Category Archive 'Leonardo da Vinci'

05 Feb 2017

Leonardo Drawing Found in French Estate

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Kovels:

A retired doctor from a remote town has discovered his father had a collection worth millions and he could sell it. The doctor went to a Paris auction house and showed them 14 ink drawings. One 7 1/2-inch by 5-inch piece of paper with a sketch on each side was interesting. The auction house’s expert on old master paintings realized the drawing might be from the 16th century. Three months and three art experts later, the sketch has been authenticated as the work of Leonardo da Vinci, drawn about 1482-85. The handwriting, inscription, and the subject are all related to a known drawing of St. Sebastian by da Vinci. The good news for the owner is the sketch is estimated at about $15.8 million. The bad news is that the French government has put an export ban on the art work because it is “a national treasure.” The owner would like to offer it to an international market where it could sell for much more. The French government has 30 months to buy the sketch at market value.

23 Aug 2016

Double-Helix Staircase

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Chambord

ChambordStaircase1

ChambordStaircase3

ChambordStaircase2
model illustrating the staircase’s design

Wikipedia:

The royal Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France, is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by King Francis I of France.

Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley; it was built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I, who maintained his royal residences at the châteaux of Blois and Amboise. The original design of the Château de Chambord is attributed, though with some doubt, to Domenico da Cortona; Leonardo da Vinci may also have been involved. …

One of the architectural highlights is the spectacular open double spiral staircase that is the centerpiece of the château. The two spirals ascend the three floors without ever meeting, illuminated from above by a sort of light house at the highest point of the château. There are suggestions that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the staircase, but this has not been confirmed. Writer John Evelyn said of the staircase “it is devised with four (sic) entries or ascents, which cross one another, so that though four persons meet, they never come in sight, but by small loopholes, till they land. It consists of 274 steps (as I remember), and is an extraordinary work, but of far greater expense than use or beauty.”

26 Jul 2016

Leonardo’s Notebooks Yield New Discovery

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LeonardoFriction

University of Cambridge Research:

Scribbled notes and sketches on a page in a notebook by Leonardo da Vinci, previously dismissed as irrelevant by an art historian, have been identified as the place where he first recorded his understanding of the laws of friction.

The research by Professor Ian Hutchings, Professor of Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of St John’s College, is the first detailed chronological study of Leonardo’s work on friction, and has also shown how he continued to apply his knowledge of the subject to wider work on machines over the next two decades.

It is widely known that Leonardo conducted the first systematic study of friction, which underpins the modern science of “tribology”, but exactly when and how he developed these ideas has been uncertain until now.

Professor Hutchings has discovered that Leonardo’s first statement of the laws of friction is in a tiny notebook measuring just 92 mm x 63 mm. The book, which dates from 1493 and is now held in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, contains a statement scribbled quickly in Leonardo’s characteristic “mirror writing” from right to left.

Ironically the page had already attracted interest because it also carries a sketch of an old woman in black pencil with a line below reading “cosa bella mortal passa e non dura”, which can be translated as “mortal beauty passes and does not last”. Amid debate surrounding the significance of the quote and speculation that the sketch could represent an aged Helen of Troy, the Director of the V & A in the 1920s referred to the jottings below as “irrelevant notes and diagrams in red chalk”.

Professor Hutchings’s study has, however, revealed that the script and diagrams in red are of great interest to the history of tribology, marking a pivotal moment in Leonardo’s work on the subject.

The rough geometrical figures underneath Leonardo’s red notes show rows of blocks being pulled by a weight hanging over a pulley – in exactly the same kind of experiment students might do today to demonstrate the laws of friction.

Professor Hutchings said: “The sketches and text show Leonardo understood the fundamentals of friction in 1493. He knew that the force of friction acting between two sliding surfaces is proportional to the load pressing the surfaces together and that friction is independent of the apparent area of contact between the two surfaces. These are the ‘laws of friction’ that we nowadays usually credit to a French scientist, Guillaume Amontons, working two hundred years later.”

