The Scenic Route: Da Vinci – the Genius Exhibit


A ten foot wall inscribed with the words, “Da Vinci – THE GENIUS” stands tall upon the entrance of the exhibit, greeting guests with a friendly introduction of the mysteries left behind of the quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo Da Vinci. The travelling exhibition hailing from Melbourne, Australia has finally made its way to the Philippines promising a broad-gauge into the many works of Da Vinci. An extensive showcase of Da Vinci’s contributions in Physics, Flight, Anatomy, Civil, Codices, Art, Music and many others tell a story of the man who was way ahead of his time. Take a peek into the life of Da Vinci as we delve into the replicated works of the world’s first modern mind (Warning: spoilers ahead).

The exhibition starts with Da Vinci’s obsession with Flight. An array of flying apparatus hanging above gives guests the experience of how bad Da Vinci wanted to see a world where humans could be up in the air flying with the winged creatures. Da Vinci’s immense fascination with flying is shown in his early sketches of gliders, flying machines, parachutes and aerial screws. Aviation comes much later into the 19th century but as early as the 1400s, Da Vinci already had that vision. The Flight section shows a pattern where Da Vinci finds himself exploring the possibility of flight by creating wings for humans to use, much later we can see the change in his perception of flying through the progression of his ideas from wings to gliders and eventually parachutes.

Standing alongside the Flight section is the Physics section– a wide range of early machines straight from the sketches of Da Vinci himself appeals not only to visual but also to touch. Finally, an exhibit that actually allows people to touch the things that they have been dying to touch. Indeed, the physics exhibit displays numerous machines that guests can play with to their hearts’ content. Da Vinci’s contribution in the field of physics shows how advance he was technologically to design machines that never even existed in his time. From ball bearings, flying wheels to transformation of motion, the Physics exhibit brings out the child in all of us as we experience Da Vinci’s sketches come to life through both sight and touch.

To the east of the Physics section is Da Vinci’s take on Civil engineering. A multitude of different artifacts replicated by Da Vinci experts are scattered throughout the east wing. Initially, the items in the Civil section can pass off as ordinary objects built during the medieval ages but a closer look at them tells us otherwise.  At first glance, one might find a fancy wheelbarrow, life-sized knight clad in leather armor and maybe even a 15th century plow. However, the plot thickens when guests examine the description markers placed beside each artifact only to find out that Da Vinci is way advanced than we imagined because those seemingly ordinary objects weren’t so ordinary after all. Interestingly enough, these objects turned out to be a self-propelled car, a humanoid automaton (AKA a robot) and an odometer. Da Vinci’s incorporation of old world designs with his futuristic ideas never fails to surprise guests at the Civil section.

A few paces to the left of the Civil section lies a wall full of human body part sketches reproduced from Da Vinci’s personal notebooks. This signifies a small but meaningful area known as the Anatomy section. Aside from the framed sketches on the wall, one of the stars of the Da Vinci – the Genius exhibit, namely, the Vitruvian Man, can be found in this area. Arguably one of Da Vinci’s masterpieces, the mathematical theories behind the Vitruvian Man have been laid out through an audio visual presentation for guests to enjoy.

Further along the eastern wing of the exhibit lies a brief historical background of the genius himself. Leonardo Da Vinci’s entire life story has been summarized into a series of different paintings done by both Da Vinci and Michelangelo, who is considered to be Leonardo’s greatest rival. In the Life & Times portion of the exhibit, guests can peak into the struggles and triumphs of Leonardo Da Vinci. Also within the radius of the Life & Times portion of the exhibit, guests can take a look at the Codices that Da Vinci experts used to replicate the designs. These notebooks reveal the mystery that is Leonardo Da Vinci: from his unique writing style to his detailed sketches, the Codices shed light on proof that Da Vinci actually went out of his way to come up with, at the time, mundane ideas that ended up being functional centuries later.

Past the Codices and Life & Times sections is Da Vinci’s love affair with Renaissance Art, which features some of his famous masterpieces. Upon entering the Renaissance Art exhibit, guests can watch a video presentation of the mysteries left behind by the infamous Last Supper; the painting that inspired best-selling novels and award winning films. At the center of the Renaissance Art section lies the Mona Lisa complete with the secrets uncovered by experts.

Leonardo has always been known to be the pioneer in physics, art, human anatomy and even flight but some of the things that many people don’t know about him is his interest in military engineering, music and optical and also hydraulics and aquatic. Towards the end of the exhibit, Da Vinci’s lesser known contributions are acknowledged, leaving guests to discover the different sides to Da Vinci that are not normally associated to him.

One of the fields that Leonardo Da Vinci made significant contributions to is in Military Engineering. In this section of the exhibit, an early version of a tank is displayed at the center of the Renaissance Art area. Da Vinci’s version of a tank resembles a wooden teepee shaped vehicle capable of firing multiple artillery. Another notable invention is the machine gun, even though guns did not exist in that era yet, Da Vinci was able to design a weapon that will later on revolutionize modern warfare.

In the Music and Optics section, the exhibit presents some of the quirky designs of Da Vinci reproduced by experts. One of those that stood out is the portable piano which looks like a regular keyboard with a booster seat attached to it. Also in this section is the mirror room: imagine the tiniest walk-in closet adorned with mirrors to cover all of your angles, definitely a groundbreaking feat if it was produced during the 15th century.

Lastly, the Hydraulic and Aquatic section which boasts Da Vinci’s vision of having people conquer the seas. Flying humans was clearly not enough for Leonardo Da Vinci for he also wanted to see a world where people can take control of water. Da Vinci thought of ways for humans to lift water without excessive human strength using Archimedes’ screw, a classical design of a water pump that is still being used for irrigation in today’s modern times. Da Vinci was certainly a dreamer for he believed that there will come a time when humans will walk and live in water, as a result of this, he came up with the earliest version of a scuba suit and even boat-shaped shoes.

In case you find yourself feeling confused about all these sections in the exhibit, a fifty minute documentary by BBC featuring the life of Leonardo Da Vinci is being shown at the exhibit’s mini theater. The documentary titled, Leonardo Da Vinci – The Man Who Wanted to Know Everything shows experts testing out the many designs of Da Vinci as well as his detailed biography.

The Da Vinci – the Genius exhibit is definitely a must-see for both the young and old. Discover the genius that is Leonardo Da Vinci as you explore the different aspects that of his life filled with innovation and wonder. The exhibit leaves guests with that feeling of being inspired and challenged all at the same time. The Da Vinci – the Genius exhibit runs from September 1 to November 30, 2013 at the Mind Museum in Bonifacio Global City.

Jeanne Marie Cornista

By Jeanne Marie Cornista

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