Monument to Leonardo da Vinci

Author: Pietro Magni
Title: Monument to Leonardo da Vinci
Date: 1872
Location: piazza della Scala, Milan

Above: Pietro Magni, Monument to Leonardo da Vinci, 1872, piazza della Scala, Milan.

Leonardo da Vinci is portrayed full-length and standing in the center of the monument, above a high base, at the corners of which stand four of his pupils: Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio, Marco d’Oggiono, Cesare da Sesto and Salaino. The base is further embellished with some reliefs that show the highlights of his various activities as a painter, sculptor and engineer.

The idea of dedicating a monument to Leonardo, celebrated in the nineteenth century as the progenitor of Milanese art, dates back to 1831, at the request of the Brera Academy, which would have wanted it for the courtyard of its palace, right at the point where you can now can admire Canova’s Napoleon I. Nevertheless, it was only in 1858 that the work was assigned to Pietro Magni through a public competition, and the planned location was Piazza San Fedele. In the meantime, the renovation of the great covered passage of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele was brought to completion, and the sixteenth-century Palazzo Marino was destined to be the seat of the municipality.

The city administration decided to place the monument in that prestigious architectural context, completed by the presence of the Teatro alla Scala. The realization of the monument was brought to a conclusion only in 1872, after a troubled history that saw the artist in contrast to the city authorities, who were reluctant to finance the work. On the occasion of the fourth centenary of Leonardo’s death, the architect Luca Beltrami was asked to surround the monument with a wrought iron balustrade inspired by the artist’s drawings, completed by a small iron fountain: perhaps a reference to the original concept of this tribute to Leonardo, intended in the form of a monumental fountain.