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The Flow of Ideas: Leonardo and Water

Friday, May 20, 2016 - Saturday, May 21, 2016

This CMRS Ahmanson conference, organized by Professor Constance Moffatt (Pierce College) and Dr. Sara Taglialagamba (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Sorbonne) explores the topic of water in the thought and works of Leonardo da Vinci.

The topic of water appears in an obsessive way in Leonardo’s activity as both artist and scientist. Water is the foundation of life in the world of Nature. Through movement it expresses its eternal and dynamic vital force, leading to the comprehension of the mysteries and the laws that animate the universe. Leonardo wrote: “What is water? Water is, among the four elements the second less heavy, and the one of second fickleness. It never has rest until it joins up to the marine elements, where, not being annoyed by the winds, it settles down and rests with its surface equidistant from the center of the world” (Ms. C, folio 26 v). Water, then, becomes in his mind a theme of subtle and constant naturalistic and scientific investigation, overflowing as a dynamic and metamorphic element of reality.

In his works we see a continuous interrelation between art, science, anatomy and technique: his studies on the motion of water and on the dynamics of vortices, the capacity and the speed of currents in channels and in rivers, the distribution of water from the mouths of channels, the percussion of water on the banks of rivers, its employment in operations of military strategy, its erosive force, the correlation of the veins of the earth and those of the body. Water can also be a fascinating element for architecture, as his fountains and marvelous hydraulic devices prove.

Advance registration not required. No fee. Limited seating.

Friday, May 20, 2016 | Royce Hall, Room 314
8:30 Registration, coffee, fruit, pastries
9:00 Welcoming Remarks
Lee Walcott (The Ahmanson Foundation), Managing Director Emeritus
Massimo Ciavolella
(UCLA), CMRS Director
Constance Moffatt (Pierce College), Conference Co-Organizer
Sara Taglialagamba (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Sorbonne), Conference Co-Organizer
SESSION I – Chair: Constance Moffatt (Art History, Pierce College)
9:15 Damiano Iacobone (Architectural Historian, Politecnico di Milano)
“Leonardo and Water: A Short Historiography”
10:00 Break
10:15 Paolo Cavagnero and Roberto Revelli (Engineering, Politecnico di Torino)
“‘For not making this science useless’: Learning From Nature to Harness the Power of Water Flow”
11:00 Break
11:15 Leslie Geddes (Art History, Tulane University)
““Leonardo on Experiments”
12:00 Victoria Steele (Curator of Humanities’ Centers, Programs, and Collections, UCLA)
“A Brief Overview of UCLA’s Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana”
12:15 Lunch Break
SESSION II – Chair: Joanna Woods-Marsden (Art History, UCLA)
2:00 Mark Rosheim (Robotics, Ross-Hime Designs, Inc., Minneapolis, Minnesota)
“The Bell Ringer: Leonardo’s Digital Hydraulic Clock”
2:45 Break
3:00 Sara Taglialagamba (Art History, Sorbonne, Politecnico di Milano)
“The Viscosity of Water”
3:45 Break
4:00 Jill Pederson (Art History, Arcadia University)
“Of Lakes and Labyrinths: Leonardo and the Gardens at the Castello Sforzesco”
Saturday, May 21, 2016 | Royce Hall, Room 314
9:30 Coffee, fruit, pastries
SESSION III – Chair: Sarah Cantor (Italian, UCLA)
10:00 Francis Wells (Heart Surgeon, Papworth Hospital, University of Cambridge)
“‘With what words will you describe this heart so as not to fill a book?’: Vortices, Fluid Drag and Linear Flow Modelling”
10:45 Break
11:00 Olga Corti (Surgeon, Independent scholar, Florence)
“Flowing Through the Veins, Running Between Banks: Blood and Water”
11:45 Break
12:00 Claudio Giorgione (Curator, Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinci, Milano)
“Leonardo da Vinci and Waterways in Lombardy: Observations, Surveys and Proposals”
12:45 Lunch Break
SESSION IV – Chair: Massimo Ciavolella (Italian and Comparative Literature, UCLA)
2:30 Irving Lavin (Art History, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton)
“Leonardo’s Watery Chaos”
3:15 Break
3:30 Domenico Laurenza (History of Science, Istituto di Storia della Scienza, Museo Galileo, Florence)
“Out of the Water: the Birth of Man and Earth. Leonardo Between Aristotle and Kircher”
4:15 Break
4:30 Beth Stewart (Art History, Mercer University)
“Interesting Weather Ahead: Thoughts on Leonardo’s ‘Deluge’ Drawings”
5:15 Concluding Remarks


Download a PDF of the printed program.

UCLA Library Special Collections is exhibiting ‘Master of Water:’ The Flow of Water through Leonardo’s Notebooks. This exhibit displays images of water in the Leonardo manuscript facsimiles from the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana, as well as some of the early book titles that Leonardo had in his library that could have influenced his studies and his inventions related to water. Visit UCLA Special Collections on the basement level of Young Research Library, Room A1713, 10 am – 5 pm, Monday – Saturday. Our appreciation and thanks to Jane Carpenter, Octavio Olvera, and Neil Hodge for creating this exhibit in conjunction with this conference.

Self-pay parking in lots 2, 3, 4, and 5. More parking information at https://main.transportation.ucla.edu/campus-parking/visitors

Funding for this program is provided by the Ahmanson Foundation and the Franklin D. Murphy Chair in Italian Renaissance Studies. CMRS relies on the generosity of donors for support of its programs. Please contribute at cmrs.ucla.edu/giving.


Friday, May 20, 2016
Saturday, May 21, 2016
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Royce Hall 314
10745 Dickson Plaza
Los Angeles , CA 90095 United States