Textile machines show that Leonardo da Vinci was ahead of his time

Journalists look at a wooden model of a car designed by Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci on display at an exhibition in Florence's Science Museum, Italy. Florentine engineers have built three new machines, based on Leonardo's plans, that couldn't have functioned using the materials available during his life.
Journalists look at a wooden model of a car designed by Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci on display at an exhibition in Florence's Science Museum, Italy. Florentine engineers have built three new machines, based on Leonardo's plans, that couldn't have functioned using the materials available during his life.Fabrizio Giovannozzi / AP file
/ Source: The Associated Press

A museum devoted to Leonardo da Vinci is adding a display of three machines designed by the Renaissance genius to advance the textile industry but too far ahead of their time to function.

The machines, recently built by Florence engineers based on Leonardo’s plans, wouldn’t have worked in his day because of the materials available in the 15th and 16th centuries, Museo Leonardiano spokeswoman Palmina Trabocchi said. Wood would not stand up to repeated use.

“The idea was there, but the material wasn’t,” she said. “Leonardo saw the need to improve production. ... It shows his vision.”

One machine was designed to hammer gold and silver for use in fabrics. The second aimed to weave two strands of silk to make a single, strong thread. The last design envisioned a four-spindled spinning machine.

The three machines will be on display in a new building of the museum in Leonardo’s birthplace, just outside Florence. The exhibition opens Saturday, adding to a number of machines built from Leonardo’s designs already on display at the museum.