Fatima Amjad

Date of Award

Spring 2023

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Andrew Graciano


The Renaissance era was a period marked by an intellectual and artistic resurgence in Europe, during which artists sought inspiration from Classical sources. This resulted in a move away from stylized medieval aesthetics and towards a renewed emphasis on accuracy and humanity in art. Renaissance artists developed art styles that emphasized perspective, proportion, and anatomy, creating more lifelike and naturalistic representations of the human figure and the natural world. The adoption of naturalism and individualism in the arts paired with the rediscovery and retranslation of ancient anatomical texts propelled artists and anatomists to deepen their understanding of the human body.

My thesis focuses on the impact of Claudius Galen’s (129-216 CE) anatomical Corpus on the works of artists like Leonardo da Vinci and anatomists, Mondino de Luzzi, Berengario da Carpi and Vesalius. I identify and pinpoint the specific aspects of illustrations and drawings that show heavy Galenic influence. This is significant because while art historical and anatomical scholarly sources discuss Galen’s influence on the Renaissance artists and anatomists, there is room for greater specificity of detail in the identification of Galenic ideals that were adopted by these artists and anatomists.

Moreover, my thesis presents the potential reasons for the heavy Galenic influence during the Renaissance in the form of the common problem that is prevalent in the disciplines of art and science, i.e., the dilemma between mimicking nature and sticking to empirical evidence versus building upon the naturalistic qualities of a subject and perfecting it. I argue that due to artistic reasons that stemmed from the rise of Humanism and the revival of Classicism, artists and anatomists chose to adopt the universal truth (which was reduced to Galenic interpretation of the body at that time). This universal truth was preferred over the objective and empirical evidence collected through the dissection of human bodies. In my thesis, I postulate that in the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Mondino de Luzzi, Berengario da Carpi (and at times Vesalius), aesthetic and compositional choices prevalent during the Renaissance and related to the depiction of the human body took precedence over the more utilitarian aspects of the body such as its function, its internal phenomena and most importantly, the accuracy of its workings.

Methodology: My thesis contains an in-depth literature review of several primary and secondary sources by art critics and art historians in addition to medical journals, peer-reviewed articles and the most up to date online sources for medical research. Additionally, I conduct formal and scientific analyses of the drawings and illustrations from the treatises and books of Leonardo da Vinci, Mondino de Luzzi, Berengario da Carpi and Vesalius.


© 2023, Fatima Amjad