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Today Leonard da Vinci is best known for painting the Mona Lisa, which has become a pop icon. He, however, was not just a painter, but a Renaissance man of many talents and excelled as an inventor, military engineer, sculptor, illustrator, architect, and scientist.
This comprehensive site for fourth- through eighth-graders, created by the Boston Museum of Science, brings Leonardo’s work alive through activities. It is divided into four sections: Inventor’s Workshop (Leonardo’s machines), Leonardo’s Perspective (Renaissance drawing techniques), What, Where, When? (a brief bio) and Right to Left (his curious habit of writing in reverse). The online activities include three Shockwave lessons in perspective and the opportunity to decipher one of da Vinci’s inventions. Is it a drill, a crane, a wrecking ball? Teachers and home schoolers should read the Introductory Letter for a complete lesson plan.
Kausal.com: Leonardo da Vinci
Martin Kausal’s biographical site traces Leonardo’s life from his 1452 birth in a Anchiano farmhouse, just outside the town of Vinci, to his death at age sixty-seven. Be sure to mouse over the photographs, as additional details will pop up when you do. Other highlights include an article exploring Mona Lisa’s mysterious smile, the possibility that Leonardo invented the bicycle and two streaming videos.
The Codex Leicester, written between 1506 and 1510, ” is a lively record of Leonardo’s thoughts. It embraces a wide variety of topics, from astronomy to hydrodynamics, and includes Leonardo’s observations and theories related to rivers and seas; the properties of water; rocks and fossils; air; and celestial light. All of this is expressed in his signature mirror writing, as well as in more than 300 pen-and-ink sketches, drawings, and diagrams, many of them illustrating imagined or real experiments.” On loan from Bill Gates, the Codex is on display at the American Museum of Natural History, and at this website.
Mona Lisa Images for a Modern World
Is a Mona Lisa teapot simply kitschy trash or is it art? Take a look around, and decide for yourself. As an alternative to reading the entire article, you can skip to the image gallery by following the link to the Table o f Images. The Teacher’s Guide offers dozens of great questions to stimulate discussion. “Should great works of art be protected from commercial use and ridicule? Why or why not? Does an advertisement ridicule a work of art when that work is used to sell, say, suntan lotion?”
National Museum of Science and Technology Leonardo da Vinci
The Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology in Milan has a great companion website to its massive 15000 piece collection. First stop is Leonardo’s Gallery, with photos of over a hundred modern models. Next is Virtual Leonardo, a three-dimensional exhibit where you can interact with the models, and “walk” around the virtual museum. A VRML (Virtual Reality Modeling Language ) plug-in is required. Other sections include a brief biographical time line, and the story of a bronze horse built in 1999 based on Leonardo’s drawings.