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Leonardo Da Vinci: Anatomist @ The Queen's Gallery

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by Sandra Lawson (subscribe)
To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at damselwithadulcimer.wordpress.com and my theatre reviews at www.playstosee.com
Event: -
Leonardo painted internal bodies as well as external ones
The Entrance to the Exhbition
The Entrance to the Exhbition


Although Leonardo Da Vinci had trained as an artist in Florence, he also had a strong interest in anatomy, but his research and drawings were never published in his lifetime. However they were bought and bound into several albums in 1580 by Pompeo Leoni. One album containing all his anatomical studies was bought by the Royal Collection in the late seventeenth century and all of the pages were removed. The Royal Library at Windsor Castle is now the owner of almost all of these anatomical drawings and the current exhibition at the Queen's Gallery is the largest exhibition ever of this section of Leonardo's work.

The Binding that Held the Original Manuscripts
The Binding that Held the Original Manuscripts


He initially carried out his research by dissecting animals and by relying on traditional beliefs but he was gradually allowed access to medical schools and hospitals where he could work on corpses. In 1507-8 he was permitted to perform a post-mortem on both a centenarian and a two-year old child and to draw his own conclusions regarding the causes of death, as well as being able to observe the changes in an older cadaver.

Early Drawing of the Major Organs and Vessels
Early Drawing of the Major Organs and Vessels


He also studied the human brain by pouring molten wax into the ventricles, and studied the cardiovascular and the female reproductive systems. By 1510-11 he was dissecting corpses and illustrating his research with his drawings of most of the bones and muscles in the human body. It was also at this period that he drew a cross section of a foetus in the womb.

Leonardo's Sketches and Notes of the Foetus in the Womb
Leonardo's Sketches and Notes of the Foetus in the Womb


By 1512-13 he was studying blood flow through the aortic valve and came close to discovering the theory of circulation. Shortly afterwards he abandoned his anatomical studies and died in 1519. It would be nearly another four hundred years before his research was published and understood. This exhibition is a reminder that the man most famously remembered for The Mona Lisa and The Last Supper was more than just a Renaissance artist.

The Muscles of the Shoulder and the Arm and the Bones of the Foot
The Muscles of the Shoulder and the Arm and the Bones of the Foot


The exhibition at the Queen's Gallery is illustrated throughout with the use of Leonardo's drawings, sketches and notes and is accompanied by a free audio tour narrated by Sir Derek Jacobi. Further information on the website gives details of other talks and events associated with the presentation.
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Why? To understand that Leonardo da Vinci was more than a painter
When: 09.45 - 17.30 daily
Where: The Queen's Gallery
Cost: 9.25 plus concessions
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