Friday, September 24, 2010

Da Vinci, The Genius - National Geographic Museum

Long before The Da Vinci Code, Leonardo - the Renaissance Man, not the Ninja Turtle - was my kind of guy. Scientist, Philosopher, Inventor, Artist. The man mastered every craft. Two of the most famous paintings in history, the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, were his. His contributions to the understanding of human physiology, as well as novel ways to study it, were groundbreaking. 500 years ago he was inventing helicopters (seen below), gliders, SCUBA gear, cars, tanks, and any number of gadgets and gizmos that would make Doc Brown's head spin.

You've heard of the phrase "jack of all trades and master of none." Leonardo was a jack of all trades and master of all. Good thing he didn't have any younger siblings because he would have been the subject of tremendous jealousy and resentment, rivaled only by Marsha and Jan Brady.

My fascination with Leonardo increased while studying in Rome over 10 years ago. On a side trip, I passed through Vinci (as in Leonardo of Vinci). Among the beautiful sprawl of Italian vineyards sat a modest Mediterranean villa that housed models of some of Leonardo's inventions. So it is no surprise that I was more excited than the average DC resident to visit the similarly-structured exhibit at the National Geographic Museum titled "Da Vinci, The Genius."

In addition to his inventions, the show included the full breadth of Leonardo's life. A full room was dedicated to the Mona Lisa, and another looked into his fascination with anatomy. For the kids, and the kids at heart, there was an interactive "workshop" that allowed you to discover first-hand the many practical gadgets that seemed to flow from Leonardo's imagination. We were also fortunate to see a screening of Nat Geo's film on his life.

Thanks to Dan Brown, many only think of Leonardo as a code-making artist much like many in my generation think he's a blue sash-wearing, sword-toting, pizza-eating turtle. In this case, the only thing more fascinating than this fiction is the reality.

J Says

Unfortunately for you, this exhibit has moved on to Des Moines, Iowa. However, the Da Vinci exhibit is just one of many fascinating exhibits that find a home at the National Geographic Museum (you may remember our trip to see the Terra Cotta Warriors). Many of them (like the Da Vinci exhibit) are free of charge. The next time you're looking for something to do and think you've seen every museum in town, head over to 17th Street NW. Starting today you can see over 15 species of live geckos as part of the exhibit "Geckos: Tails to Toepads."


Prof. the B. said...

I'm going to Des Moines next weekend! Thanks, J., for letting me know this exhibit is going to be there. I'm going to check it out.

Grace said...

Oh no, I missed it. Just like I missed the Terracotta Warriors. Argh.