Bill Gates’s Rare Leonardo da Vinci Notebook Comes to Minneapolis Institute of Arts

Leonardo da Vinci , a page from Codex Leicester (1506–10).
Leonardo da Vinci , a page from Codex Leicester (1506–10).

A rare Leonardo da Vinci manuscript from the collection of Microsoft founder Bill Gates is coming to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) this summer.

The Codex Leicester, one of only 31 Leonardo notebooks known to exist, features the artist and scientist’s distinctive right to left “mirror writing” and includes his drawings, texts, and observations about the properties of water, and how it might behave on the moon and other planets. The MIA will offer visitors a complete translation and explanation of the codex through an interactive touch-screen digital device called Codascope.

The surrounding exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci, the Codex Leicester, and the Creative Mind,” presents this notebook of Leonardo, considered one of the most celebrated thinkers of all time, alongside work by modern-day creatives.

The museum is known to pair historic and contemporary artists and designers together in its Art Remix program, which here features video art by Bill Viola, drawings and prototypes by Rollerblades inventor Scott Olson, and Crochet Coral Reef, a large-scale participatory art and science project by Margaret and Christine Wertheim of the Institute for Figuring.

Institute For Figuring <em>Crochet Coral Reef</em> (2005–). Photo: courtesy IFF Archive.

Institute For Figuring Crochet Coral Reef (2005–).
Photo: courtesy IFF Archive.

Juxtaposing Leonardo with his 21st century counterparts “allows us to present the Codex Leicester in fresh and relevant ways,” explained exhibition curator Alex Bortolot, the museum’s content strategist, in a statement. “He combined acute powers of observation, omnivorous curiosity, and intellectual rigor to explore the world around him and push beyond existing boundaries into new realms of understanding. . . .  We’re making connections between Leonardo and the creative potential of today’s artists, engineers, and designers.”

The codex dates to Leonardo’s time in Milan, and comprises 18 sheets of linen paper, folded to create 72 pages. The exhibition is traveling to the MIA from the Phoenix Art Museum (see Baseball’s Bud Selig Gifts $2.5 Million to Phoenix Art Museum), where it is currently on view as “Leonardo da Vinci, the Codex Leicester, and the Power of Observation.”

“Leonardo da Vinci, the Codex Leicester, and the Creative Mind” is on view at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, June 21–August 30.

For more artnet News coverage on Leonardo da Vinci see:

Newly Discovered Leonardo da Vinci Portrait on Display at the College of William and Mary

$170 Million Leonardo da Vinci Seized from Swiss Bank Vault

Did Leonardo da Vinci Paint the Mona Lisa Twice?

Was Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa the World’s First 3-D Image?

Recently Rediscovered Leonardo da Vinci Painting Fetches $75 Million in Private Sale


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