Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man set for 2013 Edinburgh International Festival
Extraordinary fusion of art and science at The Queen's Gallery
This article is from 2013.
The fusion of art and medical science is presented in an extraordinary collection of work in Leonardo da Vinci: The Mechanics of Man, part of the Edinburgh International Festival. Thirty sheets of multi-layered anatomical drawings, on loan from the Queen's Royal Collection, show the artist’s exceptional grasp of recently-discovered perspective, and for the first time these illustrations are displayed alongside CT and MRI scans, computer simulations and 3D films of the body in order to show the level of artistic skill and scientific accuracy achieved by one of the most advanced minds of the Italian Renaissance.
Leonardo's scientific investigation of the human form spanned some 25 years, and for these particular illustrations he studied the internal structure of the body by participating in the dissection of around 20 corpses at the University of Pavia. Leonardo’s meticulous drawings – from skeletal structures and musculature to the cardiovascular system, principal organs and a fetus in the womb – would not look out of place in a contemporary medical textbook. Initially, his investigations were intended to form a treatise on anatomy, but for a number of reasons this did not come to fruition and his drawings remained largely unknown until around 1900.
The illustrations, many of which are displayed in double-sided frames to allow both sides of the sheets to be viewed, are accompanied by extensive explanatory notes and memoranda in Leonardo's distinctive mirror-handwriting, filling every free space on the paper and giving us some insight into his thought processes at the time of this work. A catalogue and iPad app accompany the exhibition and offer translations of his text. The more medically-savvy reader will be able to determine the accuracy of these notes, but if you are unlikely to be performing any autopsies in the near future you will have to take Leonardo’s words at face value.
The Queen's Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, 473 2000, until 10 Nov, £6.25 (£5.70).