LeonardoFriction2

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Paper: Leonardo da Vinci’s Studies of Friction

Abstract:

Based on a detailed study of Leonardo da Vinci׳s notebooks, this review examines the development of his understanding of the laws of friction and their application. His work on friction originated in studies of the rotational resistance of axles and the mechanics of screw threads. He pursued the topic for more than 20 years, incorporating his empirical knowledge of friction into models for several mechanical systems. Diagrams which have been assumed to represent his experimental apparatus are misleading, but his work was undoubtedly based on experimental measurements and probably largely involved lubricated contacts. Although his work had no influence on the development of the subject over the succeeding centuries, Leonardo da Vinci holds a unique position as a pioneer in tribology.

23 Aug 2015

Leonardo’s To Do List

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13 Jul 2015

Leonardo’s Fridge

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LeonardoFridg

Hyperallergic:

When Leonardo da Vinci wasn’t painting portraits of medieval Italy’s nobility, he was figuring out how to keep their drinks cold. … [A] prototype based on his design for a cooling machine — the earliest known attempt at refrigeration — has gone on display in Milan.

Leonardo scholar Alessandro Vezzosi said the artist invented the machine around 1492, when he was at the court of the Sforzas in Milan. His concept drawing depicts a sophisticated system of bellows that pump air into three leather chambers. These push the air briskly through 18 spouts into a central vacuum that holds the container to be cooled.

To a modern eye, Leonardo’s device seems cumbersome — so much space for so little refrigeration. But we live in a world populated by a dazzling array of high-tech refrigerators and freezers; we stuff them with shopping carts full of food items that don’t even need to stay cold. In the artist’s day, there were only passive methods of cooling (natural ventilation, underground storage), and the machine would have been remarkable.

It’s possible that Leonardo built it during his lifetime. Vezzosi explained that since the artist also designed special water fountains for lavish banquets, “there’s no reason to rule out the possibility that this machine was also built in his laboratory.” It might have cooled anything from punch to sorbet (gelato was only invented a few decades later).

Complete story.

17 Jun 2015

Renaissance Dreams

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Alain Escalle’s “Da Vinci Project”

08 Feb 2015

Leonardo da Vinci’s Resume

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Leonardo2

Sent to Ludovico Sforza in 1482. He was hired. i09.com:

1. I have a sort of extremely light and strong bridges, adapted to be most easily carried, and with them you may pursue, and at any time flee from the enemy; and others, secure and indestructible by fire and battle, easy and convenient to lift and place. Also methods of burning and destroying those of the enemy.

2. I know how, when a place is besieged, to take the water out of the trenches, and make endless variety of bridges, and covered ways and ladders, and other machines pertaining to such expeditions.

3. If, by reason of the height of the banks, or the strength of the place and its position, it is impossible, when besieging a place, to avail oneself of the plan of bombardment, I have methods for destroying every rock or other fortress, even if it were founded on a rock, etc.

4. Again, I have kinds of mortars; most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.

5. And if the fight should be at sea I have kinds of many machines most efficient for offense and defense; and vessels which will resist the attack of the largest guns and powder and fumes.

6. I have means by secret and tortuous mines and ways, made without noise, to reach a designated spot, even if it were needed to pass under a trench or a river.

7. I will make covered chariots, safe and unattackable, which, entering among the enemy with their artillery, there is no body of men so great but they would break them. And behind these, infantry could follow quite unhurt and without any hindrance.

8. In case of need I will make big guns, mortars, and light ordnance of fine and useful forms, out of the common type.

9. Where the operation of bombardment might fail, I would contrive catapults, mangonels, trabocchi, and other machines of marvellous efficacy and not in common use. And in short, according to the variety of cases, I can contrive various and endless means of offense and defense.

10. In times of peace I believe I can give perfect satisfaction and to the equal of any other in architecture and the composition of buildings public and private; and in guiding water from one place to another.

11. I can carry out sculpture in marble, bronze, or clay, and also I can do in painting whatever may be done, as well as any other, be he who he may.

Again, the bronze horse may be taken in hand, which is to be to the immortal glory and eternal honor of the prince your father of happy memory, and of the illustrious house of Sforza.

And if any of the above-named things seem to anyone to be impossible or not feasible, I am most ready to make the experiment in your park, or in whatever place may please your Excellency – to whom I comment myself with the utmost humility, etc.

03 Sep 2014

Vitruvian Basset

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19 Nov 2013

Leonardo’s Viola Organista

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The Age:

[A musical] instrument combining a piano and cello has finally been played to an audience more than 500 years after it was dreamt up Leonardo da Vinci.

