Leonardo da Vinci - The Father of Anatomic Art

Last Editorial Review: 10/28/2002

There is a film called Ever After, a remake of Cinderella, now showing in the movie theaters. This new version of the old tale has some novel twists. Here Cinderella is based on a real person. She is a strong, competent woman and the fairy godmother is replaced by a man: Leonardo Da Vinci.

It is doubtful that Leonardo ever played this role in real life. However, he did play many other roles including that of architect, engineer, scientist, inventor, poet, sculptor, painter and anatomic artist.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) first became interested in anatomic art when he was asked by a Veronese anatomist named Marc Antonia Della Torre to do the illustrations for a text of anatomy. Della Torre was to do the dissecting and Leonardo the drawings. But Della Torre died unexpectedly.

Not to be deterred by Della Torre's demise, Leonardo assumed both tasks. He dissected and drew more than 10 human bodies in the cathedral cellar of the mortuary of Santa Spirito under the secrecy of candlelight, necessitated by the Church's belief in the sanctity of the human body and a papal decree that forbade human dissection.

Leonardo recognized that a scientific knowledge of human anatomy could only be gained by dissecting the human body. This was in striking contrast to the pronouncements of Galen and other anatomists.

Da Vinci injected the blood vessels and cerebral ventricles with wax for preservation, an anatomical technique still used today. His drawings of the human anatomy have long been considered as unrivaled.

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