da vinci machines exhibit

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The World of da Vinci exhibit is currently hosted at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, CA. This Leonardo da Vinci exhibition features a number of rare items from the genius’ life. In particular two rare folios of the authentic, 500-year-old Codex Atlanticus. What is really astonishing about the Leonardo da Vinci museum is that it covers his marvelous machines. Most people know Leonardo da Vinci for his paintings, namely The Mona Lisa, but he was so much more than a painter. He was a true renaissance man.

The Man and His Masterpieces

It’s no stretch to say he was incredible! If anything, it’s hard to imagine one person was able to accomplish so much in 67 years! He had no formal academic training and yet was still able to create so much. Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the ‘Universal Genius’ or ‘Renaissance Man’. Widely considered one of the most diversely talented individuals ever to have lived, he had an unquenchable curiosity and inventive imagination. Before entering the exhibit a short film on the legend is plays. It ends with a quote from da Vinci…

“Tell me, have I done anything of worth. Tell me if anything was ever done?”

Codex Atlanticus (Atlantic Codex)

I mentioned Codex Atlanticus above, if you’re like me, you may have never heard of it before. The Codex Altanticus is a twelve-volume bound set of drawings and writings by Leonardo da Vinci. The largest of which gets its name from the large paper, for atlases, used to preserve the original da Vinci notebook pages. Containing 1,119 leaves dating from 1478 to 1519, the contents cover a wide variety of subjects, many of which are featured in the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

In his Will, he bequeathed his entire work to his favorite student, Francesco Melzi. After Francesco’s death in 1570, his heirs had no interest in the papers so they stored them in an attic in Vaprio d’Adda (outside Milan). One of the visitors to the attic was Pompeo Leoni, son of Leone Leoni, the favorite sculptor of King Philip II of Spain. In the late 16th century, Pompeo created the Codex Atlanticus by dismembering some of Leonardo’s notebooks. Cutting and rearranging the pages to form coherent volumes. Had this preservation not been done, it’s possible we wouldn’t have this vast amount of his work today.

The Leonardo da Vinci Museum in Simi Valley

Good news! You don’t have to head all the way to the da Vinci museum in Rome! You can visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum right here in California! While Rome is a lovely location, it’s not always easy for everyone to hop across the pond. Which is why I’m so thankful for the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. It’s the third time I’ve been there for a special exhibit. The first was for Walt Disney and the second for the Pompeii exhibit. The temporary da Vinci exhibit called The World of da Vinci is well worth the visit and you should hurry up and get your Leonardo da Vinci museum tickets!

The da Vinci Machines Exhibit

This exhibit could have solely been on the paintings of da Vinci, however, it’s even more spectacular because it explores his inventions, musical machines, writings, and discoveries. Leonardo was an avid student of experimental study and observation, especially of mechanical forces. His teachers included mathematicians, astronomers, physicians, and philosophers. At the da Vinci machines exhibit three dozen reconstructions of his fantastic machines have been carefully curated to showcase his diverse work. A dozen of these machines were built life-size including his Mechanical Lion, Mechanical Bat and Great Kite.

Machines built for war such as the robot soldiers and the multi-cannon gunship are also on display. Only a few of his designs were ever constructed or even feasible during his lifetime. Thru modern science, the curators of this exhibit were able to bring many of them to life.

Taking Flight with Leonardo

If you’ve seen Da Vinci’s Demon’s you may have seen some of these machines in use on the TV show. 500 years ago, a number of his flying machines were mere concepts. Today they are built to scale at the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition.

Leonardo da Vinci devoted much of his time to investigating flight. So much so that there’s an entire codex on it, titled the Codex on Flight or the Codex on the Flight of Birds. Everything from an analysis of bird flight to a design for a flying machine (Great Kite) are inclosed in the codex. He even wrote instructions for the pilot!

The Art of da Vinci

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his artwork. At this Leonardo da Vinci museum, his famous pieces of art come to life thru digital restoration. Featured are The Mona Lisa, Vitruvian Man, The Last Supper and Lady with an Ermine. Interactive kiosks are next to the art so you can learn more about them. The day I went was a bit busy with kids, who of course love interactive things, so I didn’t get to peruse them much.

Little Known Facts about Leonardo da Vinci

Something I didn’t know about Leonardo da Vinci before visiting the exhibition was his work on instruments. The Reagan Library had the worldwide premiere of his Double Continuous Organ, which is one of his most functional projects. Another one of his ingenious designs I had no idea about was the “ideal city.” He had notes on everything from hydraulic systems to architectural elements.

“Ideal” is not meant to reflect its beauty but instead its perfection of machinery. That included the circulation of things and people, cleanliness, and hygiene. Water was to be the energy thru which a city thrived. A city’s design started with a site that had a river running through it. The water would then become diverted into canals enabling boats to navigate and sewage to work. A hydraulic system would provide energy for all machine functions. He also designed automated sinks, pipes, and streets that cleaned automatically using rainwater.

Boats of the Leonardo da Vinci Exhibition

Some of the items in the Leonardo da Vinci exhibition are replicas, but this doesn’t in any way diminish the ingenious that is da Vinci. If he were alive today his net worth would be astronomical so it’s completely understandable that transporting that many originals would be insane. You have to remember, in his day, his patrons included popes and princes. So even back then he was a hot commodity.

Because I simply do not have the words or knowledge to explain how all of these magnificent inventions work, I’ll be uploading the diagrams as well. I didn’t photograph everything, so there will still be plenty for you to discover at The World of da Vinci exhibit!

Leonardo da Vinci Museum Tickets

Pre-purchase tickets online or buy them at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum ticket booth. You should hurry up because the Leonardo da Vinci museum tickets are only around from May 24, 2019 – September 8, 2019!

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Michelle Jensen is a twenty-something traveler, occasionally solo, you’ll find road tripping across the U.S. or hostel-hopping in Europe. Currently residing in Los Angeles, CA with a day job in Television.