Mind Museum decodes Da Vinci's genius in exhibit

By David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Aug 28 2013 07:41 PM | Updated as of Aug 30 2013 03:49 AM

MANILA -- Painter, sculptor, architect, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer and writer. What went on inside the mind of Leonardo da Vinci?

Plenty, it seems, if you check out “Da Vinci – The Genius,” the most comprehensive exploration of Leonardo da Vinci’s work at the Mind Museum at the Bonifacio Global City.

Created by the world renowned Grande Exhibitions Australia, the exhibition will run from September 1 to November 30.

Jason Brown, Grande Exhibitions exhibition production manager, said Da Vinci lacked neither imagination nor ingenuity as evidenced by the 200 pieces of the Italian polymath’s extraordinary works from paintings to war machines and even codices in the exhibit.

The exhibit shows full-scale interpretations of Da Vinci’s inventions including a mechanical drum, a multi-directional gun machine and an aerial screw, as well as high-quality reproductions of his Renaissance art.

“Most of Da Vinci’s artwork is too fragile to travel. These are the best examples outside of the Louvre or the museums in Krakow, Poland. You won’t find plastics in this exhibition. All the replicas are made of wood and metal that would have been available to da Vinci during his time,” he told reporters.

The exhibit features 13 themed areas of Da Vinci’s work, giving visitors an immersive experience into the mind of a genius.

In the Military Engineering section, visitors are given a glimpse into the mind of Da Vinci as a weapons maker. Some of the replicas in the exhibit include an assault ladder (the better to scale enemy walls), a multi-barrelled gun machine (the great granddaddy of the modern machine gun) and a Scitian Wagon, a nasty looking war chariot with four large scythes that would not look out of place in the Colosseum.

One highlight is a wooden replica of Da Vinci’s concept of a tank: an armored vehicle capable of moving in any direction and bristling with cannons on all sides. To move the tank, eight men inside the vehicle turned cranks attached to trundle wheels which were in turn attached to four large wheels. The Da Vinci tank is actually a dream come true for Assassin’s Creed gamers.

Other sections of the exhibit on hydraulic and aquatic and civil engineering also reveal the brilliance of Da Vinci’s intellect. In one corner of the exhibit -- like a reverse Abe Sapien suit – stands a rudimentary diving suit that would help people breath underwater. The suit is made of a watertight leather tunic reinforced by armor that would protect the air bag from being compressed in deep water. Flexible hoses with leather joints reinforced by spirals of metal drew in air from above the surface while valves regulated the air intake.

Another invention that would have made Tony Stark proud is a humanoid automaton, which would have been the world’s first robot if it was actually built. Da Vinci drew sketches of the automaton before he painted the Last Supper in 1495. It is not clear, however, whether there was an attempt to actually build the device. The robot was clad in medieval armor similar to that of a knight and was designed to make several human-like motions.

Other inventions that leave people in awe are replicas of a self-propelled car, a hammer driven by an eccentric cam and rolling ball bearings.

Da Vinci, however, wasn’t just interested in conceptualizing suits or automatons. He was also interested in flight and hydraulic engineering. The physics/flight section of the exhibit shows how Da Vinci was one of the first scientists fascinated with flight as shown in his concept of the Aerial Screw, considered as the ancestor of today’s helicopter. Meanwhile, the hydraulic and aquatic section also showed his designs for a double-hulled ship and a submarine.

In the Art section, one cannot help but be drawn to a replica of Da Vinci’s most famous work of art: The Mona Lisa. One secret revealed in the exhibition is that a blotch mark on the corner of the model’s eye is actually water damage to the varnish “most likely caused when she was on display in Napoleon’s bathroom.”

Another piece of artwork, which is presented only in animation, is The Last Supper, which is the most famous religious painting of all time.

Other works of art presented in the exhibit include The Annunciation, Virgin of the Rocks, St. Jerome and Portrait of a Musician. There is also a self-portrait of the Italian Renaissance polymath.

A separate section is also given to Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man, which illustrates the theories on proportion postulated by the Roman architect Vitruvius.

Maria Isabel Garcia, curator of the Mind Museum, said the exhibit seeks to ignite the spirit of curiosity, exploration and expression found in the life of Da Vinci.

“Throughout the three months, we want everyone to enter the exhibition hall and not just look at his works but to find him – to find Leonardo. Leonardo’s genius also now lies in sparking the creative in each of us,” she said.