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Exhibit: Da Vinci at National Geographic, Washington, DC

da-vinci-exhibit-tp1Dates: June 18 to Sept. 12, 2010. Location: The National Geographic Museum, 1145 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C.
Cost: FREE

Da Vinci – The Genius is a  traveling exhibition on display at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C., from June 18 to Sept. 12, that demonstrates the full scope of Leonardo da Vinci’s remarkable innovations as an inventor, artist, anatomist, sculptor, engineer, musician and architect. The exhibition features a vast array of full-scale inventions built according to the master’s personal codices (notebooks); reproductions of his most famous Renaissance paintings, including the Mona Lisa, Virgin of the Rocks and The Annunciation; detailed anatomical sketches; the preparatory drawings for the Battle of Anghiari; and custom video presentations.

Under the direction of Modesto Veccia, president of the Fondazione Anthropos and curator and founder of Il Genio di Leonardo Da Vinci Museo in Rome, a cadre of Italian artisans spent the last decade studying and interpreting Da Vinci’s codices and crafting the mechanical inventions shown in the exhibition. The artisans reproduced more than 120 of Da Vinci’s machine inventions, 67 of which will be on display. Where possible, each was crafted using techniques and materials available in 15th-century Italy, including wood, cotton, brass, iron, canvas and cord.

Most of what is known about Da Vinci’s scientific ideas comes from his codices. Of the more than 24,000 pages he is believed to have originally penned, only 6,000 or so remain intact. In his codices he covered a broad range of subjects, writing and drawing about geometry, fauna and flora, engineering, mathematics, physics and philosophy. He made detailed anatomical sketches and engineered innovative designs for buildings and mechanical devices. Most of these ideas were never built during his lifetime, but the accuracy of his sketches made it possible to do so today.

Adding to the challenge of bringing Da Vinci’s ideas to life is that he wrote his codices in a shorthand he invented, using “mirror-image writing” that started at the right side of the page and moved left. The artisans that created Da Vinci’s works spent countless hours both translating an obscure Florentine dialect and deciphering Da Vinci’s shorthand.

The inventions on display will focus on the themes of Physics & Mechanical Principles, Civil Machines, Flight Studies Machines, Military Machines, Hydraulic Machines, Musical Instruments and an insight into the “Secrets of Mona Lisa.” The exhibition includes Da Vinci’s visions for the glider, parachute, precursor to the modern helicopter, forerunner of the modern military tank, automobile, submarine, ball bearing and gear systems, among other inventions that were far ahead of their time.

“This exhibition was created to celebrate Leonardo da Vinci’s great works and bring them together in a single location where people can marvel at the brilliance of this great mind,” said Bruce Peterson, founder and managing director of Grande Exhibitions. “Leonardo da Vinci is arguably the greatest genius the world has ever known, and this show makes it clear why that proposition is virtually irrefutable.”

The National Geographic Museum, at 1145 17th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Dec. 25. Admission is free. For information on “Da Vinci – The Genius,” the public should call (202) 857-7588 or visit www.nationalgeographic.com/museum.

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