Originally Posted by EJB
Artists like DaVinci, Michelangelo, Carravagio and the like who may or may not have done anatomical studies on human cadavers would have done so in direct violation of law set by the Catholic Church. Violation of such law could have led to excommunication, death or both. The quest for knowledge made these artists exceptional for their time because they were willing to risk the consequences of going beyond the accepted norm.
Well, there is ample evidence for Da Vinci's drawing of cadavers, such as his anatomical drawings. Medical knowledge wasn't something he would have guessed at and Leonardo more often drew from life than from imagination. Then there was the Italian made biographical movie, released about 1973, which showed Da Vinci going through the morgue and drawing a partially disected corpse and sketching a man who had just been hung. Of course, the Italian producer may have taken some liberties, but it was, at the time hailed as a very acurate depiction of Da Vinci's life, in spite of the implication that Da Vinci may have been gay, which caused a great deal of controversy at the time. Leonardo was the sort who would have rubbed the Catholic church the wrong way and the film depicted him that way.
See the third paragraph of this article on Da Vinci's anatomical drawings: http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/1070/leonardo.html