Throughout history, a few individuals really stand out as pioneers of their time. Most are lauded for being experts in a certain field or for making one or two significant discoveries or progressive inventions. Leonardo Da Vinci is arguably the only person in living history to have masterminded inventions, theories and works across the spectrum.
I’ve always been fascinated by Da Vinci’s work, so much so that the Mona Lisa was at the top of my bucket list when I visited Paris. And it was with no small measure of delight then that I discovered that a Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition entitled Da Vinci – The Genius had come to Johannesburg.
Following a hugely successful global tour that has journeyed to 40 cities and been viewed by more than four million people, the exhibition made its way to Johannesburg where it opened at The Amazing Place in Woodmead, Sandton, at the beginning of April.
The exhibition encompasses over 200 unique pieces including 75 life-size machine inventions and high definition renderings of Leonardo’s most notable Renaissance works, all of which were created by Italian artisans using materials that would have been available during Leonardo’s era.
Commenting on the exhibition, Tyrone Thöle, managing director of Great World Exhibitions, the local promoters and organisers responsible for bringing the exhibition to South Africa said: “Many are unaware that, although Leonardo sketched and conceptualised numerous inventions and ideas, it is believed that less than a handful were built at the time and none exist today.
“One of the most fascinating components of Da Vinci – The Genius is that it brings these ideas to life, and items that were conceptualised more than 500 years ago. The bicycle, scuba-diving suit and basic flight machines to name just a few remain exceptionally important. Without Leonardo’s forward-thinking in the 1500s, society would not be what it is today.”
Sadly many of Leonardo’s manuscripts, such as his Treatise on Music have been lost through the ages. One can only imagine what kind of marvels the world has missed out on as a result. That said, there have been instances of previously unknown works coming to light over the years so hopefully, more has yet to be discovered. Fascinating instances of unknown works can be viewed via the following sites:
One of the exhibition’s main attractions showcases the unveiling of the 25 secrets of the Mona Lisa. Although the original painting isn’t on display, as it is housed permanently at the Louvre in Paris and is too fragile to be moved, the exhibition showcases the priceless piece of art in a way that has never been seen before.
Other key attractions of the exhibition include:
Reproductions of Leonardo’s remarkable anatomical sketches
Preparatory drawings of the Anghiari Battle, a painting that is currently lost but believed to be hidden by a fresco in a Florentine palace
Digitised presentations of The Last Supper – the painting famously featured by author Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code – the Vitruvian Man and the Sforza Horse sculpture
A reproduction of the controversial new Leonardo discovery Bella Principessa
I left the exhibition struck by the sheer depth and breadth of Da Vinci’s genius. He mastered painting, sculpture, drawing and music; was a gifted architect, scientist, mathematician and engineer and made profound discoveries and improvements in the fields of optics, astronomy, anatomical studies and urban planning to name but a few.
Incredibly, towards the end of his life he noted: “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.”
Suffice to say exhibition visitors are in for a real treat. It’s not too big and overwhelming; it’s informative and well-laid out and holds real cultural value for both young and old alike. The Da Vinci – The Genius exhibition runs until 22 June. Ticket prices start at R90.