Recently I had a chance to go to Leonardo da Vinci anatomical drawing exhibition in London. Well, the conclusion from this one is quite plane- Leonardo was one of a kind. I have no idea how one man can be so talented in so many things (mind you, that was probably at the same time his biggest downfall. He had hardly finished any of his projects because in the end he always wondered off to do something else. Though, even his unfinished works look better than half of the Louvre’s collection).
This exhibition was of particular interest to me because, as you might have noticed from previous post, I very much enjoy illustrations of nature and as a man is just another part of it I had to see these drawings.
Also, it so happened that I’m taking history of medicine for my humanities course, so I thought that would be useful (I know Leonardo is probably not the first person one would associate with human medicine but I personally would go as far as to say that he was one of the first human anatomist. The only problem is that because he never collected his works in a proper book he never was recognized as such).
Lastly, Internet is full of images from his notebooks and I just needed to see them first hand to make sure that they are as awesome as they look on Internet. I can now assure you they are and I would say they look even better than on screen. Plus, I don’t know why but I always imagined them to be of considerable size, which is actually not the case (and it makes sense, why would one carry notebook that is A3 size???). Most images are smaller than A4 and if any of them are larger there are clear marks of the paper being bent a few times. Apart from being quite small many of them are crammed with drawings and writings and quite a few look more like doodles than something he sat down and drew for long hours. E.g. one page has partially drawn bird wing and then in a corner of it there’s a tiny drawing of cathedral- seriously, this makes me feel quite miserable (!) that cathedral was probably sketched there just as an afterthought but it looks incredible!
Here are some snaps from the exhibition:
This one is actually quite interesting from a historical perspective. Leonardo made it before he had ever dissected a human body, so it illustrates the traditional beliefs at that period rather than what he actually had seen. The three bulbs in the head represent the brain as being thought of at that time. The first one is where senso commune is based (place for imagination, fantasy and sensory nerves). The second one is where information from senso commune coms and is processed, i.e. intelligence. The third is memory for storing everything from the first and second stages.
This one was quite large drawing but made so just for convenience. It is full of small holes apparently Leonardo bent the paper and made wholes in it to produce to identical contours of body and organs on both sides of the page.