Main Broadcast Channel
France 5

A film by Mark Daniels


Leonardo da Vinci is the archetypal Renaissance man within our collective imagination. As a painter, sculptor, philosopher, engineer, urban planner, botanist, and anatomist, he left us with over six thousand pages of notes and drawings containing hundreds of inventions and experiences in a wide variety of disciplines. The extent and profusion of his research are a testimony to his genius, or at the very least to his insatiable curiosity. The precision of some of his anatomic and mechanical drawings remained unrivalled until the 19th century.

Today, the rediscovery and study of manuscripts from Greek Antiquity, the Arab Empire, and Ancient China—who predate the Italian master by more than a millennium—are shedding new light on his work. His underwater breathing system had been devised by the Assyrians nearly 3000 years earlier. His parachute is very similar to the one described by Abbas ibn Firnas in Córdoba, Spain, in the year 875.

Is it a coincidence or plagiarism? Should the legend of Leonardo da Vinci, the genius inventor, unique and isolated, be reconsidered? The truth, as is often the case, is not as simple as it appears…

Cast & credits

Produced by Fabrice Coat & Michel Spavone


With the participation of the Radio-télévision belge de la Communauté française (RTBF), Histoire and France Télévisions

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