The monumental Mole Vanvitelliana in the harbor of the Adriatic City of Ancona is the spectacular setting for a most original Leonardo exhibition. For the first time Leonardo’s presence at Urbino and Pesaro as an architect and general engineer in the service of Cesare Borgia in 1502, is presented in a historical and cultural context that includes every aspect of Leonardo’s art, science and technology, and of his philosophical outlook as well. At this time, Leonardo had to cope with the most demanding of tasks, without ever losing sight of the opportunity of drawing information and inspiration from local sources and traditions. He did this by roaming a countryside of breath-taking beauty all the way down to the Sibillini Mountains at the far South, the mysterious region of the sorceress Alcina, the legendary Sibyl. This is the focal point of the medieval novel Guerin Meschino, a book Leonardo owned together with L’Acerba by Cecco d’Ascoli, a contemporary of Dante, another of his literary and philosophical sources. Paintings and drawings by Leonardo and his school from private and public collections, including the third version of the Virgin of the Rocks and a Bare-breasted Magdalene of stunning beauty and intriguing iconography, as well as a manuscript copy of his Book on painting in the Leopardi Library at Recanati, are also shown to fully document his presence in the Region. Finally, an exceptional presence in this exhibition is the Codex on the Flight of Birds compiled exactly five centuries ago, in 1505, and conceptually related to the Sanctuary of the Holy House at Loreto, whose Madonna is the patron of the aviators. The rarely seen materials as presented in a fully illustrated catalogue and are discussed in detail by seven scholars of international repute coordinated by the editor.
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