Leonardo at the Science Musem

Leonardo da Vinci, has always been a source of inspiration to me as an artist. I was looking forward to admiring his draughtsmanship in the ‘The Mechanics of Genius’ exhibition at London’s Science Museum. However, not a single original drawing was on display!!

Don’t misunderstand me, the exhibition was fascinating, hands-on and interactive, but it really missed the opportunity of presenting Leonardo’s mastery of engineering throuugh drawing. There were fantastic models, created for Leonardo’s 500 year centenary, and these were illustrated with tiny photographs of the original drawings alongside the displays. The design of the exhibition was great and did incorporate large scale blow – ups of Da Vinci’s drawings, the technology of the 21st century was used to animate some of the drawings on screens, all great, (and he would have been right up there with the technological advances of the 21st century!) but none of the real thing!!!

Leonardo da Vinci, Flower studies

Having got over the initial disappointment of no works on paper I focussed on the wonderful ideas depicted in the exhibition, it is true that Da Vinci was one of the world’s great thinkers and the exhibition carefully emphasises the fact that although many of da Vinci’s engineering drawings were not new ideas at the time, he invariably took existing concepts to a new engineering level.

Spring catapult 

The beauty of the forms and lines in his designs show the qualities of a true artist, and surpass the functional.

Machine for twisting rope.

Details of the constructions were fascinating to me as I followed an enthusiastic 10 year old from one interactive experience to another.

File making machine

So many of the concepts were ahead of their time, and many of the engineering concepts are staples of today’s civil and aeronautical engineering world. The exhibition cleverly linked the concepts in Leonardo’s work to today’s exploration in nano technology, future transport systems and development in engineering inspired by natural phenomenae such as the recreation of synthetic spiderweb strands, and development of intelligent underwater navigation systems.

Spiral form flying machine and pyramid parachute.

So here I am, overawed by the genius of apioneer of engineering, and hoping for the opportunity one day of really seeing those drawings!