Educational Resources for The Da Vinci Experience
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Experiencing Leonardo Da Vinci at the Woodbury Art Museum in the University Mall
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) spent his first thirty years in Florence, learning and then producing his early works as an apprentice to Andrea del Verrocchio. In 1482 he was sought by Ludovico Sforza, at the court of Milan, for his engineering and military technical knowledge, and he remained there for the next seventeen years. The changing fortunes of his protector forced him to move to other cities: Mantua, Venice, Rome, Florence, Milan again and finally to Amboise (France) until his last days.
It was in the more stable Milan period that Leonardo devoted his attention to the study of nature and perfected ideas and inventions, producing most of his visionary drawings of engineering devices, war machines, his ideas for city planning, and even theatrical stages.
About a quarter of his technical drawings have survived, most have been grouped by later scholars in to manuscripts and the so-called Codices (collections of drawings and notes). These collections are held in libraries throughout the world.
There is evidence that the few machines commissioned by Leonardo himself were built by local artisans – unfortunately none of the machines remain. In the late 1950s the first museums of ‘Leonardo da Vinci machines’ were established in Vinci and Milan.
A capable young apprentice in Florence, Carlo Niccolai, was one of the artisans commissioned by the Da Vinci Institute to construct Leonardo’s machines. Working in a workshop not far from where Leonardo learned his craft, and using the materials of Leonardo’s time, models of the inventions came to life. Today these models can be seen at the permanent Da Vinci Museum in Vinci (near Florence).
In 2001 a new museum was established in Vigevano (near Milan) where Leonardo lived and worked. The machines built for this museum were life-size and fully functional. Niccolai’s son, Gabriele, further developed the craftsmanship of reproduction using the latest computer technology. Under the critical eye of eminent scholars such as Professor Carlo Pedretti of UCLA (University of California Los Angeles) important discoveries were made and Leonardo’s drawings came to life. The models built by Niccolai are featured in the official Encyclopaedia of Leonardo da Vinci edited and published by De Agostini (It).
In 2002 the Niccolai family, together with a group of Florentine artisans, established a new company: Teknoart s.r.l.. The company prepares and manages the largest travelling exhibitions of fully-functional interactive machines, including machines reproduced from newly discovered Codices that have not been previously displayed in museums.