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Codex Madrid I, folios 90v, 91r

Mechanical lion

It is impossible to say which of the the hundreds of machines described in the over 6,000 surviving Da Vinci manuscripts were actually built by Leonardo. In fact, there is no trace of many of them in history other than in the notes of the Genius.

The most famous project of which we have solid testimonies is the Mechanical Lion. This animal-like automaton was built on the commission of Pope Leo X so that it would walk, causing great astonishment, before King Francis I of France.
The meaning of this work was deeply allegorical: in the city of Lyon, the Lion would gift the King with lilies, the symbol of Florence, the hometown of the Pope.


There came to Milan the King of France, who asked Leonardo to do a bizarre thing, he made a lion that walked several steps, then opened its breast and showed it all full of lilies.

Giorgio Vasari (painter, architect and historian)
L3 Collection
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