Anatomical Studies of the Bones and Muscles, for the use of Artists; Flaxman/Landseer 1833


Origin: English
Period: Early 19th Century
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1833
Height: 20 inches
Width: 12.5 inches
London. M. A. Nattali. Folio.

Anatomical Studies of the Bones and Muscles, for the use of Artists, from drawings by the late John Flaxman, Esq. R.A. Engraved by Henry Landseer. Having fourteen pages of text; a portrait frontispiece and twenty-one engraved plates, each printed on single leaf with original cloth boards (loose), and some offsetting from the plates onto facing blanks. There is some discoloration or water marks to most page edges but the diagrams and annotations remain in tact.

Anatomy for artists is most concerned with the bones and muscles. The sculptor, painter, and printmaker Antonio Pollaiuolo (1432–1498) was probably the first to skin human bodies in order to investigate the muscles and understand the nude form. Following on, Leonardo Da Vinci's studies of the human skull in 1489 borrowed three-dimensional drawing techniques from architecture that had never been seen before. Both artists thus exhibited more of a scientific understanding of the human figure, showing the body in a variety of poses and angles, as we see in this William IV era work.

Flaxman, the leading Neo-classical sculptor in late eighteenth-century England, specialised in church monuments and in 1810 was appointed the Royal Academy's first Professor of Sculpture. However Flaxman was also distinguished as a draftsman, and his outline engravings of 1793-5 illustrating Homer and Dante won him an international reputation unmatched by any contemporary British artist. On his death Flaxman left nineteen original anatomical drawings of bones and muscles. To these William Robertson added two additional drawings of his own, and provided a new text to form a treatise on anatomy for artists. For a work of primarily aesthetic value, Choulant was uncharacteristically complimentary, calling Flaxman's drawings "unconventional, clever, and true to nature" (Choulant-Frank pp. 341-42). Flaxman's original drawings for this work are preserved at the Royal Academy of Arts.

Sir Edwin Henry Landseer was born in London 7th March 1802. Nine of his drawings were executed when he was only five years old and sit in the South Kensington Museum. He became the most celebrated of Victorian England's animal painters and is perhaps best known for the lions in Trafalgar Square, London whilst collections of his work can be found in the British Library, the Fitzwilliam and Victoria and Albert Museums.

In short, this superb collaborative work was designed to help artists essentially understand the body's mass and volume, equipping them with the knowledge to draw, sketch, sculpt and paint the human form from any conceivable angle. It also proves a wonderfully decorative, haunting and evocative collection simply to peruse.