Leonardo’s anatomical sketchbooks are scientific masterpieces full of lucid insights into the functioning of the human body.
“There were lots of investigative anatomists around at the time, and there were lots of artists who were interested in anatomy. But Leonardo pushed these two things further than anybody else. He was the supreme example of an anatomist who could also draw, or of an artist who was also a very skilled dissector. It was the union of these two skills in a single figure that made Leonardo unique.” (Martin Clayton, head of prints and drawings in the Royal Collection.)Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519) The muscles of the shoulder, torso and leg c.1504-6. Pen and ink, and red chalk | RCIN 912640Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519) Recto: The foetus in the womb. Verso: Notes on reproduction, with sketches of a foetus in utero, etc. c.1511. Recto: Pen and ink over red chalk. Verso: Pen and ink, with some offset red chalk | RCIN 919102Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519) Recto: The skull sectioned. Verso: The cranium 1489. Pen and ink over black chalk | RCIN 919057
Leonardo da Vinci actively studied human anatomy and was going to publish these works in a special treatise. There is an opinion that if Leonardo da Vinci’s uncannily accurate studies of the human body had been published in his lifetime, they would have changed the course of science.
However, for over 400 years after his death, an impressive collection of his anatomical drawings hasn’t been seen by general public. Recently a great number of them has been digitized by Royal Collection Trust.
View all of Leonardo’s drawings in the Royal Collection here.