The Ideal City

The Ideal City

Inv. 47
Interpretation by Alberto Mario Soldatini e Vittorio Somenzi, 1955 - 1956

"Wagons or other similar things ought not to go by the high streets, rather, those should be only for gentlemen; wagons and other loads for the use and convenience of the people ought to go by the low ones. One house ought to have its back turned toward the one behind it, leaving a low street between them, and provisions such as wood, wine, and similar things are to be brought in through the passageways N. Latrines, stalls, and such fetid things as these ought to be emptied onto the subterranean streets."

The relief model was produced from the basis of a series of drawings in Manuscript B of the Institut de France (ff. 15 v., 16 r., 36r., 37 v., 39 r., 47 r. 68 v.) drawn by Leonardo in the late 1480s. These were executed as studies in consideration of the possibility of building a new city for Ludovico il Moro, or perhaps of giving a new role to Vigevano, the ducal city. One of the objectives was to solve the problems related to overcrowding of the city of Milan and its unsanitary hygienic conditions. The city is constituted of a series of models of buildings that are put freely beside one another, with the attempt of synthesizing Leonardo’s thought in the field of urbanism: large buildings with porticos, tracts of roads on two levels, tunnels, canals. The plastic model also presents two systems of stairways that are not involved in the studies for the ideal city. In both cases, Leonardo designed multiple ramps that could be used simultaneously without having the persons using them meet each other. Conceived primarily for military purposes, for defense of castles and fortifications. Leonardo’s city was rigorously organized on two levels: the higher level was reserved for passage of nobles, while the lower were for the common people and transportation of wares, in direct connection with the canals.

The model is based on the drawing:

  • Manuscript B ff. 15 v., 16 r., 37 v., 36r., 39, 47 r. (1487-1490)
    Paris, Institut de France