Leonardo da Vinci: Mechanics of Man at the Vancouver Art Gallery

folio 4v
The muscles of the shoulder, 1510-1511
pen and ink with wash, over traces of black chalk
29.2 x 19.8 cm
The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

Like the rest of city, the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) is pulling out the big guns for the Olympics. Current exhibits include the two-floor Visions of British Columbia, which displays highlights from VAG’s rich, permanent collection, CUE and Visceral Bodies, two exhibits that showcase the gallery’s commitment to cutting-edge, thoughtful contemporary art, and, of course, the biggest gun of all, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mechanics of Man.

Though he’s best known for his world-famous paintings, including the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, da Vinci was a true renaissance man, as much a scientist and inventor as he was an artist. In Mechanics of Man, da Vinci creates the perfect marriage of science and art in a series of groundbreaking anatomical drawings that, even five hundred years later, are among the greatest ever made.

With an artist as famous as Leonardo da Vinci, it’s impossible not to have high expectations. I had a chance to see Mechanics of Man on the opening weekend, and trust me–your expectations can’t be too high: You’ll be blown away by this show!

The drawings focus on the mechanics of the body, how muscles connect and move, how bones bend and vertebrae fit together. They’re detailed and instructional, but at the same time, hauntingly beautiful. They’re like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

It’s incredible to think that da Vinci made the first known accurate depictions of the spinal column in 1510 – 1511!

folio 16r The muscles of the upper spine, 1510-1511 pen and ink with wash, over traces of black chalk 28.9 x 20.5 cm The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

folio 6rThe muscles of the arm, and the veins of the arm and trunk, 1510-1511 pen and ink with wash, over traces of black chalk 28.9 x 19.9 cm The Royal Collection © 2009 Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

This exhibit is not to be missed! And during the Olympics you really have no excuse: the Vancouver Art Gallery is FREE from February 12 – 28, 2010.

Leonardo da Vinci’s Mechanics of Man will be at the Vancouver Art Gallery February 6 – May 2, 2010.

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