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Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Recto: The ventricles, papillary muscles and tricuspid valve. Verso: The heart and coronary vessels


Creator: Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci 1452-Amboise 1519) (artist)
Creation Date: 
c. 1511-13
Pen and ink on blue paper
28.8 x 41.3 cm
K&P 166
RL 19073
RL 19074
Acquirer: Charles II, King of Great Britain (1630-85)
Bequeathed to Francesco Melzi; from whose heirs purchased by Pompeo Leoni, c.1582-90; Thomas Howard, 2nd Earl of Arundel, by 1630; probably acquired by Charles II; Royal Collection by 1690

Leonardo’s last and greatest anatomical campaign was an investigation of the heart. (A bovine heart was used for most of his dissections.) To the left are two views of an ox’s heart, displaying the aortic valve and coronary arteries. At lower right are detailed drawings of the aortic valve shown both open (labelled ‘apertaserrata’). Leonardo regarded the three-cusped valves of the heart as a perfect example of mathematical necessity in the workings of nature. Despite his understanding of the valves, Leonardo never grasped the idea of circulation, instead adhering to the ancient theory of the flux and reflux of the blood between the two ventricles.

Further details

Unframed Drawings / Watercolours