To start off our day today, we took another trip on the metro to go to the Leonardo da Vinci museum. There we met another guide who gave us a tour of the museum. The museum is housed in what used to be a monastery, giving the whole thing an Italian feel. Many people think of Leonardo as the man who painted the Last Supper and the Mona Lisa, but his legacy is so much greater than that. Yes, he was an amazing painter, but he was also an extremely innovative architect and engineer. Even though I love painting myself, I find all aspects of his work to be extremely fascinating. Before Leonardo came to Milan, he worked as a painter in Florence, but he wanted more excitement in his life. So he wrote a letter to the duke of Milan asking to come to Milan to work as an engineer and architect. Milan was involved in lots of wars around this time, so Leonardo included some examples of war machines he could create for the duke. The duke accepted his offer and Leonardo stayed in Milan until 1499, when the French attacked the city.
Prior to Leonardo’s arrival, the design of the city of Milan on the royal family and showing how important they were. When he got there, a plague had just ravaged the city, the living conditions were disgusting, there were open sewers, and way too many people. Leonardo knew that for things to get better, the city design had to be based on functionality, practicality, and beauty, and just displays of wealth. He decided that canals should run through the city to allow for more trade and goods to come into the city. These canals also solved the sewage problem as it allowed for the sewage to be transported out of the city. He also designed a horse stable with a floor that sloped inwards toward the center so all of the dirty hay and other things could slide to the center and fall through the floor. There were also tubes leading down from the upper level so fresh hay could easily be sent down to the horses.
In addition to city design, we saw models of some of the inventions he designed. All of the models are reproductions based on drawings that Leonardo made in his lifetime. There were looms, bridges that moved so the enemy couldn’t follow the soldiers into the city, various flying machines, and much more. Not all of the inventions we saw were put to use, some of them were hypothetical prototypes that may or may not have actually worked. The drawings for these inventions were exploded drawings with so they showed all the different sides and aspects of the piece, which allowed for accurate reproductions to be made. However, about half of Leonardo’s drawings have been lost since the time of his death. He left his drawings to two of his students, but one was killed in a duel shortly after, so mostly everything he had was lost, and the other took good care of his inherited drawings, but his descendants didn’t, so more were lost. This means that many of Leonardo’s inventions will never be known, and others can’t be properly recreated because some of the pages showing different sides of whatever it was have gone missing.
An easily recognizable aspect of Leonardo’s legacy is the Vitruvian Man. Most people know what this drawing looks like, but not everyone knows the meaning behind it. This drawing shows a man standing with his legs together and arms straight out within a square, which is overlapped with the man standing with his arms and legs making an “X” shape within a circle. The Vitruvian Man is meant to represent the perfect cannon of proportions for a human. To have perfect proportions your arm span must be as long as your height, which would make a square around the person and not a rectangle. The perfect human should also be as tall as four times the length of their arm from the elbow to fingertips. In addition to showing that the perfect man has even proportions, the square and circle also have other meanings. The square represents the material world, as buildings were about this shape, and the circle represents the spiritual world because it is perfect and never-ending. This drawing is a representation of man not only as the center of the material world, but also of the spiritual world. Before this, God was always thought of as the center of the spiritual world. Man as the center of everything was a very Renaissance way of thinking, and Leonardo was definitely a Renaissance