Da Vinci's lion prowls again after 500 years

Da Vinci's lion prowls again after 500 years


Da Vinci’s original automaton is lost, but the animal has been recreated at the Chateau du Clos Luce, in the Loire Valley town of Amboise in France, where the master lived for the last three years of his life and where he died in 1519. “We loved the idea that Leonardo was not only an artist and an engineer but also a fabulous stage director, a master of special effects,” said Francois Saint Bris, president of the privately owned chateau, which is open to the public. “He knew how to satisfy an audience with amazing creations. He was the George Lucas of his time,” Saint Bris said. Known around the world for the ‘Mona Lisa’ and ‘Last Supper’ paintings, Leonardo was also a prolific inventor who envisioned flying machines including a forerunner of the helicopter. Eye witnesses from Da Vinci’s time said a mechanical lion that could walk was presented to King Francois I by the Florentine community in the French city of Lyon in 1515, to celebrate a new alliance between Florence and France. The symbol of Florence was a lion, and when the king lashed the mechanical beast three times with a small whip, its breast opened to reveal a fleur de lys, emblem of French monarchy.

Da Vinci left no plans or sketches of the lion, although he did leave detailed drawings of mechanisms that give insight into how he may have made it work. Using the drawings as well as the written descriptions, master maker of automatons Renato Boaretto recreated the animal for the Chateau du Clos Luce, where it can be seen as part of a Da Vinci exhibition that lasts until January 31, 2010.

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