Helena Van Remoortel
Tine Messagie

LEONARDO DA VINCI

Leonardo da Vinci was a Florentine artist, one of the great masters of the High Renaissance, celebrated as a painter, sculptor, architect, engineer and scientist.
Leonardo was born on April 15,1452 in the small Tuscan town of Vinci, near Florence. He was the son of a wealthy Florentine notary and a peasant woman. He died on May 2,1519.


Paintings
We know Leonardo most for his paintings. Although Leonardo produced a relatively small number of paintings, many of which remained unfinished. He was nevertheless an extraordinarily innovative and influential artist.
During his early years, his style closely parallelled that of Verrocchio, but he gradually moved away from his teacher’s stiff, tight and somewhat rigid treatment of figures to develop a more evocative and atmospheric handling of composition. Leonardo’s stylistic innovations are even more apperent in The Last Supper, in which he re-created a traditional theme in an entirely new way. Instead of showing the 12 apostles as individual figures, he grouped them in dynamic compositional units of three, framing the figure of Christ, who is isolated in the center of the picture.The Mona Lisa, Leonardo’s most famous work, is as well known for its mastery of technical innovations as for the mysteriousness of its legendary smiling subject. This work is a consummate example of two techniques -sfumato and chiaroscuro- of which Leonardo was one of the first great masters.

The Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa (1503-1506), Leonardo da
Vinci’s world-famous portrait, was the
artist’s favorite painting; in fact, it went
everywhere with him.

Although there have been many theories
about the origin of the inexplicable smile
on the woman’s face. It was probably
just the result of Leonardo’s interest in
natural chiaroscuro (the effect of light
and shadow on the subject).

monalisa4.jpg (13694 bytes)

Sculptural and architectural drawings
Because none of Leonardo’s sculptural projects was brought to completition, his approach to three-dimensional art can only be judged from his drawings. The same strictures apply to his architecture; none of his building projects was actually carried out as he devised them. In his architectural drawings, however, he demonstrates mastery in the use of massive forms, a clarity of expression, and especially a deep understanding of ancient Roman sources.

Scientific and theoretical projects
As a scientist Leonardo towered above all his contemporaries. His scientific theories, like his artistic innovations, were based on careful observations and precise documentation. He understood, better than anyone of his century or the next, the importance of precise scientific observation.Unfortunately, just as he frequently failed to bring to conclusion artistic projects, he never completed his planned treatises on a variety of scientific subjects. His theories are contained in numerous notebooks, most of which were written in mirror script. Because they were not easily decipherable, Leonardo’s finings were not disseminated in his own lifetime; had they been published, they would have revolutionized the science of the 16th century. Leonardo actually anticipated many discoveries of modern times. In anatomy he studied the circulation of the blood and the action of the eye. He made discoveries in meteorology and geology, learned the effect of the moon on the tides, foreshadowed modern conceptions of continent formation, and surmised the nature of fossil shells. He was among the originators of the science of hydraulics and probably devised the hydrometer; his scheme for the canalization of rivers still has practical value. He invented a large number of ingenious machines, many potentially useful, among them an underwater diving suit. His flying devices, although not practicable, embodied sound principles of aerodynamics.

Ornithopter
The ornithopter is one of many
intriguing ideas created by Leonardo
da Vinci. Although these inventions
were never carried through to
completion, the drawings for them
are skillful. The ornithopter was the
result of the artist’s interest in the
flight of birds; da Vinci could be
called the first scientific illustrator.
daorni4.jpg (13346 bytes)

Leonardo da Vinci and man’s dream of flying

Leonardo da Vinci had a talent like no other for comprehending the contrary worlds of the arts and the sciences. Through his numerous studies and research projects, he arrived at new insights on the most varied subjects, from paddle boats to flying machines.

