Can one have perpetual motion? The search for the perfect machine, which would work with total efficiency and be self-sufficient ad infinitum, occupied natural philosophers and engineers from the Middle Ages onwards. Leonardo has a central place in this story. His designs of perpetual motion machines are intriguing applications of his understanding of the laws of motion and mechanics, expressing an important side of his multifaceted experiments in art, science and engineering.
The quest proved impossible in the nineteenth century with studies of thermodynamics, yet Leonardo is the first to state its impossibility. This exhibition explores new ways of analysing, reconstructing and contextualising Leonardo’s designs. Key drawings from his notebooks are featured alongside animated images and virtual models, as well as placed in the wider context of his oeuvre with tools for comparative scrutiny and reasoning. At stake is what state-of-the art technology can contribute towards our understanding of visual works and thinking processes in the fields of art and science.
The exhibition is a collaboration between The Vasari Research Centre for Art and Technology at Birkbeck (London), Ravensbourne University London, The Museo Galileo (Florence); and with the support of the Leonardo da Vinci Society (London).It is also part of the international celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519). It is the nucleus of a larger exhibition at the Museo Galileo in Florence (October 2019- January 2020).
Image: Codex Forster II, f. 91r © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Curatorial and Technical Team: Juliana Barone, Andrea Bernardoni, Nick Lambert, Joel McKim, Mike Smith, Jazz Rasool, Tomas Koza, Jacopo Tonini, Daniela Vespoli and Luisa Barattin.