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Leonardo da Vinci's mind shines in rare Galleria dell'Academia exhibition in Venice
A woman looks at the "Vitruvian Man" a drawing by Leonardo da Vinci, on August 2ç, 2013 in Venice. Fifty-two drawings by Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci are going on show in Venice from Thursday, including the famous but rarely-seen Vitruvian Man charting the ideal proportions of the human body. The show in the city's Galleria dell'Academia displays works from the museum's own archives as well as from the collections of the British Royal Family, the Ashmolean Museum, the British Museum and the Louvre. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS.
VENICE (AFP).- A rare exhibition of sketches from Leonardo da Vinci's diaries went on display in Venice on Thursday, providing a unique insight into the genius of a Renaissance man who spanned art and science.

The exhibition is less about the famous paintings or amazing inventions of the famous old master and more about the inner workings of his mind and the constant curiosity he showed in the world around him.

"Leonardo da Vinci: The Universal Man" runs until December 1 in the canalside Galleria dell'Academia museum and contains works from the gallery's own archives, as well as collections around the world.

The sketches were done between 1478 and 1516 and include the iconic "Vitruvian Man", an anatomical drawing on the proportions of the human body based on the writings of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.

"The drawings are displayed in such a way that both sides can be seen, which is very rare," the curator of the exhibition, Annalisa Perissa, told AFP.

The examination of Leonardo's private diaries feels like an intimate journey into the creative mind of one of history's most interesting artists.

The architect, botanist, scientist, writer, sculptor, philosopher, engineer, inventor, musician, poet and urban planner can be seen jumping from one idea to the next in multiple sketches and annotations.

His tiny drawings, some of them in charcoal, others engraved, include distorted human faces, different types of flowers and elaborate geometrical forms.

"Twenty-five of the drawings have not been displayed since 1980. This is a unique chance to admire them all together," Perissa said.

The creative process of the grand master can also be seen in the preparatory sketches for his famous "The Last Supper", which are preserved in special chambers and cannot be shown again for at least five years.

There are also around a dozen sketches for "The Battle of Anghiari", a famous fresco that has been lost but is believed by some art historians to be preserved hidden behind a wall in Florence's Palazzo Vecchio.

The exhibition is divided up into themes, with the first section dedicated to botany as a sort of first taste of the artist's rich imagination.

Another section is devoted to Leonardo's musings on the possibility of building a tank -- centuries before any such contraption was actually used in war.

"Because it only has sketches, you might think this would be a less interesting exhibition," said Giovanna Damiani, an official from Venice Museums.

"But in fact it goes much further because it lets us analyse and read the creative process of the artist, the extraordinary genius of Leonardo," she said.

© 1994-2013 Agence France-Presse

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