October 23, 2006

Anatomy, Geometry

I happened upon an unexpected reference to a couple of the graphic works of Salvator Rosa I mentioned here a few entries ago in an essay by Benjamin A. Rifkin on The Art of Anatomy; part of an excellent book entitled Human Anatomy: Depicting the Body from the Renaissance to Today. In his discussion of William Cheselden’s 1733 treatise Osteographia, or The anatomy of the bones, Rifkin writes that the etching on its frontispiece (shown below), which ‘purports to show Galen contemplating a skeleton in the wilderness’ echoes ‘an etching by Rosa—Democritus in Meditation, which shows the philosopher studying scattered bones—with the figure of Galen an almost exact quotation from another Rosa etching, Diogenes Throwing Away the Cup.’

Etching of Galen contemplating a skeleton: the frontispiece to William Cheselden's 'Osteographia,' 1733.

Elsewhere, Rifkin writes that ‘There is a history yet to be written on the influence of older anatomy books on the Romantic artists of the early nineteenth century:’ perceiving Gautier d’Agoty’s Anatomie generale… as an influence on Delacroix, and proposing that Géricault’s oil studies of cadaver-parts for his famous Raft of the Medusa recall ‘Lairesse’s drawings for Bidloo.’ We are also informed (without, in this case, any claim for its having exerted any æsthetic influence) that Samuel Taylor Coleridge owned a copy of Cheselden’s Osteographia. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book: it helped to flesh out the historical perspectives behind imagery I had formerly encountered in on-line presentations such as the (US) National Library of Medicine’s Historical Anatomies on the Web. From the opening page of Rifkin’s essay: ‘With kindred presumptions of benefice, the doctor studies the body to improve its fate; the artist to improve its spirit…’

Etching of an ostrich skeleton from William Cheselden's 'Osteographia,' 1733.


Manuscript page by Lorenz Stoer, 1560s.

On quite another subject, I’m very grateful to Dr. Mueller’s recent comment on an old entry here about Lorenz Stoer’s remarkable 1567 opus, Geometria et Perspectiva. Evidently, this work was based on an even-more-remarkable manuscript, an electronic facsimile of which has recently been published by Harald Fischer Verlag. I took the present pair of images from a preview selection of sixteen pages from the manuscript at this publisher’s site.

Manuscript page by Lorenz Stoer, 1560s.


Posted by misteraitch at October 23, 2006 03:01 PM

I am stunned by the vividness of Stoer’s 16th c. colours, not to mention the outlandish way of arranging the various geometrical corpora regulata et irregulata in space.

Posted by: Loxias on October 23, 2006 04:00 PM

Oh yes, the Stoer series is beautiful. I wonder how much of the vividness is due to modern assistance?

Posted by: peacay on October 24, 2006 06:55 AM

William Cheselden: lovely name.

And it all makes sense. I think many sorts of artists pillage bits of bony fact and flesh them out so.

I desire the last drawing, not as a drawing but as a 3-dimensional toy. Despite the weighty symbols--crosses, hourglass, etc.--it has a frolicksome air.

Posted by: marlyat2 on October 24, 2006 03:54 PM

Lorenz Stoer was an incredible artist. Those images are very inspiring. How does one acquire the cd rom with the rest of this work? I didn't see a price for it on the website mentioned?

Posted by: aeron on November 7, 2006 02:25 AM

aeron—at the Harald Fischer site they list a price of €88 (about $110 US at current rates) for the CD. The Harald Fischer site doesn’t seem to offer an on-line store, but I daresay they’d happily take an order by e-mail (info@haraldfischerverlag.de) or fax (+49 (0)9131-206028).

Posted by: misteraitch on November 7, 2006 11:00 AM

another great post, with great and useful references!

Posted by: catatau on November 9, 2006 10:56 PM
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