A friend and I recently visited a local ‘new’ museum ‘The Leonardo’ in Salt Lake; it is based in the old library building when the Salt Lake City Library moved to its new location. The web site was not clear about the charges and it ended up costing double of what we thought. Spent the money and spent a couple hours looking over the exhibits.
I did spend a few minutes touring other parts of the museum and it looks like there is some interesting interactive hands-on stuff. And what I am about to say in no way reflects on ‘The Leonardo’ museum or its staff in any way, they are doing the job they were handed.
The reproductions of the paintings and drawings were superb; the paintings were life size giving a much needed prospective as to their physical scope. And the measurements were in both metric and inches, which I appreciate. The analysis of the Mona Lisa was extensive with wall size enlargements in a variety of lighting conditions gave remarkable detail. Even a photograph of the back of the Mona Lisa showing a couple of butterfly double dovetail repairs to a split in the original solid poplar panel on which it was painted. Even a color copy of the newly discovered ‘Leonardo Da Vinci’ painting on parchment, which is lovely [I can’t believe I used that word].
And now to the traveling exhibition called ‘Da Vinci The Genius, An Inspirational Exhibition’ created by Grande Exhibitions, The Anthropos Foundation, Italy and Pascal Cotte, France. My first problem was naming an exhibit after a town in Italy, that I can let slide. The placards placed next to objects were obviously written with a bias ‘a beautiful drawing of a terrible machine’, please don’t interject your personal opinions, just state the facts. Also one that particularly caught my attention was the placard describing a hydraulic saw, obviously from the drawing a water wheel operating an up down sawmill; and the object next to it was some sort of hands on mechanism that didn’t work and certainly wasn’t anything resembling the drawing.
Many of the objects had been constructed for a hands-on experience, which is a wonderful idea, however many of them did not work or had missing and broken parts. I had hoped to get some detail on the screw cutting machine, what I got was disappointing to say the least. No screw cutter which they called a die, machine couldn’t possibly work. And this was how it was with several of the devices that were ‘reconstructed’ in wood, metal and other materials.
Then the construction details immediately began to stand out, obvious modern planer marks on the wood, lots of shellac though, everything was slathered in shellac. Modern Philips head screws, hex head bolts and plumbing pipe for gun barrels. Lots of plywood, some thin Baltic birch and some A/C Doug fir, must have imported that stuff into Italy from North America.
And where did they come up with the size of how big to build them? While I can see that they can be of some benefit to actually seeing the object in person, if it were the correct size or scaled in such a manner as you can determine its actual size would be a big help in understanding the man’s obvious genius.
Somebody made a lot of money making those devices; it is too bad they didn’t invest the money into research and actually building them correctly. I mentioned it to a fellow who work there and after a bit of hesitation he said that they were mock-ups. I came up with another ups, kept it to myself and said they were actually mockeries.
The accompanying pamphlet was not terribly informative, lots of fluff plenty of white space for notes and drawings, I saw no one taking notes and advertising took up half of the ‘program’. The audio guide was an additional charge, which we declined, we had our own verbal conversations, many disparaging remarks.
All part of what I call ‘sport museuming’, I did complain as best I could, not wanting to offend the staff as they had nothing to do with the poorly thought out and ineptly constructed models of Leonardo’s sketches. Most people, wait nearly all people who view this exhibit will not know the difference, but I and my friend obviously do know the difference and I know many others that would also be disappointed as to how modern people interpret the past.
How difficult can it be, just use 500 year old tools, materials, and techniques? Nothing to it. Could I do a better job, well hell yes. Look, if you are going to do history, you better get it ‘exactly right’ or don’t bother at all.