Leonard Da Vinci drawings at the Morgan Library

New York’s Morgan Library has a show of Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings and a full notebook on view until February 2 2014. I was there for a tour of the museum buildings given by the architect Peter Pennoyer and lingered after to walk through a Charles Dickens exhibit and then on to the Leonardo room upstairs. The show has several outstanding portraits, rippling anatomical sketches of horses and, delightfully, one of insects. There’s an amazing original notebook of Leonardo’s as well. Unfortunately, even for someone with as delicate fingers as I have, they would not remove it from its glass case and let me leaf through the pages… the contents of which are made available only on a large touch screen.

The breadth of Leonardo’s interest and his understanding truly knock you out of your shoes. OK, I admit I can’t read his upside down and right to left Latin but I saw drawings of dams, power transfer, lever and weights, aeronautics and the flight of birds, architectural compositions, gearing diagrams, elaborate linkages with counterweights, some looking like pure mechanics, the next showing themselves to be investigations of bird wings, and in the middle of one page: a sweet as pie sketch of a leaf in red chalk. All of this stuff, even his unique handwriting was crisp and delightful, whether describing a bird whooshing and whirling through a breeze or the action of a weight held at different positions on an inclined plane.

Lastly, I share with you this leaf of a slightly different profile. The oak leaf of the Morgan family, on one of the lanterns in the back stair, recalling their motto: “from a little acorn, a mighty oak grows.”

-David Calligeros

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