The exhibition, curated by Pietro C. Marani and Alessia Alberti, presents the rediscovered sheet to the public, alongside other works from the Drawings Cabinet of the Castello Sforzesco and important loans from the Veneranda Biblioteca Ambrosiana.
The drawing object of the exhibition , which is presented here in a display case so as to allow the vision of both sides and after a restoration carried out by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, entered the civic collections in 1924 through an important purchase from the Milanese sanctuary of Santa Maria near San Celso.
On the front of the sheet are drawn figures copied from Leonardo's anatomical studies dating back to different periods and chronologies, from about 1487 to 1510-13. The attribution of the sheet demonstrates how the Maestro's originals were still all in the workshop and could be copied in various ways by the students. Not only that, but a couple of these anatomical drawings, those finished in pen and ink, are of good quality and have been traced following an underlying red pencil drawing, which could suggest a first faint trace of Leonardo.
On the reverse of the sheet, however, an inscription in black pencil or charcoal refers to one of Leonardo's most debated paintings: “SALV <A> TOR MUNDI” . Perhaps it is a first draft for an epigraph or an explanatory inscription to possibly be included in the painting of the “Salvator Mundi” on which Leonardo was working precisely around 1510-13. This is the period to which some of the replicas of the “Salvator Mundi” can therefore also be traced back, including the partial one signed by Gian Giacomo Caprotti known as Salaì, dated 1511, kept today by the Ambrosiana Library.
The studies of figures and anatomical details represented together with the type of paper, ancient but unfortunately without watermark, allow to place its creation in the context of Leonardo da Vinci's atelier and to fix the time of execution towards the beginning of the second. decade of the sixteenth century, at a time when the master and his workshop were evidently developing the iconographic motif of the Salvator Mundi. Proof of this is the inscription on the back of the sheet , perhaps drawn in an attempt to develop an epigraph or a cartouche in Roman characters, for the identification of the subject of the painting.
Around the drawing, with reference to the subjects developed on the recto, sixteenth-century anatomy studies are displayed, while for the subject to which the writing on the reverse refers, the proposed combination is with the variant of the Salvator Mundi painted in 1511 by the pupil of Leonardo Gian Giacomo Caprotti known as Salaì and today preserved in the Ambrosiana Art Gallery.
Placing itself next to the Sala delle Asse, the exhibition aims to allow the public to immerse themselves in the organization of the work and the construction site that also carried out the decoration of the great Hall, where some of the best students of the Maestro were certainly at work.