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The Mind of Leonardo

Leonardo da Vinci
Blood vessels in a young man and an old man
Windsor Castle, The Royal Collection, 19027r, K/P 69r
[VII.4The dissection of the "Old Man"]

Around 1506, in the Florentine hospital of Santa Maria Nuova, Leonardo met a patient over hundred years old, who felt no pain, only extreme weakness. After his death Leonardo performed dissection on the body: "And I conducted anatomy to find the cause of such a gentle death." He thus discovered that the blood vessels in an old man become twisted and occluded, causing death.

While the studies of the Herculean figure concern man at the height of his strength, those focused on the dissection of the hundred-year-old man show above all how, with the passage of time, this force fades away.

Leonardo also utilized the dissection of the old man to fix normal human anatomy, especially that of the cardiovascular system, in images. These drawings served essentially to produce comprehensive images of the body, in which the blood vessels are represented along with other anatomical parts (skeleton, outer contours of the body, etc.). Leonardo considers the isolated representation of an anatomical part to be a temporary stage in creating a complete anatomical image, capable of expressing the harmonious relationship between the various organs in the body.

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