomenon meant connecting it with others through a similarity of models.
“Art is the queen of all sciences, communicating knowledge to all generations of the world”, is one of the phrases written by the Renaissance master for whom drawing was his way of understanding the surrounding world. It is not possible to understand his art without his science, nor vice versa.
Throughout the tour, for example, curious facts appear to tell, such as that Leonardo did not have a last name in the modern sense. He was the illegitimate son of Piero Fruosino and a peasant girl named Caterina, so Da Vinci alludes to the Tuscan town where he was born.
Another curious fact is that he hated Michelangelo -the creator of the Sistine Chapel- and that he came to criticize the poor quality of the marble of the famous “David”, the top sculpture of his rival.
In front of the fresco of “The Last Supper”, the exhibition reads: “There is a hidden figure in this painting. However, he is not who you think he is. Leonardo liked to base his figures on real people, and he spent a lot of time wandering the streets looking for a criminal to serve as a model for Judas. When his patron complained that he was wasting time, Leonardo told her that he would base Judas on his patron.”
This itinerary does not lack some of the best-known facts about the Florentine, such as that he wrote in a mirror and that he was left-handed, whose flap presents him as “séver la aíbircsE” and adds that “mirror writing” has intrigued art historians for years: «Was he left-handed so as not to stain the ink? Or was it to prevent prying eyes from stealing his ideas? », Questions the text.
Da Vinci’s biography extends to the places where he lived, such as the photographs of the castle of Amboise, where he was buried. In 1516 he began to work under Francis I of France. He found great favor and collaborated closely with the king in designing a new fortified city. «Leonardo died here, in Clos Lucé, in 1519, at the age of 67. According to legend, King Francis hugged the old man and cried,” the tour recounts.
The “Mona Lisa”, the “Lady with Ermine”, “Portrait of a Musician”, “Virgin of the Carnation”, “Virgin of the Rocks”, “Portrait of Guinevere of Benci” or a zoom to “The Last Supper” that allows you to appreciate details only possible on this platform, they also make up the history of Leonardo’s masterpieces, a journey that extends to the only known self-portrait of the author, which is currently in the Royal Library of Turin and measures 33 centimeters.
A fact that does not include the exposure through the platform, but that the writer Walter Isaacson does tell in his book «Leonardo da Vinci. The biography” is that one of the most fascinating sculptures by Andrea del Verrocchio, Leonardo’s teacher as a teenager, that of a triumphant young David with Goliath’s head at his feet is most likely a portrait for which Leonardo posed when he was 14 years.
When it comes to delving into the portraits of Da Vinci, the tour takes as an example the “Portrait of Ginevra de Benci”, currently in the National Gallery of Art in Washington -the only one in the United States-, and ensures that “it is ahead of the composition and style of the Mona Lisa”, drawing a kind of background on the famous painting that today attracts millions of visitors every year at the Louvre Museum in Paris.
The idea of bringing Da Vinci’s codices together is perhaps one of the main findings of this exhibition, considering that he was one of the greatest scholars in history: with the help of Machine Learning and the curatorial expertise of Martin Kemp , the experiment allows you to dive into your annotations by theme. It is known that Da Vinci wrote and drew compulsively, so browsing his personal pages allows you to find research on the most varied topics. In this case, the AI collaborates to provide a certain order to the whole, when navigating.
For example, the Codex Atlanticus, spanning his life’s work, features the mythical quest for flight and a cover letter showcasing his multifaceted abilities. Meanwhile, Codex Arundel, held by the British Library, reveals Leonardo’s latest genius creations, including a seemingly mundane comment about his cold soup. That’s how varied his writings could be.
This collection, according to Kemp, “transforms the contents of the Codices into an interactive visual journey, engaging the public with a powerful tool to learn more about the intricacies and connections that run through Leonardo’s genius, clarifying what seems obscure. The goal is to let Leonardo speak to us visually over the course of 500 years.”
Da Vinci devised inventions for hydraulic or military engineering, but most of these machines were never built due to the limited technical advances of the time. However they turned out modern and imaginative. The platform houses the sketch of the glider and a 3D testimony of Leonardo’s dream of flying, with the help of the National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan, which houses a collection of 170 machines and 3D models of the Master in its rooms.
In addition, the Street View tool invites you to visit the places where Leonardo was born, lived and died, from his hometown, Vinci, to the Sforza Castle that he decorated in Milan, moving on to France at Chateau D’Amboise.
The exhibition “Inside a Genius Mind”, in collaboration with 28 institutions from around the world, is available from today for free at the google/leonardo link and from its Android and iOS app.