John Flaxman, R.A. 1755 - 1826
Drawings of human bones, mainly rib cage and pelvis
Photo: R.A.
© Royal Academy of Arts, London
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Drawings of human bones, mainly rib cage and pelvis, 1780s ?
pen and ink and wash on cream laid paper, 286 X 443 mm
Purchased from Mr. Sewening, 1885
03/2979
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This drawing was one of a series engraved after the artist's death by Henry Landseer and published in 1833. Flaxman studied anatomy at the Royal Academy Schools and also while living in Italy (1787-94). He collected a number of books on the subject, by such authors as Hippocrates, Albinus, Stubbs and Charles Bell, and wrote an unpublished treatise entitled 'Motion and Equilibrium in the Human Body' which includes a chapter on anatomy.
These anatomical drawings by John Flaxman were all engraved by Henry Landseer and published after Flaxman's death in 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 with two additional plates and explanatory notes by William Robertson, London 1833. Dedicated to Sir Francis Chantrey, this volume is illustrated with eighteen plates after Flaxman's drawings as well as two depicting skeletons and échorché figures and another after a drawing by Michelangelo. This group of drawings was bound into Chantrey's copy of the book and constitutes a full set.

Flaxman's interest in anatomy is recorded in several sources. He studied the subject both at the Royal Academy Schools and while in Italy (1787-94) and is known to have kept a skeleton in his studio. Flaxman also collected a number of books relating to anatomy by such authors as Hippocrates, Albinus, George Stubbs and Charles Bell. Most significantly, he also wrote an unpublished treatise entitled 'Motion and Equilibrium in the Human Body' which included a chapter specifically dealing with human anatomy.

In the preface to the 1833 publication William Robertson wrote that the plates 'have been carefully copied from the drawings of a man who had made the laws of muscular action his most particular and successful study, and whose skill as a draughtsman enabled him to give the most expressive character of nature to his transcripts from the dissected limb. He compared the collapsed with the working muscle, and while he drew it in the flaccidity of death, his crayon gave indication of its play and tension in the elasticity of life...To announce these exhibitions of muscular mechanism as the studies made by Flaxman, for his own use and instruction, is to give them a practical recommendation superior to all critical eulogy. We have here the exemplification of his labours; the secret of his processes; and all that need be urged on the young Student is to follow in the Master's steps'.