Period: Early 19th Century
Height: 20.5 inches (in frame)
Width: 13.5 inches (in frame)
London. M. A. Nattali. Folio.
In portrait form, the framed and glazed single engraved plate leaf, numbered Pl.15, taken from Anatomical Studies of the Bones and Muscles, for the use of Artists, the drawing by the late John Flaxman, Esq. R.A. Engraved by Henry Landseer depicts the various muscles of the lower leg to include the rectus femoris, tibialis anticus and soleus.
There is some discoloration or water marks to the page edges in places but the diagrams and annotations remain in tact so this only serves in adding some more character. The frame is in very good order.
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.
Leg muscles have never been so sexy.
NB: This plate is one of 21 we are listing, and they do look superb when grouped together so do ask if interested in several plates.