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Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) trained as an artist Leonardo da Vinci in Florence, but when he moved to Milan in the 1480s his interest in scientific matters blossomed. He developed a plan to write a treatise on the human body, and between 1507 and 1513 dissected more than 30 corpses to make comprehensive studies of the organs and vessels, the bones and muscles, and the heart.

Had Leonardo finished his treatise, he would have transformed European understanding of the body. But at his death his studies remained unpublished among his private papers, and were little known until the twentieth century.

At the outset of Leonardo’s career, anatomical illustration was in its infancy. To convey the three-dimensional form of the body and to show how it moves, Leonardo had to develop a whole range of new illustrative techniques. His challenges were in many ways the same as those faced by anatomists today, and some of Leonardo’s drawings are remarkably similar in approach to modern medical imagery, such as MRI and CT scans and 3D computer modelling.

This exhibition explores Leonardo’s anatomical work and aims to show how it foreshadowed today’s concerns and methods.

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The major organs and vessels

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

Recto: The cranium sectioned. Verso: The skull sectioned

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The brain

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

The cardiovascular system and principal organs of a woman