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Top Leonardo Expert Backs Plan To Divide Codex Atlanticus

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« on: October 29, 2008, 10:16:19 am »


                                               Leonardo codex to be dismantled

                               Top Leonardo expert backs plan to divide Codex Atlanticus

 (ANSA) -
October 28, 2008 -

The world's top Leonardo Da Vinci expert on Tuesday spoke out in favour of dismantling a 12-volume collection of work by the Renaissance genius. Commenting on plans to reverse a controversial 1970s restoration project, which would leave the Codex Atlanticus as a bundle of loose pages, Carlo Pedretti said he approved of the proposal. ''The damage has already been done. The Codex Atlanticus was ruined when its pages were first assembled into 12 volumes,'' he said.

''Separating it now can only improve its conservation and make it easier to display at exhibitions''. The codex is the largest collection of Leonardo's drawings and writings, exploring his insights and ingenious ideas on a vast array of subjects, such as flying, mathematics, botany, weaponry, astronomy and architecture.

It was originally assembled in the late 16th century by the sculptor Pompeo Leoni, who dismembered a number of existing Leonardo notebooks in the process.

He gathered nearly 1,120 scraps of paper onto 402 pages, which he then bound into a single, enormous volume. A restoration project of 1968-1972 split the codex into 12 leather-bound parts in efforts to help preserve it, ''These pages were mounted on the blank sheets of 12 volumes, which altered their edges for ever,'' said Pedretti, who has been a leading Leonardo scholar for nearly six decades. ''And that's to say nothing of the damage caused to the writing and drawings, which were weakened by submerging the pages in water and alcohol and then badly touched up by 'restorers'.

''Given that the most recent sale of a Leonardo drawing fetched 25 million dollars, the damage caused by this restoration was genuinely incalculable''. Plans to dismantle the codex were announced this week by Milan's Ambrosiana Library, which, with the exception of 20 years in France, has stored the collection since 1637.

The proposal has generally been greeted favourably, although Pedretti's endorsement carries particular weight. Florence's Museum Superintendent, Cristina Acidini, said the move could reveal new secrets about the codex.

''When it was bound in its current form, they did not have the techniques available today for gathering information from paper or analysing ink composition,'' she said. Splitting the pages would enable experts to assess the needs of each page individually, ensuring more effective conservation, she added.


Plans to dismantle the codex were announced just days after a yearlong study concluded that
worrying black marks appearing on the pages were not mould, as originally feared.

The alarm was sounded by American scholar Carmen Bambach in December 2007, after she noticed stains blossoming in sections of the codex, and a scientific committee was established to study the problem.

But last week experts confirmed the marks were not mould but stains caused by mercury salts added
as a disinfectant to protect the codex from bacterial damage. They also said the marks were not on
the pages of the codex itself but on paper added during the 1970s restoration to support the original pages.

Speaking at a conference announcing the results, committee director Professor Gianfranco Tarsitani confirmed there was ''no biological attack under way''. ''The codex clearly runs just the same risk as all books: humidity and the consequent risk of spores forming''.

The Codex Atlanticus, so named because of its size, is normally stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled chamber.

It was last exhibited publicly in 1998.

The Ambrosiana Library, which celebrates its 400th anniversary next year, had planned another exhibition to coincide with this date but the dismantling project means this now looks uncertain. The next confirmed date for its public exhibition is 2015, when Milan hosts the Expo.


the Codex Atlanticus 
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