Smithsonian to Exhibit da Vinci’s Study of Flight

Da Vinci's Codex on the Flight of Birds
Da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds


The Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. will display Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds from September 13 to October 22, 2013. This notebook contains his study of birds in flight and his drawings on the possibility of humans using flying machines.

Da Vinci wrote this in 1505-1506, some 400 years before the airplane was invented. This item will be placed near Orville and Wilbur Wright’s 1903 Flyer, the first successfully powered aircraft in the world. The museum will have interactive stations which will allow visitors to see all 18 pages of the codex.

This exhibit is part of a larger initiative, “2013–Year of Italian Culture in the U.S,” under the auspices of the President of the Italian Republic. Several organizations have worked together to make the display of the da Vinci codex possible: The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Italian Cultural Heritage and Activities, the Embassy of Italy in Washington, D.C., and the Biblioteca Reale (Royal Library) in Turin, Italy–from where the codex is on loan.

Da Vinci is most associated with his internationally known oil paintings such as Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. However, he was also known for his sketches and studies on plant studies, war machinery, architecture, and human anatomy. His drawings of the human skeleton, internal organs, and muscles are some of the first ever done. His inventions, observations, and descriptions, including the codex on flight, took up 13,000 pages.

Leonardo da Vinci was born in April 15, 1452, in Vinci, Italy. He was an apprentice for six years, from age 14 to 20, to Andrea del Verrocchio of Florence. Verrocchio was a painter, sculptor, musician, goldsmith, and perspectivist. After his apprenticeship, da Vinci was recognized as a master artist in the Guild of Saint Luke and set up his own studio.

Da Vinci’s Codex on the Flight of Birds has only been shown in the United States one other time. For further information, please visit the Smithsonian website.

Written by: Cynthia Collins, Senior Museum Correspondent

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

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