What do we know about Leonardo da Vinci? He is the guy who painted the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, as well as someone who gets the term “the Renaissance Man” constantly assigned to him. Unfortunately, this vague view of da Vinci is common among most people.
What’s truly ironic is that no matter what one studies at school or what job one holds, everyone should be familiar with at least some aspects of Leonardo da Vinci’s work. Having studied painting, sculpture, architecture, music, mathematics, engineering, anatomy, geology, cartography, botany, and writing, da Vinci left an impact on almost every subject area imaginable. Indeed, he holds the title of the Renaissance Man for a reason.
“Da Vinci: Shaping the Future” is a unique exhibition that presents us with da Vinci’s journey as a polymath. It will run daily 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m. until May 2015 at the ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. At just $19.00 for a regular ticket, we are given a chance to explore five areas of Leonardo’s work: mathematics, natural sciences, architecture, technology, and music.
The world’s largest collection of Leonardo’s writings and drawings, the Codex Atlanticus, awaits you at the end of the exhibition. These original works have been studied by experts for centuries, and after traveling across the world, they have finally made it to Southeast Asia.
Warning: this is not an exhibition that you can just walk through without thinking. It requires you to open your mind and explore the different aspects of da Vinci’s work.
What you’ll see: geometrical diagrams of platonic solids and toothed wheel as well as attempts of squaring a circle
For Leonardo da Vinci, mathematics was a subject that could be applied to both art and science. Although initially da Vinci simply experimented with geometric forms, he did find a practical use for them. In art, geometric patterns developed into decorative designs. As for science, da Vinci used mathematics to transform straight lines into curved ones because he viewed straight lines as something artificial that does not exist in nature. His unique approach also led him to find solution in transformation, or geometry in motion. For example, he was famous for trying to construct a square with the same area as a circle.
As a result, da Vinci’s works became an early form of topology, an important field in modern mathematics.
What you’ll see: sketches of anatomical dissections and water movement, studies of the human eye, and models of flight machines
Leonardo da Vinci was fascinated by nature. He studied the movements of water and air, as well as geological forms and botanical diversity of the earth. He would use his understanding of water’s properties to develop hydraulic tools. In his botanical studies, he linked natural phenomena to painting, which reflected his belief that science and art could not be viewed in isolation.
He was also captivated by the beauty of the human body, its proportions and movement. Although da Vinci started studying anatomy to accurately represent the human body in his paintings, he was soon dissecting cadavers at hospitals for the sake of science. Similarly to his fascination with human body, he studied the form and function of birds and their wings, which eventually influenced the design of his flight machines. Da Vinci believed that only through careful observation could one obtain true knowledge, an approach that he used in all aspects of his studies.
What you’ll see: model of ideal city and sketches of urban planning
Da Vinci used his understanding of the natural world and of human anatomy in creating man-made constructions. He viewed the city as the human body, each component of which had to be healthy for it to function. Besides constructing cities, da Vinci used principles of art, science, and technology to design military fortifications. To create centrally planned churches, da Vinci experimented with the principles of geometry to create both practical and elaborate designs.
What you’ll see: models of military fortifications and da Vinci’s unique bridge design
It is no surprise that Leonardo da Vinci treated machines as intricate organisms which he designed according to perfect proportions. As an engineer at the court of Milan, da Vinci created dozens of civic tools, helped by his observations of construction sites. Da Vinci’s technological projects were as beautiful as they were functional. Though he was a pacifist, da Vinci was asked to engage in many projects on military strategy.
What you’ll see: musical instruments invented by da Vinci and animations of sound waves
When Leonardo da Vinci arrived at the court of Milan, he presented himself as a musician.
He used his studies of projectile motion in military machines to describe sound travel and looked into optics for sound echo and reflection. Not only did da Vinci observe sound travel in different mediums such as water, but he also compared the design of musical instruments to the anatomy of the throat. This, once again, demonstrates his desire to connect all the disciplines that he studied.
So why the name “Shaping the Future”, you ask?
Da Vinci’s ability to find connections between seemingly unrelated disciplines creates the world we live in today. As proof of this, scattered across the exhibition are five installations by contemporary artists, each one of whom drew inspiration from da Vinci’s work. Coming from the UK and Singapore, their installations reveal different ways to apply da Vinci’s thinking to the modern world.
Daily: 10:00am – 7:00pm
Including public holidays
Last admission at 6:00pm
Public Guided Tours
Saturdays: 11:30am & 5pm
For more information, visit http://www.marinabaysands.com/ArtScienceMuseum