Throughout the dense, handwritten pages of Leonardo’s notebooks we find designs for machines of all kinds, from the functional to the fantastic. Scholars still debate how many of these machines Leonardo actually built. Some were exercises in engineering designed to expand and cement his knowledge; others, we think, were pure flights of imagination. It can be said that if an artist dreams in pictures and a poet dreams in words, then Leonardo dreamed in machines. With more than 60 models in the exhibit, we bring those dreams to life.
With the discovery of one of Leonardo’s lost notebooks in Madrid in 1967, we learned of his extensive work in the elements of machinery. Before Leonardo, machines were designed individually to meet particular needs. He was the first to design component parts that could be used in many different machines – mechanisms such as cogs, flywheels and reduction gears. In this notebook he experiments with different ways of dealing with “weight, force, thrust and impact” or, as he called them, “movement’s children.”