Leonardo da Vinci : The Anatomist

Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy At the Queens Gallery, Buckingham Palace.

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After one of the most successful and popular Leonardo exhibitions at the National Gallery last winter, the Queen’s Gallery presents a closer inspection of Leonardo’s intriguingly accurate anatomical drawings helping to reveal more of the Renaissance master that he truly was.

In terms of practicalities- fewer queues, more tickets, free audio guide- this exhibition is far superior to the one at the National Gallery. No paintings were shown, only drawings belonging to the Queen’s private collection. Essentially there was nothing new or exciting about these works, no dramatic publicity or corporate sponsorship. As cringe-worthy as it sounds, the drawings really did speak for themselves.

Everyone knows who da Vinci is; the inventor, the painter of the Mona Lisa, the man who wrote backwards in his journals and of course, the star of the filmEver After. Many do not know of his outstanding grasp of the human anatomy in which his studies vastly differ from his contemporaries, with his constant questioning of where life comes from.

Had his work been published he would have been one of the most important anatomists of his time. Alas, it was not and to many his recognition of the fact that the aortic valve pumps blood in only one direction or that women are sexually equal to men because they produce an egg necessary for procreation are merely two trivialities in the grand notion of the great Leonardo da Vinci.

Leonardo’s ability to make even the most clinical drawings seem life-like is pure genius. Seen together with his sketches of living people (see his sketch for the head of Judas where Leonardo goes beyond simple anatomy) Leonardo surpasses superficial examination. You really do have to see it to believe his skill not only as an anatomist as this exhibition so clearly demonstrates, but as an impeccable draughtsman who captures life.

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