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Leonardo da Vinci

The Accademia to create a new gallery for Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man

The expansion and renovation project will enable it to put its drawings on permanent display

Leonardo Da Vinci’s celebrated anatomical study known as The Vitruvian Man, along with 25 other works on paper by the artist and several drawings by Michelangelo, will be put on permanent display in the Accademia gallery in Venice within three years. The institution has embarked on an expansion and renovation programme that will double its exhibition space and see the installation of climate control systems throughout the gallery, enabling the display of between 300 and 400 works, currently in storage, alongside the 800 works already on view.

The project will also reveal to the public for the first time parts of the building designed by the great 16th-century architect, Andrea Palladio, including the magnificent vestibule from which rises a staircase, described by Goethe as “the most beautiful spiral staircase in the world”, as well as an interior courtyard. These parts of the building will be open and free to the public even when the Accademia is closed.

The works on paper will be displayed in a new exhibition space on the building’s second floor. Both the prints and drawings department and the paper conservation laboratory are to have new fire prevention systems installed. Here there will also be a temporary exhibition gallery, with climate control and special lighting for the display of light-sensitive works. The basement will provide space for a cafe and a second bookshop. All the floors are to be connected by a new lift and staircase.

The work, scheduled to be completed in three years will not disrupt business at the gallery: all of the galleries will remain open throughout. Unusually for an Italian art institution, the Accademia has taken out insurance with Lloyds of London for the duration of the project, a wise move as the entire building is clad in wood.

The expansion has been made possible by the removal from the monumental complex of Sta Maria della Carità, which houses the gallery, of the art school, the Accademia di Belle Arti, which occupied the ground floor of the building.

The building of Santa Maria della Carità began in the 12th century. In the mid-16th century, Andrea Palladio enlarged the complex. Until the beginning of the 19th century the various buildings were home to two religious institutions. In 1806 Napoleon used the buildings as a barracks and a hospital, and then turned it into an art museum.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 156 March 2005