25 Jun 2009

Da Vinci

Well I went to the Da Vinci exhibition at the Singapore Science Centre today. Kinda interesting examining all his artworks and inventions, as well as his sketches of machines and human anatomy.

They also had one big area dedicated to one of his most famous works, Mona Lisa. Someone actually used a multi-spectral camera with a super high resolution to take pictures of the painting, allowing the "invisible colours"(e.g. infra-red spectrum) to be seen, and even revealing hidden details, like a painted-over finger.

Also, the painting had been treated with varnish. The varnish deteriorated over the years, thus causing the original colours to appear different and make the painting look like what it is now. After having digitally removed the varnish layer, experts managed to reproduce Mona Lisa in her true colours(nice pun?). Instead of everything looking yellowish and dull, more vibrant colours are seen.

The "true coloured" version shows a much bluer sky, as well as slightly pinker skin. The blue paint used actually consisted of ground-up powder from the precious stone Lapis Lazuli! Most of the other colours used consisted of poisonous substances like lead and mercury, which gives an explanation of why painters of that time don't really live long.

From his other sketches, we discover how he designed the first parachute, army tank etc hundreds of years before they were invented by others. He was mainly fascinated with water, anatomy and flight, so most of his inventions were mainly hydraulic and flying machines, while other sketches showed clearly detailed diagrams of the human body, inside and out. Since they had no such thing as X-ray or CAT-scan machines then, he had to study real corpses and dissect them!

Of course, being so secretive and suspicious of others, Leonardo wrote in mirror-image handwriting(laterally flipped), making his notes harder to read. He may have deliberately added errors in his designs of his inventions, so that even if someone got hold of his notes and deciphered them, the invention still cannot be built correctly and thus the original design will still be safe with Leonardo.

The exhibition's still not over yet; it ends after 16 August, so you can still go down and marvel at Leonardo da Vinci's works at the Singapore Science Centre.