In Leonardo’s time, right in front of the entrance to the current museum, there was a channel of water from the Mill of the Commune, which in 1478 was taken over by his father, Ser Piero, and his favorite uncle, Francesco: a twenty-six year old artist who was a usufructuary, despite being an illegitimate child.
In the houses around the entrance hall in front of the Museum, Leonardo’s grandfather played cards and his brother Giovanni ran a tavern and “beccheria” (butcher).
Very few know that the Museo Ideale building appears to be the oldest “wine museum” in Italy, thanks to the Memoirs of Giuseppe Garibaldi (1867), in which it is mentioned by Colonel Gustavo Frigyesi with these words: “In the time of certain solemnities open up the Masetti museum [the ancient owner of the Castello di Vinci] where one can admire not objects of antiquity or similar things, but stupendous barrels from which a glass of excellent wine taps”
Since the 1993 planning document, the Museum has defined itself as “ideal”
Activities over the years
The Museo Ideale, just like an animated organism, has changed over the years, and has experimented and produced numerous unpublished events, from work in progress in its headquarters and in the territory, to exhibition and museographic initiatives, always with the same objective: to spread multifaceted knowledge of Leonardo and his territories in a non-rhetorical, creative and philological manner together. Today, we do not find traces of these programs online, especially those more historic, which is why we believe it is important to remember a few: in 1993, many years before it was exhibited in Italy, ‘la Dama con l’ermellin’ was presented in Sweden, as the scientific secretary of the exhibition ‘Leonardo’s bridges’.
In 1994 the first website of the Museum was activated; and we launched the operation to bring the ‘Codice Hammer-Leicester’ back to Italy with a surprising exhibition. This was the first multimedia edition of a Leonardo code and well documented in the press, who followed the story concretely until the auction in New York where and the ministerial mandate was presented to Bill Gates. We personally gave him an acknowledgment for having allowed us to exhibit the Code in Italy, which we then presented in original in Tokyo in 2005.
The living museum and sensitive fruition anticipated works of that time, with so-called ‘active thoughts’: concerts and musicals; initiatives for the blind and viewings in 3D; educational workshops in collaboration with Walt Disney; the work in progress of ‘Food-elements’, ‘Leonardo five hundred years later’, ‘Masterpieces of myth. Leonardo between Picasso and Beuys’, ‘Theatrical Processes to the Myth of Leonardo’ (from the Mona Lisa to Dan Brown); presentation of unknown works related to Leonardo and his workshop; unpublished reconstructions, from the prefabrication of the ‘Ponte Salvatico’, to the theatrical scenography of the ‘Montagna Che Si Apre’; Leonardo as designer (from the Medici ring to the ‘Pretiosa’ bag), the cold machine and table fountains; the flying sphere and the feather hang-glider…
In 1997, work began to create the ‘Garden of Leonardo’ parallel to the Museum in the historic center. The elements are work in synergy from the ‘Center of art, nature and science for Leonardo’s Tuscany’ and the ‘Labyrinth of the Vinci’, to the ‘Path of trees and different flowers’, the ‘Infinite knot of roses’, ‘Art-science of flight’ (with dozens of balloons in flight in the Vinci sky and the Orbiter capsule by Picard) and the ‘Dome of the arts and ideas’ by Buckminster Fuller inspired by Leonardo… Currently, the Garden is resting until the end of 2019.
In 2010 the Museum was forced to close, but it continued to make the work of Leonardo work and its context known, through myth and reality in cultural events and traveling exhibitions on general or monographic themes in Italy and abroad, presenting new acquisitions, research and rediscoveries, as well as borrowed masterpieces such as ‘The Code on the Flight of Birds’ of the Royal Library of Turin, the ‘Scapiliata’ of the National Gallery of Parma, the ‘Madonna of the Yarnwinder’ of the Duke of Buccleuch from the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh.
Some of the recent exhibitions include: ‘And there was light… Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo’ (Göteborg e Istambul), ‘Mona Lisa unveiled’ (Miami), ‘Leonardo e l’idea della bellezza’ (Tokyo, Shizuoka, Fukuoka), ‘The Great Masters, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael’ (Istanbul), ‘Leonardo. Mona Lisa. The myths’ (Taiwan, Kaohsiung e Taipei, National Palace Museum), ‘Leonardo Da Vinci. Beyond the visible’ (Tokyo), ‘Du Clos Lucé au Louvre, les trois chefs-d’oeuvres de Leonard Da Vinci’ (Amboise)…