Leonardo da Vinci invented numerous devices that he never built.
The Italian Renaissance polymath referred to this one as the viola organista. The general idea for the instrument was to correlate keyboard fingerwork with the sustained sound of a stringed instrument, but among the dozens of ideas pursued by the gifted artist and inventor, this was one he never explored further.
Nearly 100 years would pass before an organist in Nuremberg would build the first functional bowed keyboard instrument, and many others would try throughout history to realize Da Vinci’s vision with various levels of success.
Nearly 500 years after da Vinci sketched his plans for a musical instrument he dubbed the Viola Organista, Polish concert pianist Slawomir Zubrzycki spent more than 5,000 hours making da Vinci’s idea a reality.
In 2013, Zubryzcki debuted the instrument at the Academy of Music in the southern Polish city of Krakow. As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald, Zubryzcki said, “This instrument has the characteristics of three we know: the harpsichord, the organ and the viola da gamba.”