Exhibition “Machines of Leonardo da Vinci”
The interactive exhibition “Machines of Leonardo da Vinci” is travelling around Europe.
For the first time, it is held in Belgrade from 7th April to 30th September 2023.
Visitors can see the incredible inventions of the famous Leonardo da Vinci in the renovated exhibition space of the Sahat Tower at the Belgrade Fortress. Opening hours are every day (except Mondays) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The entrance fee is 470 RSD (4 euros), and for pupils, students and pensioners it is 350 RSD (3 euros).
The exhibition consists of over fifty exhibits consisting of replicas of portraits and various inventions. The most famous are the tank, clock, bicycle, and parachute. Some of them are interactive, which is interesting for both children and adults.
Who was Leonardo da Vinci?
First of all, I would like to say something more about this Renaissance genius, who was hundreds of years ahead of his time.
Leonardo da Vinci was born on the 15th April 1452, in the Italian city of Vinci, close to Firenze. He was the illegitimate son of a notary and a lower-class woman, Caterina Lipi.
Leonardo had an endlessly curious and innovative mind since he was a young boy. So his father Piero da Vinci sent him to Florence for education to his friend Andrea del Verrocchio, the Italian painter and sculptor. After ten years in his workshop, Leonardo mastered a wide range of technical skills in mechanics, chemistry, metallurgy, sculpting, modelling, and metal and leather processing.
Leonardo was a great visionary who had many interests, such as geometry, astronomy, mechanics, hydraulics, physics, geometry, and engineering, Because of his fantastic inventions, he lived in Firenze, Milano, Pavia, Venice, and Rome. He became “a court engineer” in 1482 at the court of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. Also, Cesare Borgia hired him as “a war engineer” in 1502 in Firenze. From 1513, Leonardo worked for the Medici family.
The last three years of his life, he spent in France and worked for King Francis I. He passed away on 2nd May 1519, in Amboise, France.
Leonardo had a lot of friends. They said that he was a handsome man, pleasant, generous, well-liked in society, and he talked nicely with everyone. He was a vegetarian and a protector of animals.
Leonardo dressed differently from the others. His wardrobe includes a pink coat, pink hat, black and pink tights, taft dress, purple velvet hooded cloak, and satin coats – purple and bright red.
As he got older, he grew a beard that reached the middle of his chest and was well-groomed.
Even though he left a thousand notes and drawings, he wrote a little about his private life. He never married, and there are some stories that he was probably homosexual. But the trauma of the sodomy case converted him to celibacy for the rest of his life.
One thing is definitely true: he was always hungry for knowledge and innovations.
Anatomy and The Vitruvian Man
Leonardo was interested in birds, botanics, and especially in anatomy. He was fascinated by the human body and he left many fantastic and detailed drawings of human organs, muscles, heads, and hearts. He made more than 30 autopsies, exploring every aspect of the anatomy.
One of his most famous drawings is The Vitruvian Man (Italian: L’uomo vitruviano) from 1490. It was inspired by the writings of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.
The drawing shows a nude man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart. Actually, it is inscribed in both a circle and a square. He wanted to demonstrate that the human body had the perfect ratios and proportions. Today, the original drawing can be seen in Venice, in the Gallerie dell’Accademia.
Mechanisms and machines of Leonardo da Vinci
The exhibits were made from Leonardo’s original sketches by Italian craftsmen, and we can see the models in several themes.
Throughout his life, Leonardo was constantly making sketches, drawings, and paintings. There were more than 6,000 drawings from various fields found in his notebooks.
Flying Machines of Leonardo da Vinci
In the central part of the exhibition, there is a model of a hang glider.
And certainly, you will be speechless when you see Leonardo’s inventions of flying machines.
So, in 1478-1480, he got the idea to make a lightweight glider with wings stretched on the net skeleton.
By the way, in 2003, the British Aviation Sport Association made a project about testing a glider according to Leonardo’s drawing. And once again, it worked. Judy Leden, a British hang glider and paraglider pilot had a successful flight.
During the period of 1483 – 1515, Leonardo was watching and researching birds. They were an inspiration for his flying machines.
One of them was an ornithopter. It was designed to work by mimicking the flapping motion of a bird’s wings. On the 3rd January in 1496, he tested an ornithopter, based on the structure of a bat’s wings, but it failed. So he continued to work.
In 1485, Leonardo made a drawing of the parachute. It had a wooden structure shaped like a quadrilateral pyramid, covered with fabrics.
Many years later, in 2008, a Swiss parachutist Olivier Vietti-Teppa made a parachute according to Leonardo’s drawing. So he jumped and landed successfully on the ground. Well, after so much time, it still works 🙂
One more fantastic drawing is an air screw made in 1493. It is a design for the prototype of today’s helicopter.
War Machines of Leonardo da Vinci
Da Vinci’s tank
Leonardo da Vinci was a war engineer, although he considered the war “a beastial madness”, especially during his service at Cesare Borgia.
One of the most interesting war innovations was the tank.
Even though it was 1485, Leonardo had a fantastic idea for the combat vehicle, which was a prototype of today’s tank. He wrote about it to the Duke of Milan. The tank had a wooden structure with cannons, it looked like a torture shell, and it was driven by an eight-man crew.
By the way, the first tanks were used many years later, in 1916 during the First World War.
Arche Bridge and Ladders
Since there were many wars and attacks in the mediaeval times, Leonardo constructed bridges as well. This one from 1502 is a project for an Arche Bridge, extremely stable because of its supporting structure.
