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Fond. Gottfried Matthaes

Leonardo da Vinci in Milan

Two great permanent exhibitions at the Museo d'Arte e Scienza



Leonardo Da Vinci  Citizen of Milan

Leonardo Da Vinci's Treatise on Painting


The long awaited abridged and
illustrated version of Leonardo's Treatise


 Museo d'Arte e Scienza
(18 rooms and over 2,000 items on display)







Milano, Via Quintino Sella 4 - Piazza Castello





The outstanding importance

of Leonardo for human art


Great painters such as Michelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo were unique and there is therefore no point in trying to compare them in order to establish which was the greatest. All gifted painters endeavour to attain a perfect pictorial representation of their ideas, but are limited by the heaviness of their manual skills and by the materials used. Leonardo da Vinci, and he alone, surpassed all other painters from this point of view. Throughout his life he jotted down his ideas and his advice on how to be a good painter, in notes and drawings on sheets of paper, subsequently collected in the “Treatise on Painting”.


His teaching is unambiguous and clear: the painter must observe nature and its phenomena using scientific methods and considerations and copy nature, because its beauty is incomparable, infinite and exquisite. This has also been the teaching of all artists from the dawn of human culture to the 19th century, except that this precept had never been set down so clearly.



 Considering the current concepts of art, today a book on a subject like the “Treatise” would be unthinkable, for which reason Leonardo will always be the painter and theorist of classical art par excellence. His thoughts applied to modern art are illustrated in room 12 of this exhibition (). It is significant that he considered the works of nature superior to those of man, whilst contemporary art places great value on the artist’s creativity and works.



The two permanent exhibitions
at the

the universal genius in the exhibition:

"Leonardo Citizen of Milan"

In 1483 Leonardo presented himself to the Duke of Milan, offering his services as an expert in military and industrial machines, engineer of navigable canals, painter, architect, sculptor and master of revels. This promise obliged him, during his twenty years at court, to undertake intense activity and exploit all his talent.





Some examples of the exhibition

"Leonardo Citizen of Milan"

A city map of the period shows all the places where Leonardo carried out the activities connected to his various roles.


 Representation of a scene from an imaginary battle fought with the armoured cars and deadly war machines designed by Leonardo.


MASTER OF REVELS, creator of stage sets and mechanical musical instruments.


Leonardo was an ARTISTIC GENIUS
 a comparison of his Last Supper with analogous paintings by other artists who were his contemporaries reveals his extraordinary genius.



The other fields of research to which Leonardo applied his efforts during the years in Milan were optics and perspective. His optical projector and perspective frame,

a model of which built here, are

examples of his work.




In 1950, for the fifth centenary of Leonardo’s birth, the Louvre Museum, owner of 7 of his 15 paintings, organized a study of his singular painting technique. The Milanese museum, on re-examining this and other materials, came to some interesting conclusions.



X-ray photographs normally heighten the contrasts between black and white, showing up the brushwork and the use
of colours. This is exemplified by the X-ray of Rembrandt’s self-portrait. The X-ray photograph of the Mona Lisa, instead, offers only an evanescent image below the visible layer. The mysterious allure of Leonardo’s portrait lies, therefore, in his invisible brushwork. Leonardo applied his colours in layers that were almost imperceptible, building up layer upon layer in order to achieve the desired effect in every point of his painting. With this technique the outlines of objects and details disappear.

(All the X-ray photographs: Louvre Museum)

A clear demonstration of the lack of outlines is given by this enlarged photograph of the Mona Lisa’s lips. The lips with the famous smile do not exist, they are only nuances of colour.
The mystery of her smile, which has haunted generations of admirers, can be said to lie in the fact that it is not real. Its form and the emotion it elicits are a figment of the imagination of the observer.

A copyist, unable to copy this technique, can only reproduce the colours and outlines as they appear to him. The examples chosen here are the eyes and mouth of a well-executed recent copy compared with the same features of the Mona Lisa.

Recent copy by F. Pari

Leonardo’s Mona Lisa

Leonardo the ingenious painter in the exhibition:

“Treatise on Painting"

Leonardo’s most significant work
in a permanent exhibition at the
Museo d'Arte e Scienza
(rooms 11 and 12)


Aim of the exhibition

This extraordinary and unique exhibition is intended for art lovers who, after visiting the rooms of an exhibition of old master paintings or modern art, certainly come away convinced that they have seen a beautiful collection of paintings, but often disappointed that they are unable to distinguish between a true work of art and an attractive painting or understand the choice of colours of an avant-garde artist.

What better guide and teacher could there be than Leonardo da Vinci who, in his Treatise on Painting, laid down the rules which every good painter should follow?

The purpose of this exhibition at the Museo d’Arte e Scienza is, in fact, to provide a key to understanding painting with the help of Leonardo’s own theories and principles.

Leonardo was in the habit, wherever he happened to find himself, of jotting down his thoughts on myriads of separate sheets, concentrating them in very few, not always comprehensible words and with many repetitions. Several thousands of these sheets have been collected over the past centuries and ordered into a book under the title “Treatise on Painting”. It may be considered his most significant work and one of the most important books on art ever written. The rules and advice contained therein are addressed to painters and point the way to creating true works of art. At the same time they also help the observer of a painting to appreciate its artistic value. This explains the title of the exhibition catalogue:
“Appreciating Art through the Eyes of Leonardo”.

The Treatise on Painting, which should be a best-seller, is, instead little understood and consulted because of its poor readability.

The aim of the Museo d'Arte e Scienza is to make the “Treatise” more accessible, limiting itself to rearranging the subject matter, shortening overly long texts, avoiding the many repetitions, illustrating the salient concepts and collecting them in a permanent exhibition.












