This exhibition is the largest ever organised on Leonardo in Italy. There are 200 works, some from the Louvre (but not the Mona Lisa), as well as an important series of drawings from the Royal Collection in London, the Vatican Museums (S. Girolamo) and the National Gallery in Washington (the Dreyfus Madonna). Instead of the Mona Lisa the Louvre has loaned the less well-known La Belle Ferronnière (1490-1495), The Annunciation and S. Giovanni.
The exhibition is divided in 12 sections which cover the whole range of Leonardo's genius – drawings, paintings, sculpture, machines, inventions and codices.
The works are displayed in such as way as to highlight not only the context in which Leonardo worked – masterpieces by Botticelli, Bramante, Antonello da Messina, Filippo Lippi and Ghirlandaio have been included – but also the influence he had on subsequent generations. There is a special section on contemporary artists inspired by the Renaissance master, such as Duchamp and Andy Warhol.
Leonardo lived and worked at the court of Ludovic il Moro from 1482-1499 and it is thought that La Belle Ferronière may have been Ludovico's mistress Lucretia Crevelli. The masterpiece has recently been restored in France before arriving in Milan.
The exhibition, which opens on Leonardo's birthday on 15 April, is one of the central centre-city events of Expo Milano 2015.