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Exhibition route

In Vinci, where Leonardo was born and where he drew early inspiration for his studies and paintings, the Leonardo Museum presents one of the most extensive and most original collections devoted to the multiple interests of Leonardo  the technologist,  the architect, the man of science and, more generally, to the History of Renaissance technics.

The museum route, spread over two adjacent buildings: the Palazzina Uzielli and the Conti Guidi Castle, presents its machines and models accompanied by specific references to the artist’s sketches and handwritten notes, which are also supplemented by digital animations and interactive applications.

Palazzina Uzielli houses the sections devoted to building-site machinery, textile manufacturing technology and mechanical clocks.
In the Castle, the ancient former home of the Guidi family, are the machines and models which document Leonardo’s interest in war, architecture, mechanics and flight. In addition, there are two whole sections devoted to optics and to movement on land and water, with particular reference to fluvial navigation. The route ends in the video room located inside the mighty walls of the castle, and where the models of the geometric solids based on the drawings that Leonardo made for the treatise De Divina Proportione by the mathematician Luca Pacioli are on show.

  • Building-site machinery
    Palazzina Uzielli, Building-site machinery section
    In 1420 Filippo Brunelleschi began what was to be one of the major undertakings of the Italian Renaissance: building the cupola for Florence’s Cathedral.

    The hoists and the cranes he designed to raise and precisely position enormous loads, up to heights of almost a hundred metres above the ground, profoundly impressed the young Leonardo and other contemporary artist-engineers such as Mariano di Iacopo, Francesco di Giorgio, Buonaccorso Ghiberti and Giuliano da San Gallo. Theirs is the merit of having passed on, through their work notebooks, a perpetual record of these devices which represented a fundamental leap forward in the technology of building site machinery.

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  • Textile manufactoring technology
    Palazzina Uzielli, Textile manufacturing technology section

    Leonardo dedicated much time and effort to the study of the multi-stage and complex production cycle of textile manufacturing, inventing machines for twisting and doubling thread, for spinning and for weaving. Some of his designs are timely suggestions for improvements directed at the partial or complete automation of the main phases of the manufacturing cycle, whereas others are daring forays towards factory and mass-production systems.

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  • Mechanical clocks
    Palazzina Uzielli, Mechanical clocks section

    Fascinated by all the mechanical elements inside clocks which ensure the transmission of motion, Leonardo showed a particular interest in devices for the measurement of time. He performed what were almost anatomical dissections on them in a continual quest for solutions which could achieve ever-more sophisticated levels of automation.

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  • Leonardo and the Anatomy
    Palazzina Uzielli - section Leonardo and the Anatomy

    Leonardo explored in depth the human body, the machine from which he was fascinated and considered far more perfect than those created by man. He wanted to understand the functioning, composition and death-related dynamics. The master approaches anatomy studies to better represent the human body; but the curiosity and the soul of Leonardo's scientist will soon lead him to deepen his studies and his researches from the surface (muscles, nerves, bones) to the study of internal organs.
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  • War machinery
    Conti Guidi Castle, War machines section

    In 1482, Leonardo left Florence for Milan. It was at the court of Ludovico il Moro that he displayed his lively interest in the techniques and the tools for waging war, concentrating on searching for solutions which could increase the precision of shots and the firepower, as well as the speed of loading firearms.

