Leonardo Da Vinci: The Mechanics of Genius: Exhibition Review | SC Exhibitions

Models based on Da Vinci's designs for flying machines.
© Science Museum.
Five hundred years ago, Leonardo Da Vinci was spending his twilight years at Château du Clos Lucé in Amboise, France. After a long and successful career spent painting and designing, he'd settled down in this small town at the invitation of the French king, and was now creating fabulous sets, special effects and machines for festivities and events, all meant to impress the nobility.

This was nothing new for him. Da Vinci's famous "helicopter," with its corkscrew body, designed earlier in his life, was probably made for a wedding. And his self-propelled vehicle, rather than an early attempt at making a car, was perhaps designed for the theatre.

It's not the way we normally think of Da Vinci: as a special effects expert hired for parties. But then, for many, what we know of the renowned polymath is limited to his most famous works: the Mona Lisa, the Last Supper, the Virgin of the Rocks. Given his fame, you might well ask, what else did he create? And why?

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