Leonardo da Vinci's The Mechanics of Man

Dates and Venue 6 February - 2 May 2010 | Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver

Reviewer Ed Farolan

It was a delight to experience a once-in-a-lifetime event like this one, seeing the originals of Leonardo da Vinci's The Mechanics of Man, the renowned Anatomical Manuscript A—where the artist composed his most skilled and definitive group of anatomical drawings. This is the most substantial body of drawings by this great artist ever shown in Canada, on loan from the Royal Collection of Queen Elizabeth II for presentation during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Martin Clayton, curator of the Royal Collection, took members of the Media to see these anatomical manuscripts comprised of 18 sheets created during the winter of 1510, 16 of which have drawings on both sides. One could imagine what a great painter da Vinci was as he executed these compositions, so minute in detail and so precise in technique, demonstrating this genius's skills of observation.

During the viewing, I asked Clayton whether the writings on the manuscripts were in Latin, and he said they were in Italian, as da Vinci never got to master Latin. What amazed me was why the left-handed da Vinci wrote backwards, and whether this was his style of writing, but Clayton said that he also wrote the normal way, from left to right. The film Da Vinci Code gave fictional hints that there were secret reasons why he wrote backwards, as you need a mirror in front of the manuscript to read his extensive and detailed notes incorporated in these drawings. On the surrounding walls of the da Vinci section of the Vancouver gallery, , the drawings are reproduced on a massive scale along with English translations of his notes.

As his popularity grew, Da Vinci gained access to the bodies of executed criminals or people who died in in charitable hospitals with no family to claim them, and with manual dexterity, dissected them with great skill, and collaborated with a professor of anatomy at the University of Pavia to create this manuscript.

, The exhibition will be free to the public during the 17 days of the Olympic Games in Vancouver as a result of a partnership with the Province of British Columbia. Katherine Bartels, director of Vancouver Art Gallery, welcomed the media to this preview, as she always does in occasions such as this one, before we went in to view the exhibition.

© 2010 Ed Farolan