The legacy of Leonardo da Vinci is most often characterized by the works of his brush — however, there is more to Leonardo than what meets the art lover’s eye. His notebooks overflow with scientific studies, the most amazing of which are his detailed drawings of human anatomy. Scholars have long assumed that Leonardo dissected corpses in order to better represent the human form in his painting. In this paper, I counter that assumption, making the following points:
- Leonardo’s anatomical findings did not significantly influence his painting.
- Leonardo was an accomplished scientist and engineer.
- Leonardo applied his knowledge of physics to human anatomy — in the same way that he applied it to his mechanical inventions.
- Leonardo was a scientist/engineer studying nature’s perfect machine, not a painter studying the human form.
- Leonardo da Vinci cannot be defined as having been primarily a painter, therefore, his studies of anatomy cannot be defined as mere extensions of his art.
I will highlight the multi-faceted mind of Leonardo da Vinci, and demonstrate that his detailed dissections and application of the laws of physics to human physiology would have been unnecessary had he considered himself a career artist.
Cothern, Amanda M.
"The Perfect Machine: The Reason behind the Anatomical Studies of Leonardo da Vinci,"
Vol. 7, Article 8.
Available at: https://uknowledge.uky.edu/kaleidoscope/vol7/iss1/8