Leonardo da Vinci, “A Deluge,” 2017, Projection, Dimensions variable. [Original: Pen and black ink with wash, c.1517-18]. Royal Collection Trust © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Shanghai Himalayas Museum installation view, 2017


“A Deluge” is a rendering of a dramatic flood during which the sky appears to have opened up to a gigantic explosion, with streams of water falling from dark clouds. In the last decade of his life, cataclysmic storms were one of Leonardo da Vinci’s (1452-1519) favorite subjects, within both his writing and art. He was fascinated by the ways in which a huge storm demonstrated the futile struggles of man against the forces of nature. In “A Deluge,” the landscape is completely overcome by rain, leaving the scene unrecognizable. In the face of the capricious whims of nature, da Vinci has portrayed man as both ineffectual and powerless. Yet, he was also the first to imagine flying machines and concentrated solar power—centuries before such technologies could be realized. Recognized as a polymath with interests in the fields of architecture, mathematics, science, engineering, painting, sculpture, and astronomy Leonardo da Vinci was ingenious in his ability to imagine machineries not yet feasible.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was an Italian Renaissance architect, musician, anatomist, inventor, engineer, sculptor, geometer, and painter. He has been described as the archetype of the “Renaissance man” and as a universal genius. Da Vinci is famous for his masterly paintings, such as “The Last Supper” and “Mona Lisa.” He is also known for designing many inventions that anticipated modern technology, although few of these designs were constructed in his lifetime. Additionally, he helped advance the study of anatomy, astronomy, and civil engineering. Renaissance humanism saw no mutually exclusive polarities between sciences and arts.