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Record-breaking da Vinci exhibition ends

Visitors inspect a machine gun designed by Da Vinci


The most successful exhibition in the history of the Swiss National Museum in Zurich has ended after attracting 260,000 visitors in four months.

Zurich was the last stop of a world tour of "Leonardo da Vinci". One of the exhibition's organisers, Bernard Schüle, told swissinfo he had expected a total of about 80,000 visitors, in line with attendance figures for previous high-profile exhibitions.

"We were very surprised," he added. "I believe the high level of public interest was because everybody has heard of da Vinci, and because the exhibition was designed to suit people of all ages."

It featured over 250 models, sculptures, sketches and paintings, and revealed the Renaissance artist as much more than just the creator of Mona Lisa and The Last Supper.

As the exhibits showed, da Vinci was also an architect and scientist who among other things is credited with the invention of the helicopter. He was the first to design a craft which was to rise in the air with the aid of a revolving rotor on a vertical axis.

The fact that his inventions are still relevant was shown at the exhibition by a video recording of a jump made last year with an exact replica of da Vinci's pyramidal parachute - which he himself was never able to see fly.

Since 1994, the exhibition has been seen in 11 countries by over three million people. Special additions on loan for its four months in Zurich included oil paintings from private collections and a folio of architectural and geometrical studies, belonging to the library of Basel University.

The folio is a fragment from the "Codex Atlanticus" and is regarded as an extraordinary document of da Vinci's activity during the last three years of his life at Cloux Castle in France, where he died in 1519 at the age of 67.

by Richard Dawson


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