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Leonardo da Vinci, a new film from Ken Burns airing on Nov. 18 and 19


Leonardo da Vinci, a new, two-part, four-hour documentary directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon will air Nov. 18 and 19, at 8:00-10:00 p.m. on PBS, and the PBS App. The film, which explores the life and work of the 15th century polymath Leonardo da Vinci, is Burns’s first non-American subject. It also marks a significant change in the team’s filmmaking style, which includes using split screens with images, video and sound from different periods to further contextualize Leonardo’s art and scientific explorations.

Leonardo da Vinci looks at how the artist influenced and inspired future generations, and it finds in his soaring imagination and profound intellect the foundation for a conversation we are still having today: what is our relationship with nature and what does it mean to be human.

Set against the rich and dynamic backdrop of Renaissance Italy, at a time of skepticism and freethinking, regional war and religious upheaval, Leonardo da Vinci brings the artist’s towering achievements to life through his prolific personal notebooks, primary and secondary accounts of his life, and on-camera interviews with modern scholars, artists, engineers, inventors, and admirers.

“No single person can speak to our collective effort to understand the world and ourselves,” said Ken Burns. “But Leonardo had a unique genius for inquiry, aided by his extraordinary skills as an artist and scientist, that helps us better understand the natural world that we are part of and to appreciate more fully what it means to be alive and human.”

Leonardo da Vinci follows the artist’s evolution as a draughtsman and painter, scientist and engineer, who used notebooks to explore an astonishing array of subjects including painting, philosophy, engineering, warfare, anatomy, and geography, among many others. Though he intended to publish his writings, he never did, but the film delves into those he left behind to get inside his mind as he strove to master the laws of nature and apply them to his endeavors.


Leonardo da Vinci will be available to stream on all station-branded PBS platforms including and the PBS App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. The series will also be available to stream on PBS Passport and the “PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel.PBS station members can view the documentary via PBS Passport as part of a full collection of Ken Burns films. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.  Leonardo da Vinci will be distributed internationally by PBS International.

Leonardo da Vinci is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, D.C. Directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon. Written by David McMahon and Sarah Burns. Produced by Sarah Burns, David McMahon, Ken Burns and Tim McAleer. Edited by K.A. Miille and Woody Richman. Cinematography by Buddy Squires. Narrated by Keith David. The voice of Leonardo is read by the Italian actor Adriano Giannini. The musician and composer Caroline Shaw wrote and recorded original music for the film performed by Attacca Quartet, Sō Percussion and Roomful of Teeth. The executive in charge for WETA is John F. Wilson. Executive producer is Ken Burns.

Corporate funding for Leonardo da Vinci was provided by Bank of America.  Major funding provided by Gilbert S. Omenn and Martha A. Darling; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; Robert & Mercedes Eichholz Foundation; and by The Better Angels Society and its following members: Stephen A. Schwarzman; The Paul and Sandra Montrone Family; Carol and Ned Spieker; Diane and Hal Brierley; Mario J. Gabelli; Michael and Sandy Collins; Tom and Bonnie McCloskey; John and Leslie McQuown; and Cappy and Janie McGarr.  Funding was also provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.