Da Vinci, the Italian Renaissance genius who painted the Mona Lisa, invented the ‘‘viola organista’’ – which looks like a baby grand piano – but never built it, experts say.

The viola organista has now come to life, thanks to a Polish concert pianist with a flair for instrument-making and the patience and passion to interpret da Vinci’s plans.

Full of steel strings and spinning wheels, Slawomir Zubrzycki’s creation is a musical and mechanical work of art.

‘‘This instrument has the characteristics of three we know: the harpsichord, the organ and the viola da gamba,’’ Zubrzycki said as he debuted the instrument at the Academy of Music in the southern Polish city of Krakow….

The flat bed of its interior is lined with golden spruce. Sixty-one gleaming steel strings run across it, similar to the inside of a baby grand.

Each is connected to the keyboard, complete with smaller black keys for sharp and flat notes. But unlike a piano, it has no hammered dulcimers. Instead, there are four spinning wheels wrapped in horse-tail hair, like violin bows.

To turn them, Zubrzycki pumps a pedal below the keyboard connected to a crankshaft. As he tinkles the keys, they press the strings down onto the wheels, emitting rich, sonorous tones reminiscent of a cello, an organ and even an accordion.

The effect is a sound that da Vinci dreamt of, but never heard; there are no historical records suggesting he or anyone else of his time built the instrument he designed.

A sketch and notes in da Vinci’s characteristic inverted script is found in his Codex Atlanticus, a 12-volume collection of his manuscripts and designs for everything from weaponry to flight.

‘‘I have no idea what Leonardo da Vinci might think of the instrument I’ve made, but I’d hope he’d be pleased,’’ said Zubrzycki, who spend three years and 5000 hours bringing da Vinci’s creation to life.

05 Oct 2013

Lost Da Vinci Found in Swiss Vault

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The Telegraph
reports big news in the art world.

a 500-year-old mystery was apparently solved today after a painting attributed to Leonardo da Vinci was discovered in a Swiss bank vault.

The painting, which depicts Isabella d’Este, a Renaissance noblewoman, was found in a private collection of 400 works kept in a Swiss bank by an Italian family who asked not to be identified.

It appears to be a completed, painted version of a pencil sketch drawn by Leonardo da Vinci in Mantua in the Lombardy region of northern Italy in 1499.

The sketch, the apparent inspiration for the newly found work, hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

For centuries it had been debated whether Leonardo had actually had the time or inclination to develop the sketch into a painted portrait.

After seeing the drawing he produced, the marquesa wrote to the artist, imploring him to produce a full-blown painting.

But shortly afterwards he embarked on one of his largest works, The Battle of Anghiari on the walls of Florence’s town hall, and then, in 1503, started working on the Mona Lisa.

Art historians had long believed he simply ran out of time — or lost interest — in completing the commission for Isabella d’Este.

Now it appears that he did in fact manage to finish the project — perhaps when he encountered the aristocrat, one of the most influential female figures of her day, in Rome in 1514.

Scientific tests suggest that the oil portrait is indeed the work of da Vinci, according to Carlo Pedretti, a professor emeritus of art history and an expert in Leonardo studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“There are no doubts that the portrait is the work of Leonardo,” Prof Pedretti, a recognised expert in authenticating disputed works by Da Vinci, told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“I can immediately recognise Da Vinci’s handiwork, particularly in the woman’s face.”

Tests have shown that the type of pigment in the portrait was the same as that used by Leonardo and that the primer used to treat the canvas on which it was painted corresponds to that employed by the Renaissance genius.

Carbon dating, conducted by a mass spectrometry laboratory at the University of Arizona, has shown that there is a 95 per cent probability that the portrait was painted between 1460 and 1650.

26 Nov 2011

Leonardo’s To Do List

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In Toby Lester’s Da Vinci’s Ghost: Genius, Obsession, and How Leonardo Created the World in His Own Image (to be published February 7 of next year), the author explains that Leonardo da Vinci carried a notebook on his belt in which he constantly sketched or left memoranda to himself.

Robert Krulwich, at an NPR blog, offers a translation of Leonardo’s personal To-Do list from some point early in the 1490s.

