Leonardo da Vinci was truly a Renaissance Man. A proclaimed artist, philosopher, inventor, and engineer, he was undoubtedly brilliant and ahead of his time, the ultimate mark of genius. Renaissance biographer Giorgio Vasari described him as having qualities that "transcended nature" and "marvelously endowed with beauty, grace and talent in abundance.”
Now at the Frost Science Museum, its latest exhibit delves into beauty, talent and grace behind the mind of this great master. Da Vinci – Inventions presents a fascinating look at the life and career of the renowned mastermind. Inventions features recreations of his codes, journals he filled with illustrations of his greatest inventions, and life-sized replicas of some of his machines: a car, bicycle, helicopter, glider, parachute, SCUBA, submarine, and even military tank.
The Museo Leonardo da Vinci–Rome, Italy and a number of experts in Italy and France assisted in the creation of the exhibition. Italian artisans crafted the machines using some of the same tools, materials, and techniques that Leonardo would have had available to him at the time. They used his codices to guide them. They deciphered about 6,000 pages, which da Vinci wrote backwards in a coded language to keep secret.
While the exhibit is suitable for all ages, it is especially great for kids due to the interactive nature of the presentation. The machines can be maneuvered and there are touch screen versions of the codices that they can look through. In addition, there are animations telling the story behind some of his most famous creations including Vitruvian Man, The Last Supper and the Sforza horse sculpture.
There is also an art gallery section, which features representations of Leonardo’s famous art from the 1500s, including Virgin of the Rocks, The Annunciation and the controversial La Bella Principessa.
In addition to being a great artist and inventor, he also had a deep reverence of nature and love of animals like many other geniuses. As many know, his love of animals even led him to be a vegetarian. One might surmise that his favorite creature was a bird.
Vasari tells, as an instance of his love of animals, how when in Florence he passed places where birds were sold, he would frequently take them from their cages with his own hand. After having paid the sellers the price that was asked, he would let them fly away in the air, thus giving them back their liberty.
His admiration of birds is evident in his flying contraptions, which he clearly constructed after them. There is one section of the exhibit dedicated to da Vinci’s earliest flying machines, many which actually resemble giant wings.
G. Trevor Powers, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Operations, who gave me a tour of the exhibit, explained:
“He was obsessed with flight. He really studied flight on insects and birds. And he would base his inventions on actual animals and insects. One of the replicas resembles a butterfly wing. Another is more like a bat wing.”
“Originally da Vinci thought that flight could only happen by flapping, so his early designs took that into account. But then when he was studying anatomy, he realized that humans just didn't have the upper body strength to maintain that, so then he started looking at gliders and had more success, ” he continued. Da Vinci-Inventions is a great segway into the other major exhibit at Frost Science Museum Feathers to Stars, which presents the evolution of flight.
Da Vinci – Inventions opened on Saturday, June 9, 2018, and runs through Sunday, December 9, 2018 on Levels 2 and 3 in the museum’s West Wing. Admission to Da Vinci – Inventions is included in all museum admission tickets.
Da Vinci – Inventions is presented locally by Bank of America. The exhibition was developed by Grande Exhibitions, under the kind auspices of the Commune di Roma, Commune di Firenze and Citta Di Venezia.