Saturday, December 6, 2008


As a Birthday gift my daughter Pushpa presented me with two tickets for an exhibition at the Technology Museum in San Jose. My wife and I spent an elevating three hours there. It was all about Leonardo da Vinci.
Fritjof Capra in his latest book “The Science of Leonardo” wrote that Leonardo da Vinci, was perhaps the greatest master painter and genius of the Renaissance and his oeuvre included over 100,000 drawings and over 6,000 pages of notes. Leonardo’s scientific explorations were extraordinarily wide-ranging. He studied the flight patterns of birds to create some of the first human flying machines. Using his understanding of weights and levers and trajectories and forces, he designed military weapons and defenses and was in fact regarded as one of the foremost military engineers of his era. He studied optics, the nature of light, and the workings of the human heart and circulatory system. Because of his vast knowledge of hydraulics, he was hired to create designs for rebuilding the infra-structure of Milan and the plain of Lombardy, employing the very principles still used by city planners today ( over 500 years later.)
Leonardo approached scientific knowledge with the eyes of an artist. Through his studies of living and non-living forms, from architecture and human anatomy to the turbulence of water and the growth pattern of grasses, he pioneered the empirical, systematic approach to the observation of nature—what is now known as the “ Scientific Method” .
The exhibition we saw was “500 years into the Future—Leonardo” and it explores Leonardo as a whole. It puts the man in context with his time and presents the sum-total of his accomplishments. The exhibition is the culmination of more than thirty years of research and the collaboration of many highly regarded Florentine institutions, scholars and skilled art restorers and artisans. More than one hundred life-size, interactive working or scale models crafted from the original notebooks of Leonardo and his contemporaries are reconstructed by art-restorers and artisans.
At the entrance to the Tech Museum is a 2 story monumental model of Leonardo’s 24 foot bronze “Sforza Horse”. This is the piece-de-resistance of the exhibition—a fibre glass and steel replica of the “Sforza Horse” designed originally as a gift for Ludovic Moro, the Duke of Milan and Leonardo’s patron, as a monument to Francesco Sforza, his predecessor. Leonardo had planned to cast it in solid bronze—70 tons of it—from a single mould as the greatest sculpture of the day. He never built it; war intervened, and the regent confiscated the bronze to build cannons. But now they have built a horse , based on Leonardo’s extensive sketches. The horse is truly Towering. Leonardo intended to put it on a plaza in Milan. Twenty generations later it has found a place in the forecourt outside Tech Museum in San Jose, California.

I give below a brief note on Leonardo—whose famous painting “Mona Lisa” we saw in the Louvre Museum in Paris last May.
P P R –October 6, 2008

This section is for those more interested in Leonardo da Vinci.
Leonardo da Vinci
Self-portrait in red chalk, circa 1512 to 1515
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519) was an Italian polymath, having been a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. Born as the illegitimate son of a notary, Piero da Vinci, and a peasant woman, Caterina, at Vinci in the region of Florence, Leonardo was educated in the studio of the renowned Florentine painter, Verrochio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico Moro in Milan. He later worked in Rome, Bologna and Venice, spending his final years in France at the home given to him by King Francois I..
It is primarily as a painter that Leonardo was and is renowned. Two of his works, “ Mona Lisa ” and “The Last Supper”, occupy unique positions as the most famous, most reproduced and most parodied portrait and religious painting of all time Leonardo's drawing of the Vitruvian Man is also iconic.
As an engineer, Leonardo's ideas were vastly ahead of his time. He conceptualised a helicopter, a tank, concentrated solar power, a calculator, the double hull and outlined a rudimentary theory of plate tectonics. Relatively few of his designs were constructed or were even feasible during his lifetime, but some of his smaller inventions, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded.
In later life, Leonardo recorded two childhood incidents. One, which he regarded as an omen, was when a kite dropped from the sky and hovered over his cradle, its tail feathers brushing his face. The second occurred while exploring in the mountains. He discovered a cave and was both terrified that some great monster might lurk there, and driven by curiosity to find out what was inside.

Leonardo died at Clos Luce, France, on May 2, 1519. It is recorded that the King of France held Leonardo's head in his arms as he died. Some twenty years after Leonardo's death, Fran├žois was reported by the goldsmith and sculptor Cellini as saying: "There had never been another man born in the world who knew as much as Leonardo, not so much about painting, sculpture and architecture, as that he was a very great philosopher."
P.P.R—October 6, 2008

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