Leonardo da Vinci and the Anatomical Art World

vetruvianMancropLeonardo da Vinci was an Italian artist during the high renaissance. The Renaissance was the artistic style of the first half of the 16th century in Western Europe, and it was characterised by the technical mastery of drawing and conception, and mature humanistic content. Leonardo da Vinci’s work, through his study of anatomy, typifies both of these characteristics. According to the Edinburgh International Festival, it was anatomical scientific endeavour that piqued Leonardo’s curiosity more than any other form of scientific endeavour, even though he studied many other scientific aspects of art, including engineering. During his lifetime, Leonardo dissected over 30 corpses, both diseased and healthy, in order to get a fuller understanding of the human anatomy. He was one of the first artists to provide such accurate representations of the body through art. The image to the left is perhaps da Vinci’s most famous anatomical drawing — ‘The Vitruvian Man’, and the two different poses give an exact representation of the proportions of the human body.

Many of Leonardo da Vinci’s anatomical sketches also depicted the brain.

In comparison to Leonardo da Vinci, Fernando Vicente is a Spanish artist, also influenced by anatomy, whose work is characterised by the constant presence of the human figure. The fragility of the body is portrayed, making us realise, through art, how fragile humans actually are. The anatomy of the body reminds us that time here is finite and implies to the viewer that it is useless to accumulate wealth.


vicente_TNAn important concept behind Vicente’s work is to take the male anatomy and turn it into a female body, due to the often ignored and misrepresented nature of the female anatomy in comparison to the male. One of his oil paintings, Materia Rosa from his ‘Vanitas’ series, uses darker tones becoming progressively light from the bottom upwards, highlighting the main focus of the piece, the brain. And when examining the anatomy of the brain in this piece, the influence of da Vinci’s original brain sketch is very apparent. (Shown left is my painting – a copy of Vicente’s painting, Materia Rosa).

Thus, it is clear that medical illustration, specifically of anatomy, can be very important in artistic endeavour and that the two worlds of science and art are more linked than might be expected: both artists, Leonardo da Vinci and Fernando Vicente, although they have very different conceptual ideas, have both based some of their works around anatomy and an understanding of the human body. In addition to this, by looking specifically at anatomical art, the influence of da Vinci in particular and historic art in general over the modern art world becomes clear.

Millie, UVI Form




‘The Vitruvian Man’: The Granger Collection / Universal Images Group