Mention the name Leonardo da Vinci and what comes to mind? The “Mona Lisa” or “The Last Supper” most likely. While it is for these works the Renaissance artist and inventor is best known, his portfolio of brilliance is much broader, as the Arizona Science Center portrays in its new exhibit “Da Vinci — The Genius.”

Developed over a 10-year span by Grande Exhibitions of Australia, the Anthropos Association of Italy and Pascal Cotte of France, this magnificent display offers a tangible way to experience da Vinci’s work, particularly his mechanical and engineering accomplishments.

Upon entering the exhibit, a vast array of life-size machines, based on da Vinci’s sketches, greet museum-goers.

At first glance this seems unremarkable, but as you wander the room, reading signs and trying to wrap your mind around the sheer scope of his intellect, the realization that da Vinci envisioned modern marvels like the helicopter, automobile, submarine and machine gun long before they were “invented,” begins to sink in. A dwarfing sense of awe and wonder quickly follow.

After the hall of machines, you’ll find a menagerie of other works, including the three-dimensional mirror (which you can walk up to and see yourself from all angles), some of his less famous paintings and sketches and a display of his military inventions.

According to Rob Kirk of Grande Exhibitions, “Da Vinci’s paid work was as a military strategist; he was paid to come up with ideas for military machines,” Kirk said. “That money allowed him to concentrate on other hobbies.”

Those hobbies included his anatomical and artistic endeavors, which flowed naturally out of his scientific mind. “For Leonardo, there could be no art without science,” one placard states.

That becomes intriguingly obvious as you scrutinize gigantic magnifications of the “Mona Lisa” and see how scientifically accurate da Vinci was with his art. This section, titled “Secrets of The Mona Lisa,” is based on the photographic work of French engineer Pascal Cotte.

Cotte invented a special multi-spectral imaging camera with infrared technology that he used to scan the painting and then virtually strip away hundreds of years of aging, displaying the painting’s original state. A 14-feet-by-10-feet enlargement reveals the full breadth of Cotte’s findings.

As if that were not enough, the exhibition closes with a 3-minute video uncovering the layers of work behind da Vinci’s world-renowned depiction of “The Last Supper.”

Though not as multi-dimensional as the rest of the exhibit, the video is fascinating and leaves a lasting impression of the divine gifts bestowed on one man.

Da Vinci once said, “It has long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.” This exhibit is an exclamation point for that statement.

Because of its more intellectual nature, the exhibit is recommended for children ages 7 and older. It includes some hands-on elements, but it is ideal for older children and adults who can fully appreciate the breadth and depth of the display. It is open through June 9th.


What: Da Vinci - The Genius

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, through June 9.

Where: Arizona Science Center, 600 E. Washington St., Phoenix.

Cost: $26.95 for adults, $20 for children ages 3-17, $8-$10 for members; includes admission to the center.

Information: (602) 716-2028 or

Contact writer: (480) 898-5629 or 

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