Leonardo’s Botany: a vision of science bridging Art and Nature.

Drawings, studies and paintings revealing the modern vision of the great genius on nature

From 13 September 2019 to 15 December 2019


From 13 September to 15 December the Santa Maria Novella Complex in Florence will host ‘The botany of Leonardo: A vision of science bridging Art and Nature’. This is a compelling exhibition that highlights the connection between the great genius and plants, the subject of many of his studies as well as paintings and drawings. Leonardo da Vinci was a precursor in all the fields in which he worked, and botany is certainly no exception! In his systemic conception of the world, Leonardo perfectly integrates art and science, a relationship that represents one of the most captivating aspects of the Florence Leonardo botany exhibition. The exhibition displays Da Vinci botanical drawings of details, leaves and plants accompanied by supplementary panels, immersive corners with video and digital media. The Leonardo’s botany event is housed in the beautiful setting of the Great Cloister and the former Dormitory of the monastic Santa Maria Novella Complex in Florence. But that's not all...! The genius Leonardo is evidently a great source of inspiration, so much so that the organizers decided to spread around the whole city many references to Leonardo's botany. Where can you find them? Read on and we'll give you all the clues!



Leonardo da Vinci considered nature as a single system where the various elements are inextricably linked to one another: air, water, rocks, plants, the human body and even the soul! A thought that paints a view of the world that is more relevant than ever! Themes like eco-sustainability or respect for animals were also dear to Leonardo, an incredible fact if you think that he lived more than 500 years ago! Similarly, Da Vinci botanical studies also show that Vinci was a true precursor of this science. He understood the importance of plants and studied them with great interest. In fact, the botanical details of some paintings are so precise that they can be considered as plant portraits. In his scientific observations Leonardo made some very important discoveries: he understood for the first time how plants work with respect to gravity and light and analyzed the phenomena related to their growth; he realized that the concentric rings of a tree trunk indicate its age.



The exhibition was curated by world-renowned scientist Stefano Mancuso, professor at the University of Florence and director of the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology, also by Fritjof Capra, physicist and great scholar of Leonardo da Vinci and Valentino Mercati, founder and president of Aboca, a leader in the sector of herbal products for health and wellness.

The Da Vinci botany exhibition in Florence develops between two main areas: inside the former dormitory is the section dedicated to the Da Vinci as a systemic thinker and Leonardo's relationship with botanical studies. In the external areas of the great Cloister are instead Leonardo’s polyhedrons and plants.

Access to the Leonardo’s botany Exhibition in Santa Maria Novella is through two walls entirely covered with plants, after which visitors will be accompanied to discover a less known Da Vinci but for this reason even more interesting and surprising. Da Vinci botanical studies addressed many topics in a precise and detailed way, topics that will be presented in the Santa Maria Novella exhibition. In fact, studies on dendrochronology (the age of trees established through the rings of the trunk) on phototropism and geotropism (the ability of plants to orient themselves with respect to light and gravity) can be closely observed. But don’t be alarmed by the scientific terms, the Santa Maria Novella Leonardo exhibition is really for everyone! Even for young people: in addition to manuscripts, natural elements such as leaves and plants, there will be various interactive installations that will delight young people who are more accustomed to screens than glass displays.

The Florence Da Vinci botany exhibition will also include many events such as debates, botanical walks for children, educational workshops and guided tours to the exhibition. For all the details, such as opening days and times of the exhibition but also to find all the information on collateral events, we advise you to visit the official website of the event.



In the great Cloister of Santa Maria Novella there are the four geometric solids (hexahedron, icosahedron, octahedron, tetrahedron) which according to Plato represented the four elements of the cosmos and a fifth (dodecahedron) which instead depicts the perfect synthesis of the entire universe. Why this choice? First of all, because Leonardo's mathematics and geometry studies were greatly spurred by the De Divina Proportione of Luca Pacioli for which he created the drawings of sixty solids. This work brought Leonardo to reflect on arithmetic, geometry and proportions, elements that for him are the basis of the cosmos, nature, science and art. These shapes have been chosen because they represent the ideal synthesis of Leonardo's systemic thinking. In addition to the exhibition, they are also displayed at various important locations in the city of Florence: let's discover them!

  • Hexahedron - Piazza Bambini di Beslan: its stability represents the earth.
  • Icosahedron - Piazza Santa Maria Novella: its twenty triangular sides recall the way water flows.
  • Octahedron - Great Cloister of Santa Maria Novella: the shape of this solid summarizes the ability of the air to expand both upwards and downwards.
  • Tetrahedron - Piazza della Stazione: the soaring pyramid represents fire and the tendency of flames to travel upwards.
  • Dodecahedron - Piazza della Signoria: the polygon with twelve sides in its complexity represents the quintessence and as such the whole universe. The one in the famous piazza in Florence contains a mulberry tree, another symbol for Leonardo. This plant in fact is used to feed silkworms and make silk: a material that expresses the strength, grace and beauty of nature and its sharing with man.

In the year when many exhibitions on the genius of Vinci are being staged, the one at Santa Maria Novella will allow you to capture some aspects of his thought that are less known but extremely modern and present! Does it not seem incredible to you that a millenial like Greta Thumberg and a scientist who lived in the 1400s can share the same idea of eco-sustainability? You have until 15 December to visit this exhibition, a nice excuse to visit the rest of the Tuscan capital! How about booking our panoramic tour of Florence, walk in the historic center and guided tour of the academy gallery? It's perfect to discover the beauty of the city and you can also see the David without having to stand in a line!


The Leonardo exhibitions at Santa Maria Novella awaits you until December 15: do not miss it!


By Insidecom Editorial Staff