The largest ever exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's drawings on the human body is to go on display at the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace, showing the Renaissance artist was more than skin deep.
LONDON, ENGLAND, UNITED KINGDOM (APRIL 30, 2012)(REUTERS) - Leonardo da Vinci may be best known for painting the world's most enigmatic smile, but a new exhibition at Buckingham Palace explores the Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, inventor and scientist's breathtaking anatomical studies of the human body.
"Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist", which runs from May 4 to October 7, features 87 anatomical drawings by Leonardo, the largest collection to ever go on show including a detailed portrayal in red chalk of a child in the breech position and pencil drawings of the human skull.
The body of work, which was never published in the artist's lifetime, would have made Leonardo one of greatest Renaissance scientists to this day, said Martin Clayton, exhibition curator at The Queens Gallery.
Leonardo's desire to be "true to nature" saw the artist dissect 30 corpses and compile hundreds of sheets of drawings of the human body, but his research stayed among his private papers until 1900, when they were finally published and understood by the scientific world.
"Had Leonardo published, he would have been the most important figure ever to publish on human anatomy and we would regard him now on par with Galileo or Newton," Clayton told Reuters.
"Leonardo has a reputation as a great painter who did a bit of science on the side, almost like a hobby, people think of his flying machine and submarine".
Clayton said the exhibition shows that Leonardo's work as an anatomist was deeply serious, incredibly detailed and hugely important.
The artist's drawing of the cardiovascular system was compiled in several stages, sketched first in red and then black chalk, his fingerprints still visible on the paper.
Leonardo's drawings have been in the possession of the English monarch's Royal Collection since 1690.
"I think people are so seduced by Leonardo's paintings that one will always expect it to be a sell-out exhibition," Clayton added.
"But this exhibition shows the other side of Leonardo. It shows that as well as being a consummate painter, he was also a great scientist."
The exhibition is on display to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and also to honour the physical body for the Olympics, which are set to take place in London this summer.