From the collection Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist, Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London, 4 May to 7 October 2012. It’s mind-boggling how ahead of his time he was.
AROUND 1513, Leonardo da Vinci made detailed drawings of the heart and wrote nearly 2000 words of notes on the organ in his characteristic mirror handwriting. Intrigued by the way the aortic valve opens and closes to ensure blood flows in only one direction, he set about constructing a model.
“First pour wax into the gate of an ox’s heart so that you may see the true shape of the gate,” he wrote. With hardened wax as a template, he recreated the structure in glass. By pumping a mixture of water and grass seed through the glass he was able to observe how the widening at the base of the aorta caused swirls of seeds. These eddies, he believed, helped to close “the little doors of the heart” - the three cusps of the valve.
These studies are among 87 original drawings on display in Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist, the largest ever exhibition of his anatomical works. According to curator Martin Clayton, it is time da Vinci was celebrated as a scientist. “Many of Leonardo’s drawings have been regarded as science in the service of art,” he says. “I want to make the point that this is proper science.”
Posted on Tuesday, May 8th 2012