Leonardo da Vinci's accomplishments in architecture, painting, drawing, sculpture, engineering, and scientific studies are legendary. Leonardo da Vinci: The Anatomy of Man: Drawings from the Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will present a selection of the great Renaissance artist's considerable output of anatomical drawings, among his finest creations on paper. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II possesses some 600 drawings of various subjects by da Vinci, the finest such collection in the world, which is housed in the Royal Library, Windsor Castle. This exhibition which opens September 19 and continues through November 29, includes 23 sheets, many of which are double-sided, comprising 41 different drawings that incorporate hundreds of studies and commentaries by the artist. Of all the men of genius who played a part in the Italian Renaissance, none is more remarkable than Leonardo da Vinci. Master of any discipline to which he set his hand, he exemplified the spirit of enquiry to which so much of modern knowledge owes its origin. Universally recognized as one of the pivotal figures in the development of Western art, he was also one of the most original and perceptive anatomists of his own or any other time. Whereas his paintings were widely known, and copies disseminated all over Italy and beyond, only a few friends and associates had any intimations of the extent of his medical researches. He never worked as a professional anatomist, never taught the subject, and never published any of his discoveries. These drawings, prime examples of Leonardo's studies of anatomy over a 25-year period, proclaim just how great the observational powers and intellectual capabilities of a single human being can be. Although conceived by Leonardo primarily as scientific studies, the drawings in this exhibition are consummate works of art in their own right. Upon Leonardo's death in 1519, the contents of his studio, including several thousand drawings, passed to his favorite pupil. Many of the drawings were later bound into volumes, which were actively sought for the collections of the courts of Europe. Exactly when the anatomical drawings entered the English royal collection is uncertain, but a volume containing all 600 sheets now in the Royal Library is clearly recorded as being in the possession of Queen Mary II in 1690, a year after she and her husband, King William III, ascended the English throne as joint monarchs. In the 1970s, the drawings restorers at the Royal Library devised a technique by which the sheets could be publicly exhibited without risk to the drawings, making such a traveling exhibition possible. Leonardo da Vinci: The Anatomy of Man: Drawings from the Collection of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It was written by Martin Clayton, assistant curator of the Print Room, the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, with Dr. Ron Philo, senior lecturer on anatomy at the University of Texas at Houston.
Royal Library at Windsor Castle
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston