Leonardo: In Flight

Eli Whitney Museum

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The 27th Annual Leonardo Challenge

Leonardo: In Flight

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Thursday, May 18th 2023 | 5:30-9pm | 915 Whitney Avenue
Food and Drink Outside. Art Auction Inside

Tickets available online and at the door.

It will make the first flight,
being launched from the peak of Mount Cecero,
this great bird,
filling the universe with awe,
filling all writings with its fame,
and eternal glory to the nest where it was born.

-Leonardo da Vinci, Codex on the Flight of Birds

Do you dream of flight?

On May 18th, we invite you to our site. A vibrant art auction will be held indoors, while a delicious spread of treats from local vendors will be served outdoors accompanied by music from Johnathan Moore. Funds raised by donors and artists will support the museum's efforts in teaching Leonardo's idea of improvisational creativity to K-12 learners, dedicated apprentices, and the entire Greater New Haven Community.

View the Art

The 27th Annual Leonardo Challenge: Kick-Off Event
Virtual Discussion
Thursday, May 11th, 7pm-8pm

Join us for a discussion with Dr. Sean Bradshaw, Pratt & Whitney, and Dr. Phillip L. Richardson, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

In this online talk, Bradshaw and Richardson will explore how Leonardo da Vinci’s observations of flight have influenced modern aviation. They will also draw connections to the importance of observation for educators and students. What is the future of flight?

Dr. Sean Bradshaw and Dr. Philip L. Richardson

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was a patient observer, meticulous note-taker, and inventive thinker. From the dragonfly to his dreams of flying machines—the tangible and intangible—Leonardo paid attention, drawing correlations between water and wind currents.

Leonardo was a passionate and dedicated learner, continually changing his perspective to better understand flight. Wind, lift, balance, and stability are challenging concepts to visualize, however innate they are to flight.

In his Codex on the Flight of Birds, Leonardo examined the acrobatics of flight. He observed that the slightest adjustment of the wing or tail produced dramatic effects. In this manuscript, Leonardo’s drawings of mechanical wings are found alongside his studies of the kite, a member of the Accipitridae family. Leonardo studied the kite’s aerial navigation of wind currents. He noticed the bird's use of updrafts to sustain thermal soaring.

An observation of the flight of the dragonfly:

“When one rises, the other lowers. The dragonfly flies with four wings and when those in front rise, and those behind are lowered. But each pair must by itself be sufficient to support all the weight.”

Leonardo da Vinci, Codex Atlanticus

Human mechanical flight was a recurring dream of Leonardo. Throughout his life, drawings of various mechanical flying machines appear in his notebooks. From helical flying machines to gliders, Leonardo drew from his inspirations and envisioned a life of flight.

Leonardo had the ability to focus intently on one thing and then apply his findings more broadly. The dragonfly is a much different flyer than the kite. He analyzed the four wing approach to flight and responded with a mechanical representation. Leonardo, the scientist, made a note in the margin of his notebook for follow-up research: “to see the flying with 4 wings, go to the ditches and you will see the black panicles [dragonflies].”

With live music by Jonathan Moore

Born in New Haven, Johnathan Moore has been playing the cello for nearly 17 years. Music has played a major role in his family life: his mother, father, and two older brothers are all musicians. Growing up surrounded by musicians, Moore explored different modes of expression and many instruments before settling on the cello.

Over time, he developed an unorthodox style through his cello performances. Moore often combines different sources of sound to tell stories through song. His goal as a cellist is to share new experiences through music with others.

Inspired by nature, Leonardo applied the concept of aerodynamics to envision human mechanical flight. Leonardo da Vinci's Codex on the Flight of Birds demonstrates the artist's power for observation, imagination, and invention.

The Artist's Challenge is to create a piece that embodies the idea of flight. In the backyard of the Eli Whitney Museum, we can observe the birds of East Rock Park, notice the changing water currents from the Lake Whitney Dam, and gaze at the occasional flying machine above. Apply Leonardo's watchful methods to your surroundings and imagine a work of art for the auction at our annual fundraiser.

Interested in participating as an artist? Click the button below:
Call for Entries

This event is made possible by sponsors from our local community. Sponsor and underwriter support is invaluable to helping the Eli Whitney Museum & Workshop offer scholarships to students in our programs year-round.

Alexandra Shor & John Bianchi
The David Carter Family
Kiran Zaman & Sabooh Mubbashar
Wiggin and Dana, LLP.
Pratt & Whitney
Michael Vieth & Yashoda Sharma
Alex Kleiner
Madelyn Ardito
Darrell Wilson
Don & Patrice Kirshbaum
Walter & Kathleen Zawalich
Ellen D. Shuman
John N. Deming
A. Douglas Stone
Annie Lin & Brendan Woo
Jennifer Levin-Tavares
Martha & James Alexander
Jack & Gloria Kurek
Anne & Nick Afragola
Jim & Betty Whitney
Mary Grey Maher
David Lewin & Suzanne Sobel
Elif Kongar-Bahtiyar

If you are interested in supporting this event through a sponsorship, contact 203.777.1833 or email manager@eliwhitney.org.

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