Rare Da Vinci anatomy drawings to go on display at Buckingham Palace

Leonardo Da Vinci
’s talents as an artist, scientist and engineer have been admired for centuries.   The man who gave us the Mona Lisa was also able to produce detailed drawings of his concept for a helicopter and theorize about solar power.   But did you know about his talent as an Anatomist?

Article-2137367-12D85939000005DC-983_470x667A new exhibition of Da Vinci’s anatomy drawings will be held at Buckingham Palace, London.  The British Royal family has owned the drawings since the 17th century but the Queen has decided to publicly display this huge collection during her Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year. 

The number of anatomical drawings he made shows how keen an interest Da Vinci had in trying to understand the human body.  He dissected many cadavers, over a period of time, to carefully illustrate his findings and shed light on how the human body worked.  He became extremely skilled at revealing the hidden intricacies of human internal organs and used many different types of surgical instruments, some of which, he invented himself.  Although in limited supply, he clearly had help from hospitals in obtaining dead bodies so that he could continue his work.  Many of his studies would have been carried out on the bodies of executed criminals.  The anatomical drawings he made show he was a man committed to capturing every last detail whilst trying to make sense of what lay before him.  

Article-2137367-12D85135000005DC-122_470x641Da Vinci (1452-1519) was fascinated with many questions that had puzzled the medical world of his time.  He desperately wanted to understand how blood was transported through the veins and he spent many hours trying to understand how the heart worked. When you consider that the mystery of how the aortic valve works was only solved with the help of MRI scans during the late 20th century, you can begin to understand what a vast undertaking this was for anyone who lived during the 15th Century.

Da Vinci was able to establish the cause of death in a man thought to be 100 years old.  Prior to his death, the old man had told Da Vinci that he didn’t feel anything was particularly wrong with him but that he was just getting very weak.  Da Vinci was able to dissect the dead man’s body and made the first ever diagnosis of coronary vascular occlusion.  Da Vinci noted that there was a partial blockage of an artery to the heart as well as arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and cirrhosis of the liver

Da Vinci had a peculiar way of noting his discoveries.  He preferred to jot his findings down in ‘mirror writing’.  Some say the great man was dyslexic but others have pointed out that ‘mirror writing’ is a genetic trait, often found in left handed people. .. Are you a 'Mirror Writer'?

220px-Da_Vinci_Studies_of_Embryos_Luc_ViatourDa Vinci’s son sold many of his father’s papers, after his death in 1519, which were eventually thought to have been bought by King Charles II.  Since 1690, they have become part of the Royal Collection which contains around 268 anatomical sketches – 87 of which, are thought to have never been seen publicly since they were drawn by Da Vinci.  

The collection, Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist, is on display at The Queen’s Gallery in Buckingham Palace, London, until October 2012.  For further details, please visit www.royalcollection.org.uk


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