The machines of Francesco Di Giorgio: demonstrations of the world
By Alice C. Guess
Master’s Thesis: McGill University, 1998
Abstract: This thesis is an exploration of the chapters of Francesco Di Giorgio’s Trattati di Architettura, Ingegneria e Arte Militare, that pertain to mechanical devices. While it is difficult to imagine actually constructing Di Giorgio’s machines from the drawings and descriptions in his treatises, given their apparent inefficiencies and ambiguities, the Aristotelean science and philosophy referenced throughout the Trattati provides a basis for looking at them as demonstrations of concepts beyond their immediate applications for architecture and engineering. By considering these devices in Di Giorgio’s own terms, terms suggested by his own experiences, as well as his writings and paintings, strong associations can be made to the science, philosophy and the theology of his time.
Introduction: One day in the year 1475, Francesco Di Giorgio bowed before the Duke of Urbino and presented him with a finely tooled leather sheath of drawings. Frederigo ran his fingers along the edges of the smooth, thick paper, reading the opening page inscribed in his honour. Flipping each page over carefully, he examined the curious portfolio. The pages were full of drawings, no text, just hundreds of drawings of machines.
The Duke recognized the familiar machines of war, and the winches and cranes not unlike those used in the construction of his palace, but there were also pumps, watermills, water wheels and countless other combinations of gears, cogs, and cylinders. He raised his head from the folio and smiled knowingly at the architect of his palace, his military comrade and fortification adviser. The capacity for invention represented in the numerous devices was impressive. However, the duke, a learned man, must have understood that more than just the skill of a talented engineer was demonstrated on the pages that lay across his knees. Frederigo nodded in approval at Francesco Di Giorgio, the man who had just given him his world.