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November 12, 2008 > Leonardo: 500 years into the future

Leonardo: 500 years into the future

By Mona Shah

"Leonardo: 500 Years Into The Future" represents the remarkable achievements of fifteenth century artist-engineers and exemplifies the pivotal unity of art, technology and science. The exhibit is a rare opportunity to see how this genius of the Renaissance influenced and inspired much of the technology we use today.

Whether or not you are an engineer or a scientist, you will be dazzled by the creativity and ingenuity of Leonardo da Vinci and his contemporaries. The Tech Museum of Innovation will host the first and only U.S. showing of this exhibit from now till January 4. The 30,000-square-foot exhibition space includes nearly 200 drawings, sculptures and life-sized models created from the original notebooks of the Renaissance artist-engineers. More than half the pieces in the collection have never before been seen by the public.

Didactic tools including multi-media stations with interactive functions put the machines and achievements of these Renaissance engineers into modern day context, making it fun yet educational for kids of all ages. Several multimedia presentations on "The Mind of Leonardo," explore his thought processes and ingenuity. Almost all displays came from hundreds of institutions in Europe; there are no original pieces here. However, there are two pieces of painted artwork in San Jose on loan from Italy.

Exploration of this exhibit leads to a gallery where a glance toward the ceiling will cause a gasp. There, in all its glory, the "flying machine," the quintessence of Leonardo's early work. Measuring 40 feet from wingtip to wingtip, the famous contraption, dreamed up by Leonardo da Vinci in his 15th-century sketchbooks, has been built by a team of Italian artisans for display.

The dessert of this visual feast is an IMAX presentation of "Adrenaline Rush" that documents the efforts of an Oxford University research team to bring to life and test Leonardo's parachute.

Outside the museum is the exhibition's piece de resistance: a fiberglass and steel replica - 24 feet tall - of the "Sforza Horse." Designed as a gift for Ludovico il Moro, the Duke of Milan and Leonardo's patron, it was a monument to Francesco Sforza, Ludovico's predecessor. Leonardo planned to have it cast in solid bronze - 70 tons of it - from a single mold as the greatest sculpture of the day. He never built it; a war intervened and the regent confiscated the bronze to build cannons. Yet today, based on Leonardo's extensive sketches, it towers over the Tech. It looks majestic.

Leonardo: 500 years into the future
Now through January 4
Tech Museum of Innovation
201 S. Market St., San Jose
Information: (408) 294-TECH,

Admission: $15-$25

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