The largest ever exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's studies of the human body will be open to the public for the first time at The Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace.
Although best known as one of the greatest Renaissance artists, da Vinci combined his talent for drawing with a passion for physical accuracy, and his research into the human body made him a pioneer in the understanding of human anatomy.
The collection of anatomical drawings dating back to the 1480's includes detailed sketches of the human skull, the dissected foot of a bear and the nerve pathways in the arm of a man (or monkey).
One drawing depicts an opened uterus with a baby in the breech position, based on the dissection of a cow.
Inspired by the desire to be "true to nature" in his artwork, da Vinci studied in hospitals and medical schools, performing dissections to investigate animal and human bones, muscles, vessels and organs.
Thanks to his artistic talent he was able to produce remarkably accurate three-dimensional drawings.
Martin Clayton, the curator of the exhibition, insists that some of da Vinci's images on-show remain the best of their kind in existence.
He points out that they were almost lost forever as they were unpublished and remained unknown about for 400 years after Leonardo Da Vinci's death in 1519.
Many of the sketches were shown to the artist's guests at a studio visit in October 1517 alongside what is believed to be the Mona Lisa, but his guests are said to have responded with most wonder to his anatomical drawings.
In his investigation of the heart, da Vinci came very close to discovering the circulation of the blood, a century before William Harvey, and some of his observations are being confirmed only now by computer modelling and advanced scanning techniques.
The collection, Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist, has been in the Royal Collection since at least 1690 when it is believed to have been acquired by Charles II.
The drawings will be on show at The Queen's Gallery , Buckingham Palace, May 4 - October 7 2012.