Leonardo da Vinci anatomy artworks set for display

Self portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci. Picture: Getty
Self portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci. Picture: Getty
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LEONARDO da Vinci’s anatomical artworks will be put to the test in a unique exhibition in the Capital this summer.

Drawings by the Renaissance genius, who gathered insights into the workings of the human body by dissecting scores of corpses and sketching his discoveries, will go on show at the Queen’s Gallery at Holyrood Palace.

His work will be displayed for the first time beside modern 3D films, CT and MRI scans, which show how accurate his early sketches proved to be.

Some of the anatomical drawings were exhibited in the Queen’s Gallery in London last year, but this exhibition – part of the International Festival – will be the first to compare his scalpel and pen results with modern technology.

Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man curator Martin Clayton said it fitted in perfectly with the festival’s theme of technology. He said: “We will be displaying the artist’s works alongside stunning examples of medical imaging, showing how the concerns and methods of the world’s leading anatomists have changed little in 500 years, and how truly ground-breaking Leonardo’s investigations were.”

Martin believes Da Vinci’s work on anatomy could have transformed medical knowledge if his notes had become public before his death in 1519.

Almost every bone in the human body and many of the major muscle groups are illustrated in Leonardo’s Anatomical Manuscript A, which will form the exhibition’s centrepiece.

In one example, Da Vinci demonstrates the layered structure of the hand through four dissections, beginning with the bones, and then adding the deep muscles of the palm, before applying the first and second layers of tendons which is something replicated by anatomists today.

One of the more famous drawings in the collection, of a baby in the womb, will be 
displayed beside a 3D ultrasound scan of a foetus.

Edinburgh International Festival director Jonathan Mills said the show was an exciting addition to the programme: “The festival is delighted to be working with Royal Collection Trust on this special exhibition.

“In a year when the Edinburgh International Festival is focusing on the myriad ways in which technology seizes and shifts the imaginations of artists, there is no better example of that than the genius of Leonardo da Vinci and his sophisticated understanding of the human condition.”

A spokeswoman for the Royal Collection Trust said the exhibition would be a unique addition to Holyroodhouse and would prove popular.

She said: “The festival theme this year is technology so we felt that this exhibition fitted in with the festival’s theme and it really shows off Leonardo da Vinci’s work in a way that has never been done before.”


• Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man, The Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, 2 August – 10 November 2013.

Anatomy of a genius

THE Mechanics of Man exhibition focuses on Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical investigations during the winter of 1510-11, when he carried out some 20 autopsies at the University of Pavia in collaboration with the professor of anatomy, Marcantonio della Torre.

His resulting studies are recorded in the Anatomical Manuscript A, in which he illustrates almost every bone in the human body and many of the major muscle groups.

Over a series of 18 sheets of paper, mostly double sided, da Vinci crammed more than 240 individual drawings of astounding clarity and notes running to more than 13,000 words in his distinctive mirror-writing.