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Arts & Culture

NOVA: Decoding Da Vinci

Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man from 1492.
Courtesy of Jakub Krechowicz
Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man from 1492.

Stream now or tune in Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021 at 9 p.m. on KPBS TV + Sunday, Jan. 31 at 9 p.m. & Monday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. on KPBS 2

Discover the science behind Leonardo da Vinci's masterpieces — and Mona Lisa's legendary smile. Leonardo da Vinci was the quintessential Renaissance man, accomplished in engineering, fine art, and biology, among other disciplines.

Today, his centuries-old “inventions” seem to predict our modern age: contraptions similar to parachutes, army tanks, hang gliders, and robots fill his notebooks.

But the man and the techniques behind masterpieces like “Mona Lisa” remain a mystery. On the 500th anniversary of da Vinci’s death, NOVA goes to Italy to explore his life and work.


Then, in the basement of the Louvre, scientists and art restoration experts deploy cutting-edge technology to (digitally) peel back the layers of da Vinci’s works. Ultimately, they’ll reveal the impact of his science on his art and his art on his science.

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