The Mangle of Bottega Marchi: unique instrument in the world designed by Leonardo Da Vinci
Mangano means machine that produces strength, as the etymology of the word indicates. It was built in 1633 as a primitive press used to smooth, iron and give shine to the canvas, making it compact. Since ancient times similar machines were applied in many fields: thanks to Philo from Byzantium – in the III century. BC – this machine was known by the Romans and applied in the field of mechanics; in the Middle Ages it was a war contraption of which Leonardo Da Vinci leaves considerable traces in its design tables. Traces are found in Bruegel’s paintings and its use follows in the 1800s as a lever to extract coal in English mines. It was also used as a device to move water in the mills.
How does Mangano work?
Its operation is due to the balance between the wheel and the boulder on its side. The wheel acts as a lever and moves the boulder which has the important task of ironing and compacting the canvas. Both weigh 55 quintals and, thanks to this perfect ratio, the mangle moves when the man enters the wheel with his own weight breaks the balance. The canvas is wrapped around wooden rollers called beams. The rollers are positioned below the boulder and follow the movement of the stone, back and forth, thus allowing ironing. It is the only weight of man to make the wheel move, thus facilitating this operation called fulling. Even today, before printing the canvas and after printing it, we proceed with this turn of the wheel to embellish the fabrics and obtain an excellent result
Mangano in the Roman period
The Romans more than in art (almost all borrowed from the Greek one), excelled in civil engineering (exploitation of mines, construction of bridges, roads, aqueducts, imposing palaces, circuses, theaters, etc…). Since the first century BC the massive presence of slaves in the empire was the foundation of the economic fortune of the patrician families. Even the machines were designed to exploit this wealth. Take for example the WINCH, a simple machine, made up of a wheel and a coaxial cylinder. By turning the wheel, the rope that wraps around the cylinder drags or lifts the weight. The higher the weight, the larger the wheel, and the greater the number of slaves working on it.
A striking example is the huge winch represented in the relief depicting a group of slaves on the wheel. (Profane Gregorian Museum. Rome)
The same machine has become the MANGANO by which and with the help of weights and cylinders, until the last century, canvases or drapes were suppressed to give them the luster or the wave or marezzo.