Review: Leonardo da Vinci CD-ROM
Published by: CORBIS©
15395 SE 30th Place
Bellevue, WA 98007
Phone: (206) 641-4505
25 MHz 68030 or better
8 MB RAM (12 MB for Power Mac)
13" monitor or larger with 256 colors
2x CD-ROM drive
System 7.1 or higher
Brilliant! This word describes both the mind and work of Leonardo da Vinci and the multimedia production created by CORBIS. Don't spend your money on Leonardo and the "Titanic," this CD-ROM is a much better use of several hours and your hard earned dollars. The subject of this production is the best example of Petrarchs' true universal man of the Italian Renaissance. Da Vinci excelled as a painter, architect, engineer, scientist, philosopher, humanist, adventurer, and inventor. Even this list does not pay appropriate homage to the true genius of a man who was hundreds of year ahead of his time.
Above all else, he was able to dispel the 'darkness' of the mediaeval world and initiate the modern world potential of the human mind as an endless conduit for discovery and accomplishment. With Leonardo, there was the affirmation that "Man" was the measure of all things. Returning to the past accomplishments of the ancient Greeks and Romans, da Vinci reinforced the power and purpose of the worldly mind. Why is the sky blue? Why does the moon shine at night? Why does water swirl quickly to its inner vortex? These are several among many questions Leonardo da Vinci pursued during his lifetime.
Once we Mac users get past the facts that this project has been largely generated by a Microsoft affiliate, and the core material is based on the content of the purchase of da Vinci's CODEX LEICESTER by Bill Gates, we have to give full credit for a professional product and a very valuable contribution to our cultural heritage. And, you have to appreciate the purchase price of the CODEX--30,000 million US dollars! Yet this purchase price pales in light of the thoughts captured in this single 72-page manuscript and the associated Renaissance phenomena.
This production is user-friendly. A simple installation of QuickTime[TM] 2.5 and Indeo® Video R3.2, included on the CD, are all that is necessary to run the program. This leaves a very small 'footprint' on your hard drive as the program is run entirely from the CD-ROM. Both PowerPC and 68K installation options are available. Talk about simple! Touch any of the top numeric keys to adjust the sound volume. Tap "Esc" and you immediately exit the program. The "Help" control is as it says for every screen, and it gives you a tutorial for every section you are viewing.
After an informative introduction by Martin Kemp, Professor of Art History at Oxford University, and a personal statement concerning the profound understanding of Nature by da Vinci as seen by Mr. Bill Gates, you will be treated to a multi-level voyage through "Tours," the work of Leonardo da Vinci. Kemp's view is nicely reflected in his observation that da Vinci's method of interactive leaps is reflected in the format of this CD. The comparison of microcosm (the human body) and macrocosm (the universe) ends up being appropriately represented by the visual of a "tree" for the Main Menu.
The "Time Line" and other snippets of the program may mislead the novice to the history of the start of Renaissance. Several images and historical benchmarks lead one away from da Vinci to Massacio to Magritte. Although this may confuse the first-time viewer, the relevance to modern thought and imagery is only reinforced by the different time frames and imagery. This is truly a voyage of discovery.
There exists a simple "Guide" for using this CD. As with the other options in this production, you are given a well-narrated guide for navigating through the CODEX, da Vinci's limited painting portfolio, and the general context of the Renaissance period within which he worked. The real heart of the production is the 72 page CODEX LEICESTER. Six areas of exploration were recorded by da Vinci: 'Dynamics of Water,' 'Rivers and Seas,' 'Body of Earth,' 'Astronomy,' 'Atmosphere,' and 'Experiments'. This may sound pretty academic and boring to those of you who are 'working' the latest of the 3-D 'Shoot-em-ups', but trust me, you'll spend more hours of benefit exploring the 'tree' than pushing the kill button. The visual and animated re-enactments of Leonardo's experiments are well worth your time in front of the screen. Often the 'old theories' are nicely reinforced by contemporary photographs and historical scenarios.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the CD-ROM is the creation of the Codescope[TM], a unique viewing and translation tool designed by CORBIS whereby users are able to translate the CODEX LEICESTER into Italian or English, and allowing the reversal of the trademark da Vinci mirror writing associated with Leonardo's' sketchbooks. This tool allows for an easy exploration of all pages of the journal. This visit is easy and reminiscent of an "arm-chair" museum visit. The six themes mentioned above can be easily explored with this unique multimedia tool.
A trip to the "Leonardo da Vinci Gallery" would usually garner interest in the "Mona Lisa." I find the visual of the "Madonna of the Rocks" to be most representative of the paintings. The foreground figures may be interesting, but it is obvious that da Vinci was more intrigued with painting the "grotto" and landscape beyond. The enigma of the landscape was a fixation of this genius. It is also interesting that da Vinci was working with a geocentric theory of the heavens--long since proven inaccurate. He even postulated that the reflective quality of the moon was a result of a water covering. Gosh, didn't we just discover that there is a deposit of water on the moon. Not the water postulated by da Vinci...but he was not far off.
The "Virtual Eight-Room Gallery Space" harbors the intensive nature and accomplishments of Leonardo da Vinci's ideas and theories concerning the earth, water, heavens, and their interrelationship. This area of the CD contains over one hundred of his works and all of his paintings. One additional facet of this aspect of the production is the ability to 'zoom' in on particular images. Put your machine on millions of colors and enjoy the positive aspects of digitalized images.
While on this topic, CORBIS is setup to be a virtual bank of visual imagery ranging from twentieth century Ansel Adams photographs to Northern European paintings such as Jan van Eyck's "Arnolfini and Bride" and everything in between. One can discover that CORBIS is one of the largest digital archives on the 'net. This gives great potential for the high school student wishing to illustrate an essay or a corporation seeking that perfect image for a brochure.No, I'm not trying to sell this corporation.I merely support the preservation of anyimage associated with our culture andheritage. Kudos to any corporation orindividual who attempts the same.
My initial response to this production wasthat it was too brief. Upon a more completeanalysis, I came to the conclusion that thisproduction would hold the interest of boththe novice and scholar. "Leonardo da Vinci"is definitely a worthwhile addition to yourCD-ROM Library. And, how can one leavethe review without that famous enigmaticsmile?
Copyright ©1998 Robert Madill, <firstname.lastname@example.org>. Mr. Madill is aProfessor of Art and Architectural History on the faculty of Architecture atthe University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Manitoba.