WASHINGTON (May 19, 2010)—”Da Vinci – The Genius,” a comprehensive traveling exhibition detailing the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci, will be on display at the National Geographic Museum from June 18 to Sept. 12. The exhibition has been made available by Grande Exhibitions, Fondazione Anthropos of Italy and French engineer Pascal Cotte.
“Da Vinci – The Genius” demonstrates the full scope of Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable innovations as an inventor, artist, anatomist, sculptor, engineer, musician and architect. The exhibition required more than 10 years to complete and features a vast array of full-scale machine inventions built according to his personal codices (notebooks); reproductions of his most famous Renaissance paintings, including the Mona Lisa, Virgin of the Rocks and Lady of the Ermine; detailed anatomical sketches; the preparatory drawings for the Battle of Anghiari; and custom animation presentations.
“This exhibition was created to celebrate Leonardo da Vinci’s great works and bring them together in a single location where people can marvel at the brilliance of this great mind,” said Bruce Peterson, founder and managing director of Grande Exhibitions. “Leonardo da Vinci is arguably the greatest genius the world has ever known, and this show makes it clear why that proposition is virtually irrefutable.”
Under the direction of Modesto Veccia, president of the Fondazione Anthropos and curator and founder of Il Genio di Leonardo Da Vinci Museo in Rome, a cadre of Italian artisans spent the last decade studying and interpreting Da Vinci’s codices and crafting the mechanical inventions shown in the exhibition. The artisans reproduced more than 120 of Da Vinci’s machine inventions, 67 of which will be on display. Where possible, each was crafted using techniques and materials available in 15th-century Italy, including wood, cotton, brass, iron, canvas and cord.
Most of what is known about Da Vinci’s scientific ideas comes from his codices. Of the more than 24,000 pages he is believed to have originally penned, only 6,000 or so remain intact. In his codices he covered a broad range of subjects, writing and drawing about geometry, fauna and flora, engineering, mathematics, physics and philosophy. He made detailed anatomical sketches and engineered innovative designs for buildings and mechanical devices. Most of these ideas were never built during his lifetime, but the accuracy of his sketches made it possible to do so today.
Adding to the challenge of bringing Da Vinci’s ideas to life is that he wrote his codices in a shorthand he invented, using “mirror-image writing” that started at the right side of the page and moved left. The artisans that created Da Vinci’s works spent countless hours both translating an obscure Florentine dialect and deciphering Da Vinci’s shorthand.
Among the exhibition’s highlights is the section “Secrets of Mona Lisa,” which includes images showcasing the work of French engineer optician Pascal Cotte. His lifelong passion for the study and preservation of the Mona Lisa led him to invent a cutting-edge, 240-megapixel, multispectral imaging camera that uses patented infrared technology and intense illumination to scan a painting and virtually peel away layers of varnish applied over centuries. With his camera, Cotte was able to uncover how Mona Lisa looked as she was originally painted, distinguishing between layers of over-painting, restoration and attempts at preservation, and identifying the individual pigments used by Da Vinci. Cotte was granted unprecedented access to the Mona Lisa through the cooperation of the Ministry of Culture in France and The Louvre Museum. He photographed the painting out of its protective casing and frame and scientifically examined the images. His findings can be studied on high-resolution prints, the largest a 14ft x 10ft infra-red image of the Mona Lisa.
The inventions on display will focus on the following themes: Physics & Mechanical Principles, Civil Machines, Flight Studies Machines, Military Machines, Hydraulic Machines, Musical Instruments and an insight into the “Secrets of Mona Lisa.” The exhibition includes Da Vinci’s visions for the glider, parachute, precursor to the modern helicopter, forerunner of the modern military tank, automobile, submarine, ball bearing and gear systems, among other inventions that were far ahead of their time.
The museum has planned a number of activities for visitors to further their knowledge of Da Vinci. On July 8, Bulent Atalay, author of the National Geographic book “Leonardo’s Universe,” will give a National Geographic Live lecture titled “Exploring Leonardo’s Universe,” (visit www.nglive.org for ticketing information). The museum will also hold free screenings of the BBC film “Leonardo da Vinci: The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything” (schedule will be posted at www.ngmuseum.org)
The National Geographic Museum, at 1145 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Dec. 25. Admission is free. For information on “Da Vinci – The Genius,” the public should call (202) 857-7588 or visit www.ngmuseum.com. The Loews Madison Hotel is the official hotel partner of the National Geographic Museum.
About Grande Exhibitions
The exhibition’s creators and promoters have researched, sourced and interpreted much of what is contained in the exhibition. Based in Rome, Italy, and Melbourne, Australia, Grande Exhibitions is dedicated to delivering quality blockbuster exhibitions of mass appeal that entertain and educate.
About Fondazione Anthropos
From Il Genio di Leonardo da Vinci Museo in Rome, talented and gifted artisans have made the inventions and many items that you see on display at the exhibitions. They spent more than 10 years bringing to life more than 120 of Da Vinci’s concepts and designs, using techniques and materials available in 15th-century Italy.
EXHIBITION NOTE: The “Military Machines” section of the exhibit will close Aug. 22 to accommodate exhibition installation schedules