Leonardo da Vinci among arts and letters of the 20th Century


Institutional Communication Service

8 November 2019

The Institute of History and Theory of Art and Architecture in collaboration with USI Institute of Italian Studies have organised a conference that will be held on 22 and 23 November on the occasion of the 5th centenary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci. The initiative will focus on how the 20th century has inherited, manipulated and reinvented the image and the work of the Tuscan "genius". Researchers from Swiss and European universities and cultural institutions, from Cambridge to Lausanne, from Manchester to Milan, passing through Paris, will meet in Mendrisio and Lugano for an interdisciplinary discussion that touches on art, architecture and literature, but also on science and medicine. Open to all interested audiences, the conference - the only international event organised in Swiss Italian-region for the occasion - is also intended to be an opportunity to promote the local artistic heritage, deeply marked, as is well known, by Leonardo's visit to the nearby Milan. 

Among the numerous studies dedicated in recent years to Leonardo da Vinci and his visual and literary works, there is still a lack of comparative and in-depth reflection on the success that the great Renaissance artist had during the twentieth century, the century that has devoted most attention to his work and that of his entourage.

The conference, curated by Carla Mazzarelli, organised by the Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture in collaboration with the Institute of Italian Studies, aims to fill this gap. Art and architecture historians as well as historians of literature, science and medicine, will investigate from a deliberately interdisciplinary perspective on how Leonardo was perceived in the 20th Century: from a critical and historiographic point of view, to photography, cinema and the performing arts, from the drifts of contemporary “inculture”, to the restoration and recovery interventions of the early twentieth century and post-war period, passing through the myth of Leonardo as a "modern man" who came to influence, in Italy, in the years following the economic boom, the activities of designers and engineers.


Two evenings open to the public

Though all of the session are open to the public, two are the events conceived for the general audience: Luca Beltrami e Leonardo: saggi, polemiche, riscoperte, a “bibliographic walk” with a reading dedicated to the library collection of the Library of the Academy of Architecture, which houses the studies on Leonardo by the Lombard architect Luca Beltrami (Friday, 22 November at 6 pm, Academy of Architecture Library, Mendrisio campus); and Leonardo e il custode delle acque, a talk between Fabio Pusterla, poet and Professor at USI, and Stefano Prandi, Director of the Institute of Italian Studies (Saturday, 23 November, 6 pm, room A11, Lugano campus).


Supporters and curators

The conference is supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). Curator: Carla Mazzarelli, USI, Institute of History and Theory of Art and Architecture; organisational coordination: Mirko Moizi, USI, Institute of History and Theory of Art and Architecture.

Conference programme