The hand emerges as an empathetic, thinking and generative organ in numerous contexts in Leonardo’s manuscripts. This essay explores a single site in this continuum: the linkage of hands and music in two pages from Leonardo’s anatomical studies. In both, the hand turns out to epitomize the body as a microcosmic entity in accordance with the musical-cosmological language of traditional ‹sacred anatomy›. However, the discourse of the musical hand in Leonardo transcends this persuasion. It insinuates that this organ is an enigma, for it is unaccountable for in observational terms alone. As such, Leonardo’s discourse of the hand in the context of the anatomical investigations also reflects, so I propose, the anatomist-musician’s idiosyncratic music-philosophy.

I would like to begin this study of hands and music in Leonardo’s anatomical folios with a preliminary, brief excursus into the compelling presence of hands in his paintings. As was often affirmed, his hands are carriers of theological, philosophical, scientific, and art-theoretical thinking. They can be reflexive, expressive, or apprehensive: in the history of Western art, none equals their aura.

Think of the foreshortened, almost anamorphic palm that Mary outstretches towards the mortal spectator from within the womb-like cave that encompasses her (Madonna of the Rocks, Louvre).

Think of the contradictory hands of Christ in The Last Supper, the left one (in palmar position) demonstrating the absent stigmata of the Crucifixion, while the right (in dorsal foreshortened position) is recoiling away from the ominous bowl, proof of the imminent betrayal.

Think of the knowing calm of Mona Lisa’s hands, in her role as the Great Mother, emblem of the eternal return of birth and death.

Think of the erotic-ironical hand of Cecilia Gallerani (Lady with Ermine, Krakow), caressing the animal that was both symbol of purity and an insignia of her lover, as if she were playing a lute: an iconic allusion to the reversal of gendered power and submission in Renaissance poetry of love.

Think of the looming tumult of gestures that closes on the Virgin and the Child (The Adoration of the Magi, Florence).

Think of the upward-pointing hand of the hermaphrodite Angel of the Annunciation, horridly clowning, echoing his erection [fig. 1].

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