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Learn about Leonardo da Vinci, 'Mona Lisa' at Museum of Science and Industry exhibitions

To get an idea of who Leonardo da Vinci was, it would be easier to rattle off who he wasn't. That's because da Vinci, a true Renaissance man, was interested in just about everything.

The human body and nature? That shows up in his studies of anatomy and flight. Physics and mechanics? Check out the various machines he drew in his myriad journals. Military engineering? Da Vinci was thought to be a pacifist but that didn't stop him from designing a machine gun, a tank, a missile and bullets. Music? He designed a portable piano that made the sound of a violin. He wrote backward to add to his mystique. He wrote fables and was a philosopher.

And then there's the art — the Mona Lisa, The Last Supper, his madonnas, his self-portrait.

With so many interests pulling at da Vinci, it's no wonder he never completed some artwork and machines.

"Unfortunately, the world had not developed the technology or materials to allow him to complete or even prototype a lot of his concepts and inventions," said Bruce Peterson, managing director of Grande Exhibitions, the company that developed the Da Vinci — The Genius exhibition, which opens Saturday at the Museum of Science and Industry in Tampa.

The exhibit will show in conjunction with "Secrets of Mona Lisa," a look at how da Vinci painted his most famous work of art.

With more than 200 items in the exhibition, including some 3-D animation of his most famous works, anyone who thought they knew all of the codes and secrets of da Vinci might come away with something new.

It goes without saying that da Vinci was way ahead of his time. The exhibit includes replicas of some 70-plus machines that da Vinci (1452-1519) hoped to create, categorized into various themes such as flight, civil engineering, hydraulics and music, optical and time, to mention a few. You'll see his designs for an automobile and a bicycle; an underwater diving suit complete with breathing tube; the ideal city with wide streets and ramps; a helicopter and glider.

He also designed a parachute — perhaps just in case the helicopter or glider didn't work.

You can look — and touch. This exhibit is meant to be interactive for kids and adults, but that doesn't mean you can jump on the replica helicopter and take off.

But there are pieces with cranks and handles to turn, knobs that can be twisted. And there will be costumed actors roaming the exhibit hall to explain how the inventions work and doing some hands-on inventing with visitors. There will also be evening museum events — one in which parents can drop off kids with a MOSI education staffer and enjoy the exhibit, and another in which parents and kids can have a sleepover in the exhibit hall.

Da Vinci actually lived to a ripe old age for his time. Peterson offered up several reasons for why he might have survived for 67 years: "He was unusual in most respects: 6 foot 6 inches (tall), left-handed, very humorous, handsome, vegetarian, pacifist, preferred the company of men." Anthony R. Pelaez, MOSI's director of education, added that even the 67 years weren't enough for the genius.

"(Da Vinci's) last complaint was that he didn't have enough time," he said.

His look at human anatomy did get him into hot water. "(Da Vinci) was more reviled for his pure anatomical sketches and drawings as they were so explicit and revealing, the likes (of which) had never been seen before," Peterson said.

Added Pelaez: "A lot of his work (studying the circulatory system) involved the use of human cadavers. That got him in trouble with the church."

A reproduction of one of da Vinci's most famous anatomical studies, Vitruvian Man, will be on display.

The 'Mona Lisa' only has 25 secrets? “Secrets of Mona Lisa shows the work of French engineer Pascal Cotte, who got permission to take the famous portrait off the wall of the Louvre Museum and photograph it using his 240-megapixel multispectral imaging camera. The camera uses infrared technology to scan the painting and determine how Mona Lisa was originally painted.

Cotte's examination found that the original painting had quite a colorful background. Viewing it under different types of light also shows details, like the lace in her dress and the curls of her hair. And by using this imaging, Cotte has uncovered what he says are 25 secrets within the painting.

Sherry Robinson can be reached at or (727) 893-8305. She writes for the Whoa, Momma! blog at

. Da Vinci — The Genius
and the Secrets of Mona Lisa

The exhibitions are on display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends from Saturday through May 31 at the Museum of Science and Industry, 4801 E Fowler Ave., Tampa. Ticket prices include the da Vinci exhibit, MOSI galleries and an IMAX Dome film: $25.95 ages 13 and up, $22.95 ages 12 and younger, $19.95 ages 60 and up, $7 MOSI members, special rates for adult groups and school groups.

Special events: Italian cooking demonstrations; a Wacky Inventor's Show at 1 p.m. daily; the Da Vinci Creators Club for kids and teens each Saturday; a Flying Machines Camp-In Feb. 26-27 for parents and children; and a Da Vinci & Drinks After Dark three-part lecture series with the first lecture from 6 to 9 p.m. March 19. A da Vinci gift shop will sell jewelry, books, posters, food (we saw some yummy olives) and cappuccino. For more information, call (813) 987-6000 or go to

Learn about Leonardo da Vinci, 'Mona Lisa' at Museum of Science and Industry exhibitions 02/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2010 3:33pm]
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