Friday, December 4, 2015

lady in black gazes

lady in black gazes
beyond a woman in black
gazing at her

Mona Lisa gazes serenely out of her frame within a frame. The terra cotta walls are dimly lit, but a soft light falls on the face of the lady. Sitting on a bench in front of the icon, a woman contemplates the aura of Da Vinci's most famous painting. Although it's a reproduction, the experience still feels sublime. 

We traverse slowly through the Da Vinci Exhibition, currently on display at the old Union Station in Kansas City, Missouri.

In the corridor leading to the entrance, we sit in front of a large reproduction of one of Da Vinci's pages of drawings, bathed in rainbow lights cast on floors and walls like the stained glass windows inside a cathedral.

Inside, the first hall is filled with working models of Da Vinci's numerous inventions. Some invite the visitor to "Please Touch" to turn the mechanism. Da Vinci was fascinated with flight, studied birds and drew many designs. His aerial screw, "a spiral in the air that would rise high," was the predecessor of the modern helicopter.

The spiral, especially the spiral arising from the mathematical ratio, phi, also fascinated Da Vinci. 

We see this golden ratio throughout the exhibit depicted in the first letter of his last name emerging from a series of golden rectangles within golden rectangles. I could follow commentaries about the displays by audio through an app on my smartphone, but I choose the old-fashioned method of text and images.

Overlaid on Mona Lisa we see a triangle, golden rectangles and the golden spiral.

Da Vinci's other most famous painting, The Last Supper, is based on golden rectangles. The mural takes up an entire wall in the exhibit.


Leonardo was also captivated by light and its reflections. He used an eight-sided room of mirrors to study the human form in different poses. And he was the first to discover that the eye captures light to allow vision.

The room of mirrors was a popular place for taking photos. Wouldn't Leonardo have loved the digital camera?

Many of his inventions were extremely practical, or were at least meant to be: gears, pullleys, levers, bridges, wheeled vehicles, an armored tank, boat hulls, even a submarine. 

The underwater vessel, designed to sink ships, held only one person.

Every realm of life, from nature to human engineering, was explored by this true Renaissance man, including music. 

He wrote, ". . . painting is the servant to the eyes, the noblest of the senses . . . . when many voices meet and sing at the same time, they are a harmonic proportion, a delight in such a way that the auditoriums remain astonished. . . . Don't they know that the soul is made of harmonies and that harmonies are not created but by the concurrency or by the properties of the objects that are seen and heard?" 

So we see that Leonardo was always inspired by harmonic proportions in everything, whether natural or manmade.

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