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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Science Museum's 'Inventing Genius' celebrates Leonardo da Vinci | Variety - Star Tribune

Rachel Hutton, general assignment reporter says, While da Vinci might be best known for two of the world's most famous paintings, he was the Renaissance's ultimate Renaissance man. 

Fabricator Elena Lavorato sewed a replica of a set of wings designed by Leonardo da Vinci for the “Inventing Genius” exhibit at the Science Museum of Minnesota in downtown St. Paul. The prolific inventor and ultimate Renaissance man, who died 500 years ago, designed several contraptions to try to get humans airborne.
A flock of Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machines landed at the Science Museum of Minnesota in St. Paul on Saturday. Standing among the contraptions — conceived to go airborne with giant fabric oars, or wings, or a helix — gives a visceral sense of the renowned inventor’s prolific creativity, and the sense that his thinking was centuries ahead of his time.

While da Vinci might be best known for painting two of the world’s most famous works, “The Last Supper” and “The Mona Lisa,” he was, in fact, the Renaissance’s ultimate Renaissance man. He studied nearly every scientific and artistic practice, from architecture and anatomy to mathematics and music, along with paleontology, engineering and more.

As a plaque near the entrance of the new traveling exhibit “Inventing Genius” explains: Da Vinci lived his life as if he were on a quest to learn everything there was to know.

The timing of the exhibit, which runs through Sept. 2, is spot-on. Interest in the Italian polymath is being stoked again by cultural institutions celebrating the 500th anniversary of his 1519 death. And a recently rediscovered “lost” Leonardo, “Salvator Mundi,” sold for $450 million in 2017 — the highest price ever paid for an artwork at auction, despite its poor condition and disputed provenance...

The difficult task involved deciphering da Vinci’s old Florentine dialect and mirror writing (he wrote text from right to left, with the individual letters reversed, so it looks like typical script only when read in a mirror). The artisans then brought his sketches to life at various scales, using materials and techniques that would have been available in 15th-century Italy.

The flying machines aren’t hands-on — we can’t expect the Science Museum to carry that much insurance — but there are several mechanical devices to operate, including ones that replicate da Vinci’s study of ratchets, ball bearings and a flywheel along with a couple of ways to convert the circular motion of a cranked wheel to horizontal motion. (Not only are those fun to play with, but you just inadvertently learned the mechanical principle that enables your car to drive you home.) His experiments with optics are most memorably represented by an eight-sided closet-size room with mirrors for walls.

Source: Star Tribune