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Israel’s Year of Leonardo: between Humanism and Science

A synthesis between Humanism and Science. This was the leitmotif, so natural to a man of the Renaissance, of the events organised in Israel by the Italian Embassy and by the Italian Institutes of Culture in Tel Aviv and Haifa to celebrate the Year of Leonardo. It was also a way of conveying a comprehensive image of Brand Italy, which is inevitably bound to its millennial cultural tradition but also projected towards research and technology.

The calendar of initiatives interspersed special events targeted on experts with more popular events even involving children. The celebrations kicked off in April with lectures that scheduled speakers of excellence from the Italian cultural scene: the Director of the Uffizi Gallery, Eike Schmidt, spoke on ‘Leonardo da Vinci and the Uffizi’ at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and repeated the lecture on the following day at the Faculty of the Arts of Tel Aviv University before a public of students and academicians. Again in April, the lecture scheduled was by Domenico Laurenza, curator of the new edition of the Codex Leicester, who explored the least known aspect of Leonardo’s research in his talk entitled ‘Leonardo: geology, fossils and the discovery of the history of the Earth’. 

In July, the exhibition titled “Leonardo’s Questions” opened at the Bloomfield Science Museum in Jerusalem, where it will remain on display until June 2020 and which explores the scope of the research efforts of the Renaissance genius in several thematic sections. For the occasion, the Musei Reali of Turin authorised a High-Definition digital reproduction of the famous Code on the flight of birds, which belongs to the Piedmontese museum. In September, still at the Science Museum, the director of Musei Reali of Turin, Enrica Pagella, held a lecture on the autographed drawings by Leonardo hosted at the Biblioteca dei Musei, including the world-renowned “Portrait of an Old Man”, which is thought to be Leonardo’s self-portrait.   

Another series of lectures was held at the Madatech Museum in Haifa, where a hall was set up to host the wooden reproductions of Leonardo’s machines, which is planned to remain open to the public in this setup also in the years to come.

To explain the genius of Leonardo to children, the play ‘Incontro con Leonardo’ (‘Encounter with Leonardo’) was staged in three daily shows from 14 to 21 October, all of which were sold out. The play was co-produced by the Italian Institute of Culture of Haifa and the Madatech Museum which, seeing the success, plan to stage it again during the upcoming festivities. 

Lastly, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the ‘Holon Institute of Technology’, one of the most prestigious institutes of Israel’s academic system, a whole day of studies was dedicated to the relationship between Leonardo’s research in the sectors of engineering, hydraulics, mechanics, anatomy, aerodynamics, zoology, cartography and the current developments achieved in these fields of science.

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