Leonardo da Vinci Sketches the Design for a Tank

Leonardo probably drew this model of a war machine for a presentation to Ludovico il Moro, “The Moor”, Duke of Milan, around 1485.

The drawing in the original manuscript therefore appears neat and well laid-out.

The armoured car, like other inventions such as the scythed chariot, has a classical pedigree. Like other Renaissance artist-engineers, Leonardo looked to the classical world for inspiration. He would then go beyond classical models and devise his own solutions.

When a place is besieged I know how to cut off water from the trenches and construct an infinite variety of bridges, mantlets and scaling ladders, and other instruments pertaining to sieges. I also have types of mortars that are very convenient and easy to transport.... when a place cannot be reduced by the method of bombardment either because of its height or its location, I have methods for destroying any fortress or other stronghold, even if it be founded upon rock. ....If the engagement be at sea, I have many engines of a kind most efficient for offense and defense, and ships that can resist cannons and powder.”

— Leonardo