Monday, August 17, 2009

Leonardo's lion

A mechanical lion invented by Leonardo da Vinci to entertain French king Francois I (1494-1597) has just been recreated at the Chateau de Clos Luce in Ambroise. "We loved the idea that Leonardo was not only an artist and an engineer, but also a fabulous stage director, a master of special effects," said the president of the private museum. "He knew how to satisfy an audience with amazing creations. He was the George Lucas of his time." The lion is wound up by hand, then takes about 10 steps forward, shaking its head from side to side, wagging its tail, and opening and closing its mouth (click on photo for video). Da Vinci was a master of automata, some of which he built and others of which exist only as descriptions or drawings in his many notebooks. Models of his inventions have been replicated as hobbies (flying machine, mechanical hammer), class projects (crankshaft, mill), and museum pieces (tank, automobile). Here are images of more machines and here are descriptions of some of the inventions featured in a traveling exhibit. If you are interested in reading more, here is an interview about the proto-car and a book about da Vinci's robots. Now my imagined dinner table includes Robert Ripley, Leonardo da Vinci, and an Italian translator!

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