Da Vinci's lion prowls again after 500 years

Fri Aug 14, 2009 11:21am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Estelle Shirbon

AMBOISE, France (Reuters) - A mechanical lion invented by Leonardo da Vinci to entertain the King of France has sprung back to life in the Renaissance genius's last home.

Da Vinci's original automaton is lost, but the animal has been recreated at the Chateau du Clos Luce, in the Loire Valley town of Amboise in France, where the master lived for the last three years of his life and where he died in 1519.

"We loved the idea that Leonardo was not only an artist and an engineer but also a fabulous stage director, a master of special effects," said Francois Saint Bris, president of the privately owned chateau, which is open to the public.

"He knew how to satisfy an audience with amazing creations. He was the George Lucas of his time," Saint Bris told Reuters in an interview, referring to the creator of the Star Wars movies.

Known around the world for the Mona Lisa and Last Supper paintings, Leonardo was also a prolific inventor who envisioned flying machines including a forerunner of the helicopter.

Eye witnesses from Da Vinci's time said a mechanical lion that could walk was presented to King Francois I by the Florentine community in the French city of Lyon in 1515, to celebrate a new alliance between Florence and France.

The symbol of Florence was a lion, and when the king lashed the mechanical beast three times with a small whip, its breast opened to reveal a fleur de lys, emblem of the French monarchy.

A similar lion -- it is not known whether it was the same one or a newer version -- made another appearance at a lavish party organized in honor of the king in 1517.   Continued...

 
<p>A rear view shows the mechanical workings of the recreated mechanical lion invented by Leonardo da Vinci built to entertain the King of France. Eye witnesses from Da Vinci's time said a mechanical lion that could walk was presented to King Francois I by the Florentine community in the French city of Lyon in 1515, to celebrate a new alliance between Florence and France. REUTERS/Chateau du Clos-Luce d'Amboise/Handout</p>