His studies on the possibilities of flight were shaped by the idea that man’s own muscle power sufficed to imitate the flight of birds. For this reason, he conducted a number of experiments based on a design that could never be realized: a machine propelled by flapping wings. It was only later that he drew up designs with stationary wings.
Among Leonardo’s many inventions is a flying machine equipped with an extraordinary steering mechanism (the first in the history of aviation). It was a head frame through which a cross-shaped rudder was moved to control both vertical and lateral movement.
The invention of the helicopter can also be traced to Leonardo da Vinci. He was the first to design a flying machine that was lifted vertically in the air by means of a propeller. The flying machine had its own drive system on board and was fitted with a helicoid propeller.

In conjunction with his inventions of flying machines, Leonardo also designed a pyramid-shaped parachute.
Leonardo sketched a model which is considered the precursor of modern kites and gliders. These studies mark the beginning of controlled gliding.

The controversial replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s adding machine

On February 13th 1967 an amazing discovery was made by American researchers working in the National Library of Spain, Madrid. They had stumbled upon 2 unknown works of Leonardo da Vinci known as the "Codex Madrid". There was much excitement regarding this discovery and the public officials stated that the manuscripts "weren’t lost, but just misplaced".
Dr. Roberto Guatelli was a renowned world expert of Leonardo da Vinci. He specialized in building working replicas of da Vinci. He had built countless such replicas with four assistants, including his chief aid, stepson Joe Mirabella.
Early in 1951 IBM hired Dr. Guatelli to continue building such replicas. They had organized a traveling tour of the machines, which was displayed at schools, offices, labs, museums and galleries. In 1961 Dr. Guatelli left IBM and set up his own work shop in New York.
In 1967, shortly after the discovery of the "Codex Madrid", Dr. Guatelli flew to the Massachusetts University to examine its copy; When seeing the page with the calculator he remembered seeing a similar drawing in the "Codex Atlanticus".
Putting the two drawings together Dr. Guatelli built the replica later in 1968.

DaVincodex2.jpg (11063 bytes) DaVinreplica2.jpg (12474 bytes)

Codex Madrid

Replica

The text beside the replica said:
Device for calculation: An early version of today’s complicated calculator, Leonardo’s mechanism maintains a constant ratio of ten to one in each of its 13 digit-registering wheels. For each complete revolution of the first handle, the unit wheel is turned slightly to register a new digit ranging from zero to nine. Consistent with the ten to one ratio, the tenth revolution of the first handle causes the unit wheel to complete its first revolution and register zero, which in turn drives the decimal wheel from zero to one. Each additional wheel marking hundreds, thousands, etc., operates on the same ratio. Slight refinements were made on Leonardo’s original sketch to give the viewer a clearer picture of how each of the 13 wheels can be independently operated and yet maintain the ten to one ratio. Leonardo’s sketch shows weights to demonstrate the equability of the machine.
After a year the controversy regarding the replica had grown and an Academic trial was then held at the Massachusetts University in order to ascertain the reliability of the replica.
Amongst others were present Prof. I. Bernard Cohen consultant for the IBM collection and Dr. Bern Dibner a leading Leonardo scholar.
The objectors claimed that Leonardo’s drawing was not of a calculator but represented a ratio machine. One revolution of the first shaft would give rise to 10 revolutions of the second shaft and 10 to the power of 13 at the least shaft. Such a machine could not be built due to the enormous amount of friction which would result.


3-Dimensional figures
Leonardo da Vinci kept also busy with complex 3-dimesional geometric figures. Leonardo drew these in all their variants. In his period in Florence he was already introduced to the perspective geometry . The abstract perfection from these complex figures must have charmed and fascinated him.

Daveinte2.jpg (23077 bytes) Dadodeca2.jpg (19491 bytes)

 

 

Sources

- Microsoft Elsevier Encarta ‘98
- Leonardo Da Vinci, complete catalogus van de geschilderde werken, Pietro C. Mariani, Meulenhoff

- http://www.webcom.com/calc/leonardo.html
- http://www.mos.org/sln/Leonardo
- http://www.banzai.msi.umn.edu/leonardo/vinci/
- http://www.metalab.unc.edu/cjackson/vinci
- http://www.archive.com/artchive/Leonardo

 

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