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Da Vinci’s genius on display in CT

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LEARNING: French engineer Pascale Cotte explains some of the hidden secrets he discovered through his analysis of the Mona Lisa. Picture: Ian Landsberg

The Chavonne Battery Museum is the unlikely host for a travelling exhibition of the works of Leonardo da Vinci.

Unlikely, but apt, and not the strangest place Da Vinci – The Genius, has ever exhibited, it turns out. That distinction is reserved for the catacombs of Budapest.

This is the first time Grande Exhibitions have brought the educational exhibition to Africa.

Visitors can push, pull and interact with many of the exhibitions, which concentrate on Da Vinci’s engineering and scientific exploration.

Plasma touch-screen versions of his notebooks allow for a glimpse into his mirror-writing techniques and mysterious alphabet.

Da Vinci was fascinated with the concept of a bat’s wing, and there are several “flight machines” on display – with explanations about which ones work, and which do not.

His version of scuba gear doesn’t look too sturdy, but the winch cranes would not look out of place on a contemporary building site.

Then there are the ahead-of-their-time anatomical sketches which so heavily influenced the seminal medical textbook, Grey’s Anatomy.

The exhibition also lets you in on 25 secrets about his most famous and beloved painting, the Mona Lisa.

Pascale Cotte, a French engineer who is deemed a Vincian expert, was granted two years of unprecedented access to the painting, allowing him to photograph the canvas out of its frame with a 240 million megapixel camera.

Since 2006 he has been peeling away the layers of paint and varnish applied over the centuries to discover all sorts of facts about the painting, such as she did originally have eyelashes and eyebrows?

Most recently he has re-created the chair she sat on, which now forms part of the exhibition – Cape Town being the first place to see this particular item.


• Da Vinci – The Genius ends on February 9 at Chavonnes Battery Museum, Clock Tower, V&A Waterfront. A family ticket (two adults, two children) is R400; tickets for adults are R140 with discounts for students, pensioners and children aged six to 17. Book at the venue or www.webtickets.co.za.

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