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  • The bridges
    Conti Guide Castle, The bridges section
    Considering the crucial importance of watercourses, which are ways of communication in time of peace, but obstacles to be overcome in time of war, Leonardo devoted himself assiduously to designing proposals toward regulating them or overcoming them. 
    His bridges can be subdivided into three categories, based on their possible function: those for military use, such as the rapid-construction bridges, those designed for a utopian Ideal City, such as the bridge with overlapping carriageways and the rotating bridge; and finally, those built on commission, including the canal bridge with basins, requested by the City of Florence, toward planning the diverting of the River Arno during the war with Pisa.
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  • Mechanisms and tools
    Conti Guide Castle, Mechanisms and tools section
    Leonardo devoted a large proportion of his reflections to mechanics and the study of the component parts of machines, analysing the principles and criteria by which they worked.
    In his drawings, the individual elements of machines, such as screws, toothed or spur wheels, lantern gears, pulleys and springs, are combined with one another to give life to mechanisms and tools which can perform more or less complex operations.
    The study of movement and transmission of movement, leads Leonardo to conceive pulley systems for raising large loads, mechanisms for transforming motion and eliminate or reduce friction.
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  • Studies on flight
    Conti Guide Castle, Studies on the flight section
    Leonardo, during his first stay in Milan,began dedicating his attention to planning flying machines with flapping wings which would imitate the structure and the propulsive movement  of a bird’s wing.
    Leonardo devoted himself to the observation of birds, studying their flight techniques and their body structure. But, as man was incapable of producing sufficient energy to move the wings, it would not be possible for him to effect flapping wing or mechanical flight. And so he diverted his attention towards gliding or soaring flight, in which propulsion is totally entrusted to aerial currents.
    And so he devised the delta-winged craft, and the flying sphere.
    Leonardo also designed some scientific instruments such as the hygrometer and the anemometer, whereas for aerial navigation he used an inclinometer.
    Leonardo’s studies of flight led him to investigate the analogies between the behaviour of air and water, in other words.
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  • The bicycle and the self-proppelled cart
    Conti Guide Castle, The bicycle and the self-proppelled cart section
    The self-propelled cart and the bicycle are models of inventions of Leonardo’s or presumed such, interpreted in the past as means of locomotion.
    In actual fact, the self-propelled cart, is not a vehicle made to carry people or goods, but in all probability a self-propelling theatrical machine to be used in spectacular and complex scenographies.
    As for the bicycle, some critics attribute the drawing to Leonardo’s favourite pupil, nicknamed Salaì, whereas others believe it is the fruit of an interpolation perpetrated in the 1960s during the restoration of the Codex Atlanticus.
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  • Studies of Water
    Conti Guide Castle, The Waters section
    Water, a fundamental element in Leonardo’s geological concept as a tool of Nature’s activity, was often a central object of his studies from the earliest years of his stay in Lombardy. The scientist in him applied his knowledge of mechanics to the realization of works aimed at diverting, rectifying and regimenting water courses, as well as exploiting their hydraulic energy for milling or cottage industry. To this end he produced numerous cartographic surveys which, for the ways in which features are represented, are quite unique in the cultural environment of his time.
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  • Optics and perspective
    Conti Guidi Castle, Optics and perspective section

    Having undertaken the study of optics in order to resolve problems relating to pictorial representation, Leonardo was confronted with the numerous and heterogeneous theories of his predecessors, then opting for original ideas and independence from the dominant ideas of his time.
    In his Trattato della Pittura (Treatise on painting), da Vinci devotes himself to the study of the various types of light and shadow; in the codices of the Institut de France he reports an incredible number of photometric experiments accompanied by acute observations on the reciprocal influences of shadows and colours.
    The field in which Leonardo’s action assumes peculiar interest is that of the study of the phenomena of reflection and refraction he experiments with using flat and convex mirrors, he designs ingenious instruments with which he resolves problems of geometric optics and derives models which explain certain behaviour of light. He also performs interesting experiments with lenses and is one of the first people to use glass “lentils” to improve sight.
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  • Geometric solids
    Conti Guidi Castle, Geometric solids section
    Despite the fact that he had not received a thorough grounding in the principles of mathematics and geometry, it soon became clear to Leonardo that every rule on which we can gain insight through experimental observation needs a mathematical formula to accompany it.
    He considered the study of geometry the theoretical structure behind scientific research and an indispensable tool for his activities as a painter and an architect.
    The arrival in Milan of the mathematician Luca Pacioli in 1496 marked a major turning-point in Leonardo’s knowledge of mathematics, and he immediately began studying under him. At that time, Pacioli was working on the book De divina proportione, which was to be published in Venice in 1509. Leonardo drew a large number of illustrations of geometric solids for it, both the full versions, seen in perspective, and in the so-called ‘empty’ versions, in which only the linear structure is shown: from the simplest solids, such as the sphere, to very complex polyhedra.
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