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Leonardo da Vinci, The inventor


With Leonardo da Vinci – The inventor at Martigny, the Pierre Gianadda Foundation presents one of the most celebrated personalities of the Renaissance.

Leonardo da Vinci is known the world over, particularly for such works as Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

The Martigny exhibition allows the visitor to have a first-hand look at this exceptional visionary, impassioned scholar and technical inventor.

An educational and interactive exhibition

The exhibition is dedicated to the extraordinary artist, scientist and inventor, Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), and offers an in-depth view of the achievements of this universal genius.

Today, over 500 years later, he still fascinates us because of his curiosity and untiring passion for exploring the world and its secrets. The exploits of inventor and researcher of this universal scholar are landmarks in human development.

One of Leonardo's cherished visions was enabling man to fly and discovering other ways of creating mobility. To him we owe the invention of the helicopter and parachute, the first spring-driven automobile and the bicycle. Leonardo anticipated the underwater diving suit, developed optical instruments and ceaselessly devoted himself to exploring ways of measuring time precisely.

Over 100 reproductions, including some coloured by hand and adapted from his drawings and studies, illustrate the creative power of Leonardo: engineer and architect, brige builder and town planner, anatomist and versatile clockmaker.

Produced according to his sketches, the movable models that the visitor can actually pick up and handle make it possible to grasp – in the true sense of the word – Leonardo's ideas. The various multimedia stations offer in-depth information illustrated in over 8,000 images, providing countless interesting details about the Renaissance and life and works of Leonardo.

Assembled together here in an interactive, hands-on approach, the various artistic, scientific and technical disciplines enable the visitor to appreciate Leonardo's knowledge directly and accessibly.

The genius and his time

Leonardo da Vinci, illegitimate son of a notary and a young peasant woman, was born in the small village of Vinci, near Florence.

Although Leonardo almost certainly never had access to higher education, he lived at an opportune time and in the right place. Dominated by the powerful Medici banking family, Florence at that time was one of the main centres of the Renaissance. In an extraordinary environment of revival that took up the examples and style set by classical antiquity, the art and culture beginning to appear were already having a "rebirth" effect on the generation of the time. The economic and scientific revolutions taking place created a new world-view. It was in this environment that Leonardo worked as an artist, researcher, inventor and technician, engineer and musician. The most curious of all his contemporaries, he was the Renaissance man incarnate. His countless notebooks in which he meticulously recorded his observations of nature, his understanding and ideas demonstrated his thirst for knowledge and his passion for research.

At his death at the age of 67 in the Château de Clos near Amboise, Leonardo left over 6,000 scientific and technical drawings as well as manuscripts representing his talent as a brilliant inventor, thereby paving the way for realising the boldest dreams of the future.

The researcher

Leonardo believed that nature exemplified a perfectly executed scientific plan. He used the most diverse scientific methods to understand life's wonders and document them for posterity.

The importance of his geometric and mathematical, physical and mechanical, and astronomical and anatomical studies is unquestionable. Between 1472 and 1515, despite a ban by the Church, he performed 30 autopsies to study the structure and mechanics of the human body, the nervous and muscular systems, and the heart and blood circulation.

The result of his investigations was an anatomical representation that was an exceptional affirmation of the human form and of a scientific precision unequalled before the end of the 18th century.

The inventor

Like no one else, Leonardo was capable of comprehending the opposing worlds of art and science. His countless investigations and studies enabled him to acquire new knowledge and understanding in the most diverse of areas: a boat equipped with a paddle-wheel, an inclinometer, hygrometer and even a flying machine.

Leonardo's vision of the universe was that of a grand mechanism. His ambition was to construct "machines that could move entire worlds" in order to facilitate many technical tasks. These tasks needed to be performed more rapidly and easily while remaining consistent and precise.

Leonardo sought new possibilities for transforming rotary motion into see-saw motion, an essential element of any machine. With this aim in view, he experimented with gears, hoists, cranks and cog-wheels. He made use of wind energy and muscular force, the spring drive and the flywheel. Among other devices, he invented hydraulic machines and clock-making mechanisms as well as swing bridges and the printing press.

In addition to a large number of mechanical constructions, Leonardo's most well-known inventions include the automobile and the gear system, which can be considered as the precursor of the gearbox of the modern automobile.

With great enthusiasm, Leonardo studied the flight of birds and bird-wing anatomy, and after several experiments, abandoned the idea of an airplane with wings that moved back and forth for constructions with rigid wings, a flying device with a propeller – the precursor of the modern helicopter.

Similarly, his parachute project is closely related to his flying-machine inventions. As an adviser to several monarchs, army commanders and noble families, Leonardo worked as a builder, architect and geologist. Although Leonardo detested war and described it as "brutish madness", he recorded himself as a military engineer.

The exhibition Leonardo da Vinci – The inventor hopes to illustrate this fascinating relationship between science, technology and invention, thus establishing a connection between the Renaissance and our contemporary age.

What in the past was a product of Utopian ideas is today made reality and bears witness to Leonardo's characteristic attitude of a modern scholar aware of his value and importance

Exhibition organiser:

Dr Otto Letze

Le catalogue

Léonard de Vinci - L'inventeur
Auteur: Otto Letze

Price: CHF 45.–, € 31.50
Trilingual: French - Deutch - English