The Museo Ideale was founded in 1993 to provide a permanent home for a number of unique collections begun in 1972. Scholars and artists came together under the aegis of the Armand Hammer Center for Leonardo Studies at the University of California at Los Angeles to create the museum, which has been official recognized as an institution of particular public benefit (Museo d’Interesse Pubblico) by the regional government of Tuscany.
In the 15th century a canal bringing water to the municipal mill passed in front of the entrance to what is now the museum. In 1478 the rights to manage the mill were granted to Ser Piero and Francesco da Vinci, Leonardo’s father and his favorite uncle. Even though he was an illegitimate child, in documents Leonardo is named as one of the usufructuaries of the mill’s profits.
As we learn from the memoirs of Giuseppe Garibaldi (Gustavo Frigyesi, 1867) the building at no. 2 via Montalbano once housed the oldest museums dedicated to wine.
The Museo Ideale is the first museum that has sought to present the figure of Leonardo da Vinci in all of his complexity – artist, scientist, inventor and designer – taking into account his Tuscan origins, the paths he opened to subsequent developments in science and technology, and the inspiration that he has provided to artists down to the present day. The museum strives to maintain a dynamism and freshness in its displays of the achievements of this unique figure, whose pertinence is reconfirmed with each new generation, by updating its exhibits with new acquisitions and information to reflect the latest research on Leonardo and his period.
In parallel with the displays in the Museo Ideale, in 1997 a project entitled “The Garden of Leonardo” was launched by the Center for Art-Nature and Science in the Tuscany of Leonardo. Its first work was “The Labyrinth of Leonardo” and the project has continued with other installations featuring art and nature – “The Flowery and Arboured Path” and “The Infinite Knot” of roses – and other events such as “The Art-Science of Flight” and “A Woodland Glade of Voices”. “The Garden of Leonardo” has been temporarily closed for renovation and is scheduled to re-open later this year.
To mark the fifth centenary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the Museo Ideale is completely renovating and revamping its exhibits, with work due to be completed by the spring of 2019. The public will be able to view works, documents, and other material that illustrate the latest discoveries in areas that have characterised the museum’s activities since its inception: Leonardo’s family history, the culture of his time (to which special exhibitions will be dedicated, such as “The Leonardo Heritage” with documents and unique exhibits that will be placed on public display for the first time), documents pertaining to the Mona Lisa and the Gioconda Nuda, and ‘Leonardisms’ (works, artefacts and documents pertaining to the use of Leonardo and his works on the arts and the mass media).
Among the works on display will be the Gioconda nuda, the original drawing produced in the atelier of Leonardo based on an idea by the maestro; the marble sculpture of the Gioconda; paintings from the school of Leonardo depicting Mary Magdalene and Saint Catherine and the wheel of her martyrdom; a woodcut by Albrecht Dürer which he referred to as a “Vinci knot; two “relics” from the supposed remains of the artist discovered by Arsène Houssaye on the site of the chapel of Saint-Florentin at the Chateau d’Amboise; the Joconde L.H.O.O.Q. by Marcel Duchamp (on loan from the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou); and some newly constructed life-size models of inventions based on drawings in Leonardo’s notebooks (an automatedoil press, an artificial limb …).
To complement the principal museum in the historic centre of Vinci is a new exhibition space housed in the Villa Da Vinci in Sant’Ippolito in Valle – the Museo Leonardo e il Rinascimento del vino.