There is something interesting about this bridge. In 2001, the Norwegian Vebjorn Sand built a bridge according to this project, which was 109 metres long across the highway. It is intended for pedestrian and bicycle traffic, and it is named “Da Vinci Bridge”.
In order to improve the technique of siege, Leonardo designed fortresses, and various types of ladders, which are similar to those used by firefighters today.
Also, he designed bullet models that have a longer range than other bullets because there is a hollow slot that is filled with gunpowder. On the back of the bullet, there are wings that give it stability in flight.
Mechanics of Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo was fascinated with time, and one of his famous inventions was the Clock. Actually, he designed a chronometer that measured time more precisely than other clocks. But the most important is the use of a spring drive instead of a weight drive.
Da Vinci Bicycle
Da Vinci wanted to make inventions for a better life, and one of the most interesting is certainly the bicycle.
The drawing dates back to 1493 and it was probably made by Salai, Da Vinci’s pupil and a model, according to his idea.
By the way, the bicycle was constructed 300 years after Da Vinci’s bicycle sketch had been made.
The sketch was found in 1974 among his notes.
Mechanics was very important to Da Vinci, and he spent a lot of time researching and designing technical projects.
So he designed his own anemometer, an instrument for the measurement of wind speed, between 1483 and 1486.
Besides, there is a model of the first hydrometer in 1500, used to determine the quality and density of air after rain.
Leonardo designed many things and some of them we use in our everyday life. There is file carving machines, compound hoist, perpetual motion machine, various transmissions, and gear mechanics. Also, he designed a spotlight and used it during theatrical productions. Swimming gloves were inspired by watching birds and their limbs of pinnipeds to facilitate swimming.
Going around, you can see two more interesting inventions.
One is the ratchet mechanism, used in a wide range of equipment, such as reels, winders, jacks and ratchet spanners.
The other one is the cam hammer, today widely used in modern mechanisms.
Then, there is a vertical ball bearing, designed to reduce friction under vertical loads. It consists of three balls with a vertical axle.
Next to it, you can see a ball bearing with eight balls and concave cylinders, in order to increase the efficiency of machines by lowering the resistance of friction.
And of course, there are more inventions, such as a jack, today’s necessary item when you change car wheels.
Then the flywheel, without it, the operation of today’s engines and appliances is not possible.
Replicas of Leonardo da Vinci’s portraits
It is known that Leonardo da Vinci was an excellent sculptor and painter. Several replicas of his most famous paintings could be also seen at the exhibition. Among them, are Mona Lisa, The Last Supper and Salvator Mundi.
Mona Lisa (La Gioconda, 1503-1506)
Ah, Mona Lisa… It is probably the most famous painting in the world 🙂
Her enigmatic smile has aroused the imagination for centuries and caused controversy as to what is hidden behind her facial expression. And what hidden message her portrait carries, as well. It is believed that Leonardo painted Lisa Gherardini, the wife of Francesco del Giocondo. Today, the original painting of the Mona Lisa can be seen in the Louvre.
Salvator Mundi or Savior of the World (1506-1513)
The replica of the painting “Salvator Mundi” looks unreal. Leonardo painted it for King Francis I.
It represents Jesus. In the left hand, he holds the crystal ball which represents the world. He raises the right hand, and two fingers are crossed in the gesture of benediction.
Today, the painting is in a private collection.
Actually, it was sold in 2017, at the Christie auction in New York for 450.3 million dollars! It was the highest sales price for one painting ever in the world. So, it is supposed that the owner is the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, But, the painting has not been seen in public since its sale, even though it should be placed in the Louvre Abu Dhabi, UAE.
“Last Supper” is a masterpiece of Leonardo. It is a mural painting dated 1495-1498, located in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. Ludovico Sforza was a patron of this artwork. It represents the biblical scene of the last supper of Jesus with the Twelve Apostles. Dimensions of the mural are 460 cm × 880 cm.
By the way, this mural can be seen with an online ticket. Reservations are open every three months, and the entrance fee is 15 euros.
Lady with an Ermine (1489-1490)
“The Lady with an Ermine“ is another famous painting by Leonardo. It is a portrait of Cecilia Galerani, the mistress of the Duke of Milan, Ludovico Sforza. She was only 15 years old and was carrying Ludovico’s child. The original painting is housed in the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow, Poland.
Various paintings of Leonardo da Vinci
Besides these most impressive replicas, you can see a replica of “The Virgin Mary with Child and St. Anna” (1506-1513).
And there is a replica of Bacchus, the god of wine (1510-1515). Both original paintings are housed in the Louvre.
Also, there are replicas of several portraits. From the left side, there are Madonna Litta, Ginevra Benci, and St. John the Baptist.
The second row is a replica of the painting Annunciation, Leonardo’s first professional painting (1472-1475).
Visit the exhibition “Machines of Leonardo da Vinci”
Well, there is still a little time left until the exhibition’s end, i.e., 30th September 2023, in Belgrade.
I believe that those who saw Leonardo’s wonderful world of machines and portraits were delighted, as I was.
If your trip takes you to Florence, you can also visit Leonardo’s interactive museum.
And if you want to know more about the life and works of this Renaissance artist and scientist,
I highly recommend the book “Leonardo da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson.
Leonardo is also known for his wonderful sayings and lessons, which we need today.
And that’s why “Be curious, relentlessly curious, and observe.
Keep a child’s sense of wonder and reach beyond your reach.”