Leonardo da Vinci's “A Skull Sectioned”: Skull and dental formula revisited

Authors

  • Peter O. Gerrits,

    Corresponding author
    1. Section Anatomy, Department of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
    • Section Anatomy, Department of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Groningen, University of Groningen, A. Deusinglaan 1, 9713 AV Groningen, The Netherlands
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  • Jan G. Veening

    1. Section Anatomy, Department of Neuroscience, University Medical Center Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands
    2. Department of Anatomy, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
    3. Department of Psychopharmacology, UIPS, University of Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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Abstract

What can be learned from historical anatomical drawings and how to incorporate these drawings into anatomical teaching? The drawing “A skull sectioned” (RL 19058v) by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), hides more detailed information than reported earlier. A well-chosen section cut explores sectioned paranasal sinuses and ductus nasolacrimalis. A dissected lateral wall of the maxilla is also present. Furthermore, at the level of the foramen mentale, the drawing displays compact and spongious bony components, together with a cross-section through the foramen mentale and its connection with the canalis mandibulae. Leonardo was the first to describe a correct dental formula (6424) and made efforts to place this formula above the related dental elements. However, taking into account, the morphological features of the individual elements of the maxilla, it can be suggested that Leonardo sketched a “peculiar dental element” on the position of the right maxillary premolar in the dental sketch. The fact that the author did not make any comment on that special element is remarkable. Leonardo could have had sufficient knowledge of the precise morphology of maxillary and mandibular premolars, since the author depicted these elements in the dissected skull. The fact that the author also had access to premolars in situ corroborates our suggestion that “something went wrong” in this part of the drawing. The present study shows that historical anatomical drawings are very useful for interactive learning of detailed anatomy for students in medicine and dentistry. Clin. Anat., 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Ancillary