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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The bones and muscles of a bird's wing c.1512-13

RCIN 912656

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Four studies of the bones of a bird's wing, with notes on its construction; a small drawing of a bird flying, with notes on its action; lines bearing proportionate relationships to each other, and fractions expressing those relationships.

For much of his career Leonardo dreamed of constructing a flying machine, but he had little understanding of aerodynamic lift, and assumed that a bird is kept aloft by upwards air currents or by flapping of the wings. The drawings here are dissection studies of the bones and muscles of a bird’s right wing, probably intended to inform the designs of the flying machine. In the right margin is a sketch of a bird in flight, the subject of Leonardo’s entire notebook known as the Codex on the Flight of Birds (Turin, Biblioteca Reale). The anatomy of a bird’s wing is also studied in RCIN 919107v.

Text adapted from Leonardo da Vinci: A life in drawing, London, 2018