11 Nervous System of the Head and Trunk

Title: Nervous System of the Head and Trunk

Artist/Source: Charles Bell (1774-1842)

Date: circa 1830

Medium/Technique: watercolour, graphite and iron gall ink on paper

UCL Art Museum #9886


Prominent gonads indicate the subject of the dissection to be male. The lungs have removed to display the pleural cavity, and the figure appears to gasp for breath. Bell’s illustrations focuses on the nervous system, his area of expertise, and the arrangement of the abdominal viscera. Central to the watercolour the brachial plexus is shown entering a hyperextended rm whose skin and aerolr tissue has been cut away to reveal the underlying muscle. The watercolour is an unusual mix between a mid-saggital section revealing the spinal column and cranial nerves superimposed on a three-quarter view and three-dimensional rendering of the features of the arm and abdominal viscera. The figure seems to float in space without legs and an invisible left arm, soft shadows suggesting his presence on a front-lit surface such as Bell’s dissecting table. His kidney and heart project as the unity of his body seems untenable.

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