7 Anatomical Study of a Skeleton

Title: Anatomical Study of a Skeleton

(from Bernhard Siegfried Albinus, Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani, Knapton edition)

Artist/Source: Louise-Philippe Boitard (active 1734 – 1760)

Date: 1749

Medium/ Technique: engraving

UCL Art Museum #4164

One of several anatomical studies from Bernhard Siegfried Albinus’s illustrated treatise Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (Knapton edition, 1749), this image showing the musculature of a male corpse standing in a landscape was designed from dissections by Albinus while Professor of Anatomy at Leiden, and then engraved. Albinus desired illustrations that were composites of pictures from different dissections, rather than one: “what I wanted was something more than even the best anatomists trouble their heads about, it being usual for them to make only random figures of the parts, without considering either the order, dimensions, continuations, or connections of them with one another.” Albinus spent days adjusting cords attached to the spine, shoulder girdle, and arms which held the skeleton to the ceiling by a hook. The pelvis rested on a metal tripod and the feet on a low table. He used a live model to correct the positioning of his skeleton, taking great pains to produce a ‘living anatomy’. He also employed a grid technique as a further measure of accuracy.

The artist’s chosen background suggest a concern for the clarification of man’s relationship to his environment. The contextualization of man in nature portrays the relationship between man and the natural world as one of similarity and continuity. Rather than emphasizing man’s primitive side, however, the artist participates in the eighteenth-century glorification of nature that was initiated by Rousseau and propagated throughout Europe.

See previous page for related objects.

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