It’s an interesting list, testifying to its author’s remarkably broad range of practical and abstract interests, and as Maggie Koerth-Baker notes admiringly, to his recognition of superior expertise in the possession of others.

I think it’s pretty interesting that of the nine tasks shown, six involve consulting and learning from other people. Leonardo da Vinci needs to find a book. Leonardo da Vinci needs to get in touch with local merchants, monks, and accountants who he hopes can help him better understand concepts within their areas of expertise.

Leonardo da Vinci knows he doesn’t know everything.

I think that’s a big deal.

The fact that questions Leonardo intends to address so commonly include notes of just how he intends to obtain the necessary information is, I think, likely to make many of us with experience in research smile in recognition of a kindred spirit.

18 Oct 2009

Da Vinci’s Fingerprint Identified on Portrait

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Leonardo da Vinci, Portrait of Young Girl in Profile

The London Time describes how sophisticated forensic techniques were able to authenticate a portrait profile drawing in inks and chalks as the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

The 33 x 23cm (13 x 9in) picture, in chalk, pen and ink, appeared at auction at Christie’s, New York, in 1998, catalogued as “German school, early 19th century”. It sold for $19,000 (£11,400). Now a growing number of leading art experts agree that it is almost certainly by Leonardo da Vinci and worth about £100 million.

Carbon dating and infra-red analysis of the artist’s technique are consistent with such a conclusion, but the most compelling evidence is that fragment of a fingerprint.

Peter Paul Biro, a Montreal-based forensic art expert, found it while examining images captured by the revolutionary multispectral camera from the Lumière Technology company. …

The fingerprint corresponds to the tip of the index or middle finger, and is “highly comparable” to one on Leonardo’s St Jerome in the Vatican. Importantly, St Jerome is an early work from a time when Leonardo was not known to have employed assistants, making it likely that it is his fingerprint.

Martin Kemp, Emeritus Professor of History of Art at the University of Oxford, is convinced and recently completed a book about the find (as yet unpublished). He said that his first reaction was that “it sounded too good to be true — after 40 years in the business, I thought I’d seen it all”. But gradually, “all the bits fell into place.”

Professor Kemp has rechristened the picture, sold as Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress, as La Bella Principessa after identifying her, “by a process of elimination”, as Bianca Sforza, daughter of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan (1452-1508), and his mistress Bernardina de Corradis. He described the profile as “subtle to an inexpressible degree”, as befits the artist best known for the Mona Lisa.

If it is by Leonardo, it would be the only known work by the artist on vellum although Professor Kemp points out that Leonardo asked the French court painter Jean Perréal about the technique of using coloured chalks on vellum in 1494.

The picture was bought in 1998 by Kate Ganz, a New York dealer, who sold it for about the same sum to the Canadian-born Europe-based connoisseur Peter Silverman in 2007. Ms Ganz had suggested that the portrait “may have been made by a German artist studying in Italy … based on paintings by Leonardo da Vinci”. …

Carbon-14 analysis of the vellum gave a date range of 1440-1650. Infra-red analysis revealed stylistic parallels to Leonardo’s other works, including a palm print in the chalk on the sitter’s neck “consistent … to Leonardo’s use of his hands in creating texture and shading”, according to Mr Biro.

08 Oct 2009

Clue May Lead to Lost Da Vinci Painting

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“Cerca Trova” (Seek and Find) appears on a banner on Vasari’s mural of the Battle of Marciano

Only 15 surviving paintings are generally attributed in whole or in part to Leonardo. His responsibility for another six is disputed.

Dr. Maurizio Seracini, an engineering professor from UC San Diego, had been pursuing a quest to recover Leonardo Da Vinci’s largest painting, a 1505 fresco depiction of the 65 year earlier Battle of Angiarhi between Florence and Milan which once ornamented the Hall of Five Hundred in Florence, which disappeared in the course of a mid-16th century remodeling by Giogio Vasari, for a number of years.

The New York Times reports that scientific instruments are now ready to test Seracini’s hypothesis that Vasari simply walled-up the Da Vinci fresco.

“The Battle of Anghiari,” (was) the largest painting Leonardo ever undertook (three times the width of “The Last Supper”). Although it was never completed — Leonardo abandoned it in 1506 — he left a central scene of clashing soldiers and horses that was hailed as an unprecedented study of anatomy and motion. For decades, artists like Raphael went to the Hall of 500 to see it and make their own copies.

