A Rare Early 20thC Cased Composite Model Human Skeleton for Artistic Anatomy

Origin: English
Period: Edwardian/George V
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1910-25
The Box: Width: 19.5 inches X Depth: 14.5 inches X Height: 9.5 inches
The Skeleton: 45 inches long (approximately)

The early 20th century composite skeleton having inset eyeballs and jointed limbs with leather and fabric attachments housed in its original black painted pine carrying case with carrying handle marked ‘G.P.F’ survives from the first quarter of twentieth century England.

The skeleton is in fair to good condition overall. He only has one teeth left in situ which does make him rather humorous to look at, though melancholy at the same time. The other fourteen teeth have been retained and therefore could be reattached if so desired. The leg joints at the hip and knee are tired though they do function and the legs are to be removed, as is the head, when he is placed into his carrying case. We would advise caution though as the fixings to the joints are generally a little weak, whilst the head still slots into the spine bone it isn’t fully secure so if he were to be hung by the noose he’d need to have this area strengthened with wiring and there are some wires provided that have been used for this purpose that are provided in the box. We have lubricated his joints and tidied up the interior of the box but this aside he is sold as found and in good original order. The rest of the skeleton is in good condition, remaining uncleaned, with some of the leather perished. The case is original to the model with remnants of a silk lined interior. Overall he can be used as is but for stringent and varied use he would need some minor restoration work.

There are other items which will be sold with the model that were found in the box, and therefore are integral to it, which include three animal jaw bones, some amateurish drawings of body parts on folder cards, a small French paper box for beauty spots (marked ‘Collages Noirs Fabrication Francaise’ (which contains the loose teeth) and a rope noose and large iron hook with which to hang the model with from the ceiling.

The only other example remotely like this one we could find (IE with the same stylised features) having recently sold, was one that was marked on its case for the ‘James M.Dunlop ARCA, Lecturer of Artistic Anatomy at the Glasgow School of Art’ and that one was lacking the eyes prominent here. Crucially, we cannot find any other models with eyeballs at all having been sold so this may have been privately commissioned or made to order.

It is far more common to see teaching aid skeletons like this without eyes or teeth present; this stylized one is almost personified, giving it a very humorous, and ultimately more artistic merit and therefore being almost certainly used solely for artistic use and not for medical teaching. It is also possible he was used for theatrical purposes as well as artistic ones. Lots of factors point to this, the most obvious being the eyeballs in situ, which would be of very little use to a medical student but would aid the realization of the human face for an artist or for theatre. The other, more technically accurate, examples that one sees of this era of skeleton are designed to mimic the human body exactly and would have been part of the puzzle of medical study of old and are much more commonly found on the market. Real human remains were largely used for osteological, not artistic use.

However you decide to use and display this chap he proves to be both wonderfully scarce, possibly unique, though above all, hugely fun with endless possibilities. All he needs is a name.