Some samples from the exhibition on
the Treatise on Painting
presented by the Museum under the title:

"Appreciating Art through the Eyes of Leonardo"


Art. 406 *
What is the first intentional aim of the painter

The first intention... is to make a flat surface display a body as if modelled and separated from the plane, and he who most surpasses others in this skill deserves most praise...



Art. 43
Of the second principle of the science of painting

The second principle of the science of painting is the shadow of bodies, by which they can be represented        


* = All the numbers of the articles were taken from the edition: "Leonardo Trattato della Pittura"- TEA 1995 (reprint 1999) 


Art. 322
Of the attitudes of men

The attitudes and all the members are to be disposed in such a manner that by them the intentions of the mind may be easily discovered.


Art. 6

...the painter… penetrates within these bodies,  considering what comprises their distinctive essences...


Art. 36

Painting shows transparent objects…

…also the mists… also the rains, behind which can be discerned the cloudy mountains and valleys… and also innumerable other effects…



Art. 9
How the painter is lord of every kind of  person and of all things

The painter is master of all the things that can befall the mind of man, and therefore if he wishes to see beauties that would enrapture him, he is master of their production...


Hieronymus Bosch

Art. 9

and if he wishes to see monstrous things which might terrify,  or which would be buffoonish and laughable or truly pitiable, he is their lord and god...       



Art. 9
How the painter is lord of every kind of person and of all things 

...whatever there is in the universe through... presence or imagination, he has it first in his mind, and then in his hands...,  which can generate a proportional harmony in the time equivalent to a single glance, just as real things.



Art. 254
On colours

...The air between the eye and the object seen will change the colour of that object into its own, so will the azure of the air change the distant mountains into blue masses...


a didactic section of the exhibition

Art. 186
Of combining colours with each other in such a way that one gives grace to the other

...apply that rule which can be seen in the rays of the sun in the composition of the celestial rainbow...


a didactic section of the exhibition

Art. 36

Painting involves greater mental deliberation and is of greater artifice and wonder than sculpture, in that necessity requires the mind of the painter to transmute itself into nature’s own mind and to become the interpreter between art and nature...



Art. 500
Of statuary

To execute a figure in marble, you must first make a model of it in clay … when it is finished and dried place it in a square case … have some peg-like sticks pass through holes made in the sides and all around the case. Push them in till every stick touches different parts of the model




Thoughts of Leonardo applicable (with reserve) to modern art


Art. 63
A way of enhancing and arousing the mind to various inventions

...there is no harm... in pausing to look into stains... or clouds... where you will find extraordinary inventions... But first you must gain a knowledge of how to make well all the parts of those things you wish to represent...







 An abridged and illustrated edition of the “Treatise on Painting” entitled "Appreciating art through the eyes of Leonardo"

This 158-page book, with its 160 magnificent colour plates, was published by the  Museo d'Arte e Scienza also as a guidebook to its exhibition dedicated to the Treatise on Painting.

The integral version of the Treatise, the importance of which should make it a best-seller, is little understood and consulted because of its scant readability and extremely repetitive nature.

This abridged edition presents a selection of the most significant articles and important concepts for the evaluation of works of art, set out in a few clear lines in the Master’s own words and illustrated with his drawings, his paintings and other suitable art objects serving to explain his precepts.
(Very favourable judgement from eminent Leonardo scholars)


This book is on sale at the Museum at the price of €20 and is available in English and Italian.
The German and French editions are available online
To purchase on line click here



OTHER SITES OF THE MUSEO D'ARTE E SCIENZA: - Sections of the "Museo d'Arte e Scienza": 6 rooms dedicated to the ascertainment of authenticity in art and antiques, 5 rooms on Leonardo da Vinci's "Treatise on Painting" and his activities in Milan, 5 rooms dedicated to African Art and Buddhist Art, 2 Scientific Laboratories. -  Dedicated to the authenticity of African artworks in bronze, stone and pottery. The scientific laboratory of the Museo d’Arte e Scienza has developed valid methods for telling authentic African objects from copies and fakes. - The most complete and scientifically valid guide to ascertaining the authenticity of European and non-European antiques on an objective basis (540 pages and more than 2,000 colour illustrations in 3 volumes and 3 languages) - Information about the authenticity of modern paintings and antique paintings. - A list of possible methods for determining the authenticity of furniture based on objective factors. - "A list of all the possible ways of determining, on the basis of objective factors, the authenticity of excavated pottery, glass or bronze items from Southern Italy, the Mediterranean Basin, China and South America.". - "Art and Life in Black Africa", The African Art didactic section of the Museum (5 rooms and over 350 objects). - A scientific method for the dating of wood and identification of the wood type used for art objects. Determination of their authenticity through analysis of colours, binders, pigments and other organic substances.  - The history of the G. Matthaes Foundation from the opening of the painting school in Dresden in 1906 up to the "Museo d'Arte e Scienza" in Milan. - Ample further descriptions for ascertaining authenticity in art in the individual fields of antiques. - Ivory, bone and horn can now be spectroscopically dated and accurately identified. - Association du musée fondée en 2010 afin d'encourager et de promouvoir la sauvegarde et la conservation des œuvres d'art ainsi que le développement des méthodes scientifiques applicables pour en reconnaître l'authenticité. - The Museum's scientific laboratory is in charge of the investigation of the authenticity in art and antiques and is available to individuals, collectors, art experts, restorers and museums.




Museo d’Arte e Scienza di Gottfried Matthaes S.R.L.
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