Aesthetic Exploration – Art of Human Anatomy

How well versed does one need to be in the structural design of the human form?  If one intends to have the figure as a central element in their works, they will need to explore and memorize the design of the human form.  If one wishes to become a master draftsman in any genre, studying Figure Structure is where they start.

The goal is mastering the structural design of the human form so that dependance on what one sees and the stillness of the model becomes irrelevant.

Anatomical truth does not make a drawing. Michelangelo’s drawings are not anatomically accurate, but they have design integrity. If one’s efforts still look like anatomy charts after they have been at it for a while it’s time to regroup. 

A drawing does not have to be anatomically correct to be a good drawing, it is likely better if it is not. Accuracy, in and of itself, has little virtue or interest. Deviances from the literal are what makes one’s work personal and exciting.

The draftsman should have such command of form and function that drawings take on an identity of their own. The human form is masterfully designed, and that design has to be explored, memorized, and woven into the fabric of the subconscious to be fully available when called upon. 

In his own treatise Della Pittura (1435; “On Painting”), theorist Leon Battista Alberti urged painters to construct the human figure as it exists in nature, supported by the skeleton and musculature, and only then clothed in skin.

Although the date of Leonardo Da Vinci’s initial involvement with anatomical study is not known, it is sound to speculate that his anatomical interest was sparked during his apprenticeship in Verrocchio’s workshop. His study of anatomy, originally pursued for his training as an artist, had grown by the 1490s into an independent area of research. As his sharp eye uncovered the structure of the human body, Leonardo became fascinated by the figura istrumentale dell” omo (“man’s instrumental figure”), and he sought to comprehend its physical working as a creation of nature. Over the following two decades, he did practical work in anatomy on the dissection table in Milan, then at hospitals in Florence and Rome, and in Pavia, where he collaborated with the physician-anatomist Marcantonio della Torre. By his own count Leonardo dissected 30 corpses in his lifetime.

From observing the static structure of the body, Leonardo proceeded to study the role of individual parts of the body in mechanical activity. This led him finally to the study of the internal organs; among them he probed most deeply into the brain, heart, and lungs as the “motors” of the senses and of life. His findings from these studies were recorded in the famous anatomical drawings, which are among the most significant achievements of Renaissance Science. The drawings are based on a connection between natural and abstract representation; he represented parts of the body in transparent layers that afford an “insight” into the organ by using sections in perspective, reproducing muscles as “strings,” indicating hidden parts by dotted lines, and devising a hatching system. The genuine value of these dimostrazione lay in their ability to synthesize a multiplicity of individual experiences at the dissecting table and make the data immediately and accurately visible; as Leonardo proudly emphasized, these drawings were superior to descriptive words.

Working with the mathematician Luca Pacioli, Leonardo considered the proportional theories of Vitruvius, the 1st-century-BCE Roman architect, as presented in his treatise De architectura (“On Architecture”). Imposing the principles of geometry on the configuration of the human body, Leonardo demonstrated that the ideal proportion of the human figure corresponds with the forms of the circle and the square. In his illustration of this theory, the so-called Vitruvian Man, Leonardo demonstrated that when a man places his feet firmly on the ground and stretches out his arms, he can be contained within the four lines of a square, but when in a spread-eagle position, he can be inscribed in a circle.

Medical Anatomy most is separated from Artistic Anatomy, and Artistic Anatomy has to be understood as the Structural Design of the Human Form. It is about treating the structure of the human form as pure design.


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6 Comments. Leave new

  • Connor Jameson
    February 5, 2023 11:45 pm

    The images you included were very beneficial when seeing the differences of perspective regarding the human body from each person. I wonder if drawings such as these are still used in our more modern world?

    • This art form is not about the looks alone, this teaches us way more deeper working of the nature. Regarding, if the drawing are still used, that’s debatable but the learning we had from this art form is imbibed in our day to day life in art, engineering, science sitting hidden in our plain sight.

  • This is really cool and a nice niche topic to delve into, are there any pieces of this aesthetic that are outside the medium of drawing?

    • Indeed. Nonetheless, instead of this as a niche topic, I see this as a foundation to the entire universal art form as we see it today in its varied forms. This aesthetic was never just about drawing, it was about understanding the form of nature, how does the perspective visuals work, complexity of human body laid foundation for many engineering devices created by Leonardo Da Vinci and pushed medical field further ahead. This art form laid the foundation of bridge between Science and Art. This aesthetic was often referred as an interpreter between nature and art.

  • Good read! The image examples you chose are a good mix; I see there is more depth to this aesthetic than I knew existed. Are there examples of this aesthetic being explored in more recent years?

    • Yeah, this art form is much deeper. I am working to add lot of pieces to it to highlight the groundbreaking impact of it to our current world, as it bridges science and art. It’s impact is not very straightforward in current world, but it lays the entire foundation of human art form & human physiology medical understanding along with inspiring various artificial engineering devices.


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