The iPad app that brings Leonardo’s work to life

Release date: 
Monday, 30 April 2012

Almost 500 years after Leonardo da Vinci’s death, technology brings the artist’s ground-breaking studies of the human body to life.  An iPad app, Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy, allows us to appreciate fully the astonishing accuracy of Leonardo’s work for the first time.  The app includes interactive 3D anatomical models, pinch-zoom functionality and interviews with experts on Leonardo’s work and the history of medicine.  It even allows users to reverse and translate the thousands of notes made by the artist in his distinctive mirror-writing, direct from the pages of his notebooks.  Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy has been produced by the Royal Collection in collaboration with iPad app publishers Touch Press and healthcare publisher Primal Pictures.

Leonardo is recognised as one of the greatest artists of the Renaissance, but he was also one of the most original and perceptive anatomists of all time.  He intended to publish his work in a treatise that would have transformed European knowledge of anatomy.  But on Leonardo’s death in 1519, the drawings remained among his private papers and were effectively lost to the world until the 20th century.  The pages from his notebooks were pasted into albums by the artist’s successors, and one of the albums, containing all of Leonardo’s surviving anatomical studies, arrived in England in the 17th century.  It was probably acquired by Charles II and has been in the Royal Collection since at least 1690.

Produced to coincide with the largest-ever exhibition of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace (4 May – 7 October 2012), the app includes all of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings – 268 pages in total.  Over 11 chapters, the app tells the story of the greatest challenge Leonardo faced in his career, as he embarked upon a campaign of dissection in hospitals and medical schools to investigate the bones, muscles, vessels and organs.

Martin Clayton, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection, and author of the app, said, ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy is a fantastic way to explore some of the most amazingly detailed and accurate anatomical drawings of all time in the most minute detail.  Leonardo would have been fascinated by modern medical imaging, and I think would have embraced the way in which this app brings his drawings to life.’

Jemima Rellie, Director of Publishing and New Media at the Royal Collection, said, ‘Tablet computers provide a remarkable opportunity for art-book publishers like the Royal Collection to offer rich-media alternatives to our printed catalogues.  We are thrilled with the results of this, our first e-book, and particularly the extraordinary ways in which it allows you to interact with high-resolution reproductions of Leonardo’s drawings, in your own hands.’

Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy includes the following features:

• Enhanced e-book interface;
• All 268 of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings from the Royal Collection, with pinch-zoom functionality at high resolution;
• A mirror spyglass enabling users to read Leonardo’s mirror writing in the original Italian;
• Swipe gesture to translate Leonardo’s mirror-writing into typeset English text in situ;
• Integrated 3D anatomical models from leading healthcare publisher Primal Pictures, carefully matched to Leonardo’s illustrations and made interactive using Touch Press rotational technology;
• Eleven chapters, written by Martin Clayton, Senior Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Royal Collection, telling the story of Leonardo’s anatomical work and presenting over 70 selected works with interactive features;
• Interviews with Martin Clayton and other experts on the significance of Leonardo’s anatomical drawings;
• Full catalogue text for all drawings in the exhibition Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist at The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace (4 May – 7 October 2012);
• Intelligent keyword searching and collection navigation via a human body interface.

Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy is priced at £9.99 ($13.99) and will be available to download via the iTunes App Store.