Challenges of Technology <

Mechanics is the paradise of mathematical sciences,
because through it one reaches the fruit of mathematics

Leonardo da Vinci
Paris MS E, fol. 8v. Translation: Elizabeth Hughes




Leonardo was able to develop his technical understanding and knowledge from an early age as an apprentice in the workshop of the gifted painter, sculptor, and goldsmith Andrea del Verrocchio, an expert in various artistic techniques and materials. Leonardo admired the machines that Filippo Brunelleschi had developed for the construction of the dome of the Florence Cathedral. (The copper sphere of the dome lantern that Leonardo later referred to in his writings was made in the Verrocchio workshop.) When Leonardo moved to Milan in 1482, where he had successfully applied for a permanent position at the Sforza court, primarily as a military engineer, he deepened his technical knowledge in many areas. An ambitious autodidact, he studied contemporary specialist technical literature and became a prototype of the artist-engineer. Two predecessors who particularly impressed him were Mariano di Jacopo Taccola (1382–1458) and Francesco di Giorgio Martini (1439–1501), both from Siena. The latter, like Leonardo, was a versatile artist-engineer in court service. Leonardo’s technical interests were fundamentally influenced by the extensive writings of Roberto Valturio (1405–1475), which belonged to his library. Leonardo’s wide-ranging interests, his love of experimentation, and his power of imagination, but not least his outstanding skills as a draftsman, soon enabled him to surpass his role models and opened up previously unknown possibilities in the visualization of technical relationships.


Leonardo's Berlin Library: Section 7 <

Taccola (Mariano di Jacopo) and Francesco di Giorgio Martini.

Disegni di macchine

ca. 1480




This double page is part of a 268-page parchment codex with a collection of drawings based on the manuscripts of Taccola (De ingeneis) and those of Francesco di Giorgio Martini. Drawn by a confident hand, they were probably made by an artist from Francesco di Giorgio’s workshop, perhaps Guidoccio Cozzarelli. Such model machine drawings were widespread in Renaissance workshops. Shown here is a two-armed hoist powered by a crank and a cog wheel, and on the right, an adjustable mobile hoist.



    Scaglia, Gustina. 1992. Francesco Di Giorgio. Checklist and History of Manuscripts and Drawings in Autographs and Copies from ca. 1470 to 1687 and Renewed Copies (1764–1839). Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 70–73.


    Vecce, Carlo, ed. 2019. Leonardo and His Books. The Library of the Universal Genius. Exhibition catalogue Museo Galileo, Florence, 6.6.–22.9.2019. Florence: Giunti, 91, no. 5.2.