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Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519)

Recto: The muscles of the arm, and the veins of the arm and trunk. Verso: The muscles of the shoulder, arm and neck c.1510-11

RCIN 919005

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The elderly and apparently dead man portrayed at the top of the sheet was presumably the subject of a dissection, but elsewhere on the page the corpse is posed as if alive and in action. Leonardo knew that in death the muscles relax, and that to capture the form of the body accurately it must be imbued with the tension of life. The main drawing at upper right shows the torso with only the skin removed, revealing the superficial veins. A number of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings show elements of the body from front, back and side. In principle, such orthogonal views give complete spatial information, but they can leave the viewer with little feeling for the true three-dimensionality of the body. Here Leonardo turns the body through 180 degrees in eight views, to give a wonderfully concrete sense of the superficial muscles of the arm and shoulder.