The lira player, whether as accompanist or self-accompanied tenorista, was no scholar of music. He depended primarily on swift chord-intuition and extempore manning; playing the lira was seen as intimate and sensual, directly affirming the ephemeral here-and-now of the musician’s bodily existence. If the hand of the organ-player could be considered a manifestation of universal order, the hand of the lira-player was all but transcendental.

Body, Music and Hand: the cosmography of the minor mondo revisited

The gap between the irreducible life of the hand and sacred, musical-cosmological anatomy reappears in another page of Leonardo’s anatomical studies. This is the famous text-only folio K/P 156r (1513), titled l’ordine del' libro. In the context of this page, this gap is so consequential that it threatens to jeopardize the very program of structured research and reductive presentation that the page advocates.

As the text vividly describes it, the practice of dissection is messy and frustrating. The torn flesh is soaked in blood, and the dissector cannot reach the tightly packed inner organs without destroying the upper layers. This impenetrable, undifferentiated matter stands in utter opposition to the figura humana – the imaged idea of the corporeal personhood that is envisioned by the anatomist. In order to «retain a true and full knowledge of all that you want to know about the configuration of man», and accomplish a lucid «cosmography of the lesser world» (la cosmografia del minor mondo), Leonardo prescribes a cogent work-plan. He requires three views for each of the four anatomical systems (vaguely defined), which will result in twelve demonstrations, or figures, of the universal man. A fifth system, that of the female reproductive organs, is to be added to the major four. In accordance with the scholastic gender-regimes that were based on Aristotle (and, notably, at variance with Leonardo’s own convictions in this matter), this scheme does not consider male sexuality as a differentia, a defining specificity in a two-sex paradigm. It is part and parcel of the one-sex idea of humanity itself as maleness. [22]

But given the asymmetry of the body, and against the anatomist’s avowed passion for «true and full knowledge» (vera e piena notitia), we might ask why does Leonardo require three views of four systems of the body of Man before the Fall? Conceivably, the reason is that the numbers three, four, and twelve are laden with inter-dependent metaphysical, theological and musical significances. They perpetuate the principle of the Pythagorean tetraktys, representing the ideational unity of the pure primary intervals and the essential spatial and temporal parameters of the sub-lunar universe, including all living bodies. Their presence, import and ramifications in Christian theology are of course fundamental and most emphatic.

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