The Overview

Renaissance man.  Leonardo DaVinci was the embodiment of this term.  From the world’s best known painting the Mona Lisa, to inventions like the helicopter, Leonardo was a man beyond the times in which he lived.  As such, I was instantly drawn to DaVinci HD the second I stumbled across it in iTunes.  So does the app live up to the standards of the Virtruvian Man, or will it succumb to the black plague?  Read on to find out.

The Features

According to the developer, DaVinci HD takes you through a virtual tour of his life work in 11 amazing categories.  It is a compilation of paintings, sketches, studies, and sculptures from the greatest man that ever existed.

All of the pictures are presented in HD and they cover a good selection of his art work and drawings, while providing details about the specific work.  The application also incorporates relaxing music that can be played in the background to add ambiance to your exploration of this offering.  In addition, DaVinci HD gives you the ability to save the pictures into several different places or email them if you’d like.  A Wikipedia link is provided for a more detailed exploration of the work that you’d like to learn more about.

The Breakdown

The Good

DaVinci HD is really best served on the iPad and is what this review focuses on.  With the larger screen, the iPad shows the artworks in either landscape or portrait mode and you can zoom in on specific regions of the work.  This larger view allows you a more detailed examination of each picture as you drag it around the screen and zoom in and out.

The application is broken into 11 categories.  They are Verrocchio’s Workshop, Professional Life, Old Age, Battle of Anghiari,  Studies to Paintings, Head Studies, Various Studies, Anatomical Studies, Study of Nature, Maps and Architecture, and Sculptures.  At the bottom of each piece of artwork is detailed information giving you the name, size, date of completion, technique, and where the piece is currently located.  A tab in the bottom right corner allows you to save the photo, save to a built in “bookmark” location, or email the photo to someone else.  The photos in each application sectioncan be played in a standard slide show format as well.

Another nice feature is the Wikipedia link.  Tapping on this takes you to the popular site and can obviously provide you with a wealth of additional details.  I found this to be the best and most useful inclusion of the application.

DaVinci HD includes classical background music that can be played, if one desires.  A Play and Mute button is provided on the bottom left side of the page allowing you to turn it off and on when you want.

* Side note: The developer also has an iPhone HD edition available under the exact name.  Don’t get them confused.  It is also $.99 cents in iTunes.

The Bad

When I found DaVinci HD in the App Store it had a lot of five star ratings so I was very excited and optimistic as I love his work.  However, after using it for a while, I hate to say it, but I am less than impressed.  In fact, I am downright disappointed.  Let’s start with what seems almost trivial, if not the most ill thought out part of the application.

DaVinci is a man that lived from 1452-1519 at the height of the renaissance.  His name is the very embodiment and essence the term evokes.  The first time I hit the music button, I was instantly hit with Bach’s Tocatta and Fugue?  Umm, what?  Did we just time warp?  Didn’t Bach live from 1685-1750?  If so, why am I listening to music from the Baroque period, which didn’t even begin until some 81 years after DaVinci’s death?  To me that would be like having an application about Monet with Def Leppard music as the backdrop.  The developer clearly should have included renaissance period music for a pure experience.  This instantly put me on notice of what else was to come.

The next thing that caught my attention is that there is no information section about Leonardo himself.  There is not even a brief biography page.  In my opinion, this should be included to at least to give some background about the man and his work.  Although, as was mentioned in “The Good” section, there are links to Wikipedia for the individual works presented, although one isn’t a link specifically to him.  I found this very odd for an application on such a historical figure.  In addition, without clicking on the link you get no other information about the artwork.  So if you don’t use the link, you essentially know nothing other than the basics.

Moving on I found that DaVinci HD really only covers Leonardo’s major artworks and only skims the surface of a couple of other areas.  The developer’s app description says, “Complete DaVinci Collection – You name it, it’s here.”  Not so.  After continuing to explore the application in more detail, I found that this description is even a little misleading.

There is no section regarding his inventions, and in actuality, almost nothing on his anatomical work and sculptures.  DaVinci is the man that drew plans for a helicopter, the parachute, hang gliders, a single span bridge, steam cannons, pumps, and musical instruments just to name a few.  Many of these things were drawn, or designed, hundreds of years before they ever became reality.  His work on human, and animal anatomy, were equally impressive.  It is documented that he did over 200 drawings on this subject.  Many done in stunning “photo like” detail beyond anything the world had ever seen.  So you’d be expecting a lot, right?

Well, in the “Anatomical Studies” section of the application there are a whopping 13 pictures.  That’s it?  How on earth can you provide just 13 of over 200 anatomical drawings and claim to be the, “Complete DaVinci Collection?” The sculptures section is even worse with just 11 photos.  You get the point, DaVinci HD is far from complete. I was hoping to see much more and was very disappointed to find the material missing.  This is a major omission in my opinion.

Lastly, many of the pictures included in the application are simply cropped sections of included full photos.  In other words, you get the same photo more than once, but just a smaller section.  At first I thought there was a reason.  I thought maybe to point out famous or documented details, brush stoke information or painting technique.  However, no additional description is given other than what was already provided before.  It almost seemed as if they’re filler to make the application appear larger, or as if it encompasses more.

The Verdict

All in all, I typically find it hard to knock a $.99 cent application too badly.  However, I am still somewhat dumbfounded by the number of five star ratings in iTunes.  I just don’t see what those people are seeing.  Even so, with some thoughtful additions the developer could turn this application into a winner, and I encourage them to keep moving forward.  There is a lot to work with.  What is provided is done in a good layout and does offer you a glimpse of the man, if only in the briefest of ways.

In the end, perhaps DaVinci is simply too large of a historical figure to adequately present in an application of this nature?  As one of the  iTunes reviewers correctly pointed out, if you wanted to learn about DaVinci why not just go to Wikipedia to begin with?  Most of the stuff in the application can be found there for free.  Add in the omission of any biography, a huge portion of his works, and the almost comical selection of music – and it’s hard to recommend this application.  If you have seen little of his work, DaVinci HD is a start.  However, if you are a more experienced art connoisseur, this app will leave you sorely disappointed.