Da Vinci's Viola Organista


Leonardo da Vinci included a sketch of the viola organista in his Codex Atlanticus, but never got around to creating it. His idea with the viola organista was to combine the fingerwork of playing an organ, with the sustained sound produced by stringed instruments. However, not even string players can create the continuous sound Leonardo aimed for in his ideas for the viola organista, for players sometimes pause briefly to change bow direction or pluck. The idea’s sketched out in the Codex Atlanticus were for a mechanical instrument that creates continuous polyphonic sounds, played using one’s fingers. Perhaps the mechanical barriers are what prevented Leonardo from bringing his viola organista to life.

Photo obtained using Wikimedia Commons.

Winternitz, Emanuel. Leonardo Da Vinci as a Musician. Yale University Press, 1982.

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