Exhibitions Museums Italy

Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man gets rare public viewing in Venice

An exhibition at the Gallerie dell’Accademia includes drawings not shown together to the public in more than thirty years

Leonardo's The proportions of the human body (The Vitruvian Man), around 1490

Unseen in public for more than thirty years, Leonardo da Vinci’s original drawing depicting the ideal of human proportions, better known as the Vitruvian Man, is now on show in Venice. “Leonardo da Vinci: The Universal Man” at the Gallerie dell’Accademia (until 1 December) brings together 52 works on paper by the Renaissance master, with major loans from Italian and international collections.

The core of the show is a folio of 25 drawings housed in the Accademia that have not been displayed together in public since 1980. While the Vitruvian Man has been kept out of sight for decades because of its fragility and immeasurable worth, the image of a man’s figure inscribed within a square and a circle has become famous, and can be found on everything from t-shirts to iPhone cases. The drawing got its nickname because of the artist’s notes in the margins about the architect Vitruvius, who used the proportions of the human body in his designs for buildings.

The Accademia’s collection of Leonardo drawings also includes other proportional sketches, a study for the Last Supper, a drawing of the head of Christ and some comical caricature sketches. This is supplemented with similar drawings as well as paintings by artists influenced by Leonardo, such as Giorgione and Cesare de Sesto. The loans come from international institutions, including the Royal Collection, Windsor; the Uffizi Gallery, Florence; the Biblioteca Reale, Turin; the British Museum, London; and the Musée du Louvre, Paris.

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