14 Anatomical studies of the bones and muscles

Title: Anatomical studies of the bones and muscles, for the use of artists, from drawings by the late John Flaxman engraved by Henry Landseer; with two additional plates and explanatory notes by William Robertson

Artist/Source: original drawings by John Flaxman (1755 – 1826), engraved by Henry Landseer (active 1820 – 1826)

Date: 1833

Medium/Technique: large folio size book containing 21 anatomic plates; engraving, aquatint, etching

This volume contains plates after anatomical drawings by John Flaxman (1755 – 1826), the English sculptor and leading advocate of Neo-Classicism, whose plaster models hang in UCL Art Museum and the Flaxman Gallery at UCL. The drawings were engraved by Henry Landseer and published after Flaxman’s death. William Robertson writes in his introduction that the illustrations ‘have been carefully copied from the drawings of a man who made the laws of muscular action his most particular and successful story, and whose skill as a draughtsman enabled him to give the most expressive character of nature to his transcripts from the dissected limb.’

Flaxman’s interest in anatomy is well recorded. He studied the subject at the Royal Academy Schools and while in Italy (1787 – 94), and is known to have kept a skeleton in his studio (now held by Sir John Soane's Museum). Flaxman collected a number of books relating to anatomy by such authors as Hippocrates, Albinus, George Stubbs and Charles Bell. He also wrote an unpublished treatise entitled Motion and Equilibrium in the Human Body which included a chapter specifically dealing with human anatomy (Fitzwilliam Museum). UCL Art Museum holds many of the preparatory sketches Flaxman drew to prepare for his lectures as Professor of Sculpture at the Royal Academy (1810 – 26), many of which explore the effect of motion upon the figure’s centre of gravity or overall geometry of forms. He was an advocate of the artist’s training in anatomy, feeling strongly that the figure must be understood before it could be imitated.

This book was given to UCL in memory of former Slade student Kathleen Scott, Lady Kennet (1878 – 1947), who also studied under Rodin. A note within the cover states that it was ‘given for the use of her fellow students of sculpture.’


David Irwin, John Flaxman 1755 1826, Sculptor, Illustrator, Designer, London, 1979.

John Flaxman, RA, edited by David Bindman, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1979.

Flaxman: Master of the Purest Line, edited David Bindman, UCL Art Museum & Sir John Soane's Museum, 2003.

Related works:

See on-line catalogue for works by John Flaxman

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