• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 1885

    Anatomy As Art: The Dean Edell Collection

    5 October 2007, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 3

    LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519). Quaderni d'anatomia, I-VI: Fogli della Royal Library di Windsor, pubblicati da C.L. Vangensten, A. Fonahn, H. Hopstock. Christiana: J. Dybwad, 1911-1916.

    Price Realised  


    LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519). Quaderni d'anatomia, I-VI: Fogli della Royal Library di Windsor, pubblicati da C.L. Vangensten, A. Fonahn, H. Hopstock. Christiana: J. Dybwad, 1911-1916.

    6 volumes, 2o (408 x 274mm). 169 plates (7 double-page), printed in color. Original quarter pigskin, printed boards; uncut. Provenance: Dr. Sophus Torup (presentation inscription from the editors on front free endpaper of each volume).

    LIMITED EDITION, number 22 of 250 numbered sets. PRESENTATION
    COPY FROM THE EDITORS, each volume inscribed on front free endpaper to Professor Dr. S. Torup, and signed by each of the editors. Da Vinci "made over 750 sketches of all the principal organs of the body, drawings which were adequately reproduced only in recent times. His notes accompanying the text were in mirror-writing. Text in Italian, English and German" (Garrison-Morton 365).

    During three or four periods in his life Leonardo made over 750 anatomical drawings of all the principal organs of the human body. He also produced some drawings of animal anatomy to contrast it with its human counterpart. Leonardo began recording the results of his private dissections in Milan around 1485. These primarily concerned the organs of the senses, especially the eye, a subject that would have been of special concern to an artist. In 1499 Leonardo returned to Florence where he appears to have access to bodies from the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. In a note from about 1505 Leonardo states that he had dissected at least ten bodies. During a second period of anatomical work in Milan Vasari states, in a passage quoted by Choulant-Frank, that Leonardo collaborated with a young anatomist Marcantonio della Torre, who taught at the Pavia medical school. It is possible that Leonardo intended to produce an illustrated anatomical textbook with della Torre; however this project would have been cut short by Torre's death from the plague in 1511. The drawings from Leonardo's second anatomical period in Milan concentrated on the anatomical basis of movement--what might also be called bio-engineering--typically recording the anatomy from various different perspectives. Choulant-Frank states that in his Trattato della Pittura Leonardo refers to book on human anatomy that he wrote, and promises a volume on bio-physiology of movement. These manuscripts either did not survive or are references to unfinished projects. In his final Italian period, in Rome from 1513 to 1516, Leonardo had access to the Hospital of the Santo Spirito, where he continued to study anatomy, paying particular attention to the heart. Eventually, responding to complaints from another artist, the Pope excluded Leonardo from the hospital, and ended Leonardo's anatomical studies.

    Whether or not Leonardo might have intended to publish in the field of anatomy or bio-mechanics, his surviving anatomical drawings seem to have been prepared for his private use--not publication. His habit of recording his notes in mirror-writing shows that contrary to having his ideas disseminated, Leonardo wanted to prevent his notes being read by others. Still there are hints that he did not keep the anatomical drawings entirely private. We know that Albrecht Dürer viewed some of Leonardo's anatomical drawings on one of his Italian journeys, as he copied one of Leonardo's illustrations of the upper limb in his Dresden Sketchbook, the basis for Dürer's treatise on human proportion (1528). It is also probable that Leonardo's contemporary, the anatomist Berengario da Carpi, or an artist that Berengario employed, may have seen some of Leonardo's drawings since three of the woodcuts in the Isagoge Breves incorporate Leonardo's innovation of showing views of anatomical parts from different perspectives.

    After Leonardo's death his anatomical drawings passed through many hands. They disappeared completely for a century or more until the later part of the eighteenth century when they were discovered in England in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle by the physician, connoisseur, and collector William Hunter (1718-83). Hunter wrote to Albrecht Haller about the drawings and published a note about them in his last, posthumous book on the history of anatomy. However, for the most part the drawings remained unknown to scholars.

    Until the advent of sophisticated photographic facsimile techniques at the turn of the twentieth century Leonardo's anatomical notebooks, with their mutually dependent text and illustrations, could not be accurately reproduced. Thus appreciation of Leonardo's contributions to anatomy and physiology is primarily a 20th-century phenomenon.
    The immense task of editing Leonardo's anatomical notebooks was originally undertaken by G. Piumati, who prepared both literal and critical transcriptions of Leonardo's text, and Mathias-Duval, professor of anatomy at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts and the Parisian Faculty of Medicine, who provided a French translation as well as a scholarly introduction. Sabachnikoff, who sponsored this project, planned to publish all of the Windsor Castle anatomical drawings in this fashion, but was not able to complete his plan, issuing only reproductions of 61 sheets in Fogli A and Fogli B in 1898 and 1901. A decade later the remaining anatomical drawings (approximately 700) were edited and published by Norwegian scholars under the auspices of the Anatomical Institute of the University of Christiania [Oslo] in an edition limited to only 250 sets. The plates are elaborately reproduced in full color, with numbered keys on transparent overlays, and Leonardo's Italian text is transcribed along with translations in both English and German. This set was presented by the editors to Sophus Torup, a professor of physiology at the University of Copenhagen. Choulant-Frank pp. 99-105 (Leonardo) pp. 97-98 (della Torre); Garrison-Morton 365; Keele, Leonardo da Vinci's Elements of the Science of Man (1983); Roberts & Tomlinson, ch. 4. (6)

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766