Da Vinci – The Genius

Happy 2011!  This is my first blog of the new year, and it’s my first blog on the snazzy new MacBook Pro that I got for Christmas.

This weekend I finally made it down to the Science Center of Iowa to see the Leonardo da Vinci exhibit. My main interest in da Vinci, and my previous knowledge, is mostly about his art. This being a Science Center exhibit, it didn’t surprise me that many of the galleries focused on his many inventions. He truly was a Renaissance man – possibly the definition of Renaissance man – and his interests and talents ranged from flight to war to the human body to travel to music to, of course, art.

I watched the 50-minute BBC documentary first, showing in the Science Center’s comfortable John Deere Adventure Theater, and although the film ended right about the time I thought da Vinci’s life was getting really interesting (he was just beginning his rivalry with Michelangelo and had not yet painted the Mona Lisa), it did show his early years (as an illegitimate child who was not allowed to have a formal education), his life in Florence and then Milan, his fascination with seemingly everything in the natural world, and his probable homosexuality. The film was the perfect set-up for the exhibit, and I recommend watching it first (it starts on the hour).

The gallery exhibits include scale models of da Vinci’s inventions, as they appeared in his sketches: flight, physics, hydraulics, you name it. More interesting to me were the enlarged sketches of the human form in great detail, Vitruvian Man, The Last Supper and other artistic reproductions. Best of all: a whole room of the Mona Lisa, dissected by French engineer Pascal Cotte, whose highly detailed infrared photographs answer the “secrets” of the artist’s most famous painting. It’s an absolute delight.

Probably the most amazing part of the exhibit is just thinking that all of this happened more than 500 years ago. The exhibit is on display through March 20.

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