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The bones and muscles

3d footage of the hand©

During the winter of 1510 - 11, Leonardo was apparently working in the medical school of the university of Pavia, south of Milan, alongside the professor of anatomy, Marcantonio della Torre. He now had ready access to human material, and may have dissected as many as 20 corpses that winter.

Leonardo concentrated on the bones and muscles, analysing the body in purely mechanical terms and adopting a range of illustrative techniques to make his drawings as clear as possible. He depicted the shoulder stripped down in stages, and the hand built up layer by layer. From engineering Leonardo took the convention of the ‘exploded view’; from architecture, the principles of elevation, plan and section, then dividing these orthogonals more finely in order to depict the body from multiple directions.

All of these conventions are now routine in medical illustration and imaging. Presented alongside Leonardo’s drawings are modern images – MRI and CT scans, computer animations, 3D films – that demonstrate how close his concerns (and solutions) were to those of today’s anatomists.

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