November 13, 2006 Da Vinci Drawing on Display for First Public Viewing Outside of Italy

Press Contact: Matt Raymond (202) 707-0020; Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639; Clio
Contact: Timmerman, Finmeccanica, (202) 292-2624 | Visit the online exhibition. | View the drawing.

For the first time ever, Leonard da Vinci’s preparatory drawing for the painting “Adoration of the Magi” will be on public display outside of Italy. The Library of Congress will host a special two-day showing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7, and Friday, Dec. 8, in the Northwest Pavilion of the Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C.

The viewing is free and open to the public; no tickets or reservations are needed. Rome-based Finmeccanica, an aerospace and defense company, is the sponsor of the display. Prior to the public viewing, Finmeccanica is also sponsoring a private gala on the evening of Dec. 6.

“The Library of Congress is to host the first-ever showing of this Da Vinci drawing in the United States,” said James H. Billington, Librarian of Congress. “Da Vinci valued knowledge across the broad spectrum of human endeavor, and it is appropriate that it be displayed here within the world’s most comprehensive repository of knowledge.”

Pier Francesco Guarguaglini, chairman and CEO of Finmeccanica, said, “It is an honor for us to bring this work of art to the United States. Da Vinci was an artist-engineer: a painter, a sculptor and a designer of technologies of the future. Da Vinci’s innovative style, his perfect union of form and function and his design excellence are all attributes we aspire to at Finmeccanica.”

The preparatory drawing for the “Adoration of the Magi,” the painting commissioned to Da Vinci for the main altar of the monastery of San Donato a Scopeto near Florence, reveals the Italian genius’s innovative approach to art. His originality and mastery of perspective are evident in the magnitude of the illusionary space that he created. He drew the ground first, then a plan for the buildings and finally animated the scene with human figures and animals. Using a millimetric ruler, appointed stylus and very fine threads, Da Vinci created the perspective grid in order to transfer the drawing on a larger scale as a painting on a wooden panel.

Results of the recent scientific analysis undertaken both on the preparatory drawing and on the wooden panel painting of the “Adoration of the Magi” will be presented at the Library of Congress viewing. These analyses, carried out using the most advanced non-invasive technology, have established how the panel, left unfinished by Da Vinci when he left Florence in 1482 to enter the service of Ludovico Sforza in Milan, was re-elaborated in a later period.

It can now be demonstrated that Da Vinci made a detailed drawing with lamp black and covered it with a thin white lead priming, to guide the spreading of the paint. The latter appears limited to a sample of sky and faint shadows of parts of the figures and architecture. In a later period another artist added various layers of black and brown paint, thus hiding significant parts of Da Vinci’s original work. Therefore, only now can Da Vinci’s masterpiece be appreciated in its original authenticity.

Finmeccanica is a leading high-tech company, operating in the design and manufacture of helicopters, aerostructures, satellites, space infrastructure, missiles and defense electronics. It plays a leading role in the global aerospace and defense industry, and participates in some of the biggest international programs in the sector through well-established alliances with worldwide partners.

The Library of Congress’s mission is to make its resources available and useful to Congress and the American people and to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge and creativity for future generations. Founded in 1800 to serve the reference needs of Congress, the Library of Congress is the world’s largest library, with more than 132 million items in all formats on which information is recorded. The Library serves Congress and all Americans through its 21 reading rooms on Capitol Hill as well as through its popular Web site at


PR 06-A05
ISSN 0731-3527