Then it vanished. During the remodeling of the hall in 1563, the architect and painter Giorgio Vasari covered the walls with frescoes of military victories by the Medicis, who had returned to power. Leonardo’s painting was largely forgotten.

But in 1975, when Dr. Seracini studied one of Vasari’s battle scenes, he noticed a tiny flag with two words, “Cerca Trova”: essentially, seek and ye shall find. Was this Vasari’s signal that something was hidden underneath? …

(N)ew analysis showed that the spot painted by Leonardo was right at the “Cerca Trova” clue. The even better news, obtained from radar scanning, was that Vasari had not plastered his work directly on top of Leonardo’s. He had erected new brick walls to hold his murals, and had gone to special trouble to leave a small air gap behind one section of the bricks — the section in back of “Cerca Trova.” …

Dr. Seracini was stymied until 2005, when he appealed for help at a scientific conference and got a suggestion to send beams of neutrons harmlessly through the fresco. With help from physicists in the United States, Italy’s nuclear-energy agency and universities in the Netherlands and Russia, Dr. Seracini developed devices for identifying the telltale chemicals used by Leonardo.

One device can detect the neutrons that bounce back after colliding with hydrogen atoms, which abound in the organic materials (like linseed oil and resin) employed by Leonardo. Instead of using water-based paint for a traditional fresco in wet plaster like Vasari’s, Leonardo covered the wall with a waterproof ground layer and used oil-based paints.

The other device can detect the distinctive gamma rays produced by collisions of neutrons with the atoms of different chemical elements. The goal is to locate the sulfur in Leonardo’s ground layer, the tin in the white prime layer and the chemicals in the color pigments, like the mercury in vermilion and the copper in blue pigments of azurite. …

Once he gets permission, Dr. Seracini said, he hopes to complete the analysis within about a year. If “The Battle of Anghiari” is proved to be there, he said, it would be feasible for Florentine authorities to bring in experts to remove the exterior fresco by Vasari, extract the Leonardo painting and then replace the Vasari fresco. Of course, no one knows what kind of shape the painting might be in today. But Dr. Seracini, who has extensively analyzed the damages suffered by many Renaissance paintings, said that he was optimistic about “The Battle of Anghiari.”

“The advantage is that it has been covered up for five centuries,” he said. “It’s been protected against the environment and vandalism and bad restorations. I don’t expect there to be much decay.”

If he is right, then perhaps Vasari did Leonardo a favor by covering up the painting — and taking care to leave that cryptic little flag above the trove.


Rubens chalk, ink, and water-color copy of Da Vinci study for “The Battle of Anghiari,” Musée du Louvre

21 Dec 2008

Three Leonardo Sketches Discovered

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Leonardo da Vince, The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, oil on wood, circa 1508, Louvre, Paris

Reuters:

A curator at the Louvre Museum in Paris has stumbled upon some unknown drawings on the back of a painting by Leonardo da Vinci that look like they might be by the Italian master himself, the Louvre said on Thursday.

The extraordinary find was made by chance, when Louvre staff unhooked Leonardo’s “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne” from the museum wall as part of a broad programme of study and restoration of paintings by Leonardo, including the “Mona Lisa.”

“When the work, which is painted on wood, was unhooked, a curator noticed two barely visible drawings on the back of the painting, showing a horse’s head and half a skull,” the museum said.

It was such an astonishing discovery that other Louvre staff present at the time could not believe it and initially said the marks on the wood must be stains.

“The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne” was painted in the early 1500s and no one had previously noticed the drawings — at least not to the knowledge of the Louvre.

After the initial find, the museum conducted detailed tests on the back of the painting. Photographs taken with an infrared camera revealed that there were not two but three drawings. The third one is of a Child Jesus playing with a lamb.

“This is an exceptional discovery because drawings on the back of paintings are very rare and no example by Leonardo was previously known,” the Louvre said.

It said the drawings recalled some of Leonardo’s known works and suggested that the child and lamb could have been sketches for the painting on the other side of the piece of wood.


Sketches visible on reverse of painting

1:58 London Times video


Sketch of horse’s head


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