Da Vinci's Mechanical Lion Brought To Life After 500 Years

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Thanks to written eyewitness accounts and mechanical drawings left behind by the artist, Leonardo da Vinci's fabled mechanical lion walks again after 500 years.

Click to viewOriginally designed to entertain the King of France, the robot has been recreated as part of an exhibit at the Chateau du Clos Luce in France—Leonardo's last residence.

Using those drawings as well as the written descriptions of the lion, master maker of automatons Renato Boaretto recreated the animal for the Chateau du Clos Luce, where it can be seen as part of a Da Vinci exhibition that lasts until January 31, 2010.

Boaretto's lion, which is life-size, is wound up by hand like an old-fashioned clock. Then, it takes about 10 steps forward, shakes its head from side to side, opens and closes its jaws and wags its tail up and down.

A secret mechanism is built into its mane so that when a particular spot is stroked, a trapdoor swings open on the lion's flank and several fleur de lys pop out.


Described in the Reuters article as "the George Lucas of his time" Leonardo was famed for winning over crowds with mechanical "special effects" (although, there is no evidence to suggest that he tinkered too much with his past successes and ended up disappointing his fans). [Reuters]