When most people think of Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci they think of his paintings The Last Supper or the Mona Lisa, the latter being one of his most enigmatic paintings ever created.
However, it’s one of his lesser known works commissioned at the end of his life, that I find simply the most fascinating – The Mechanical Lion. Da Vinci way ahead of his time, merged both artistic and technical skills perfectly. I actually find this work extremely brilliant and can only imagine what it was like to see something like this in the year 1515, it must have been mind-blowing.
The piece was a gift given to honor the newly crowned King of France, Francois I by Giuliano de’ Medici in Lyon. The Lion the symbol of Florence, its chest cavity filled with lilies (the fleurs-de-lis of France), was meant to symbolize the close relationship between the families.
The piece set in motion “…and it moved from its place in the hall and when it came to a halt its breast opened, and was full of lilies and flowers.”
Sadly, the original Lion has long since been lost, or perhaps is hiding in someones private collection somewhere, but the mechanical drawings for the piece survived. The Lion was reconstructed in 2009 at the Château du Clos Lucé and Parc, in France, as part of a Da Vinci exhibition.
There is also a secret spot on the Lions mane, that when stroked causes a trapdoor to open on the Lions side revealing fleur de lys. 🐱