Da Vinci's Fetal Studies

Leonardo da Vinci wrote detailed works on embryotic and fetal studies, using the anatomical information he gained while working with physician Marcantonio della Torre in 1506-1511. Da Vinci was the first to correctly draw the fetus positioned in a single chambered womb. Ingeniously, da Vinci did so without having access to a fetal or female cadaver. He used his cow dissection to reconstruct a human in the womb. This is why the uterus is a sphere instead of a more pear-like shape.

He was also first to correctly draw the uterine artery and other corresponding vasculature. Prior da Vinci’s representation, it was thought the uterus had multiple chambers. But through his studies, da Vinci proved them wrong. Da Vinci’s fetus in the womb picture was revolutionary both anatomically and artistically. Johnathon Jones, an art critic, declared da Vinci’s work as “…the most beautiful work of art in the world.”

 In addition to his pictures, da Vinci also was the first to describe the three fetal membranes and nodded to how the “maternal and feto-placental vasculatures did not communicate (Dunn, 1997).” These notes show how da Vinci almost anticipated the discovery of human and fetal circulation which was not discovered fully until the 1600s by William Harvey.



Dunn, P.M. (1997). Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) and Reproductive Anatomy. Archives of Disease in Childhood- Fetal and Neonatal. 77(3).

Isaacson, W. (2017). Leonardo da Vinci. New York: Simon and Schuster

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