Musical Instrument Designed by Leonardo da Vinci Comes to Life

December 11, 2009

A group of da Vinci enthusiasts have constructed the first functional model of a harpsichord-viola designed by the Renaissance man more than 500 years ago.

Designers from Leonardo3 – Milan-based company – have constructed the instrument from drawings in the Codex Atlanticus, the largest set of da Vinci’s drawings and writings. Unfortunately half a page of the design is missing; the left side was lost.

The harpsichord-viola combines a harpsichord keyboard with the bowed sound of a viola. It offers the same advantage the piano has over the harpsichord as the harpsichord-viola can play chords like a piano.

The instrument has a leather harness so it can be strapped to the player’s chest so that it can be played while the player is walking. The player’s movements pull a looping bow, rather like a fan-belt in a car. When the player presses the keys, they press internal strings into the bow, creating sound.

The new instrument is now being displayed at the exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci’s Workshop” at the Discovery Times Square Exposition in New York.

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