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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.

RA Collection: Book

Record number



London:: M.A. Nattali, 24, Tavistock-Street, Covent-Garden., M.DCCC.XXXIII.

Physical Description

13, [1] p., frontis. (port.), 21 pl.; 499 mm. (Folio.)


[Frontis., t.p., dedic.] - Preface - [Plate I] - Names Of The Bones; Names Of The Muscles; [colophon] - [Plates 2-21].

Responsibility Note

Plates 3-20 are all signed bottom left as by Flaxman and bottom right as by H. Landseer; pl. 21 bottom left as by Michael Angelo Buonarotti and bottom right as by H. Landseer. The frontispiece portrait is signed as etched by M. de Clauson; pl. 1, as lithographed by W. Robertson and printed by Graf and Saret; pl.2, as drawn and lithographed by W. Robertson and printed by Graf and Saret.

Each plate carries the publisher's imprint of M.A. Nattali and the date of 1833.

The printer is named on the t.p. verso and in the colophon: 'London: Marchant, Printer, Ingram-Court, Fenchurch-Street.'

The book is dedicated by W. Robertson and M.A. Nattali to Francis Chantrey 'for his valuable advice during the progress of its publication'.


M. Cazort et al., The Ingenious Machine of Nature: Four Centuries Of Art And Anatomy (1996); K.B. Roberts and J.D.W. Tomlinson, The fabric of the body: European traditions of anatomical illustration (1992); A. Darlington, The Royal Academy of Arts and its anatomical teachings [dissertation, London Univy.] (1990).

Summary Note

Since the Renaissance many European artists have made anatomical drawings, combining their own observations with published illustrations, as a method of study and for future reference. The series of anatomical drawings by Flaxman reproduced in this posthumous work clearly belong to this tradition and were probably not originally intended for publication, being only engraved for this purpose after the artist's death, in part at least as a commercial venture for the benefit of his heirs. The book opens with a fine etching of a portrait of Flaxman, emphasising the sense in which it is intended as both a practical treatise for artists and as a memorial of its author.

In addition to providing annotations for the eighteen plates after Flaxman drawings (pl. 3-20) the anatomist William Robertson contributes two introductory plates of skeletons and écorchés (pl. 1, 2) and a final plate based on a drawing formerly attributed to Michelangelo, now in the British Museum (pl. 21).

In his Preface Robertson addresses the disparity between representing the muscles of a corpse and understanding their functioning in life. 'An intimate knowledge of the human frame in its anatomical structure', he writes, 'is only to be obtained by long and laborious examination, assisted by the use of the knife amid the offensive details of the dissecting room ... [Flaxman] 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.' He commends the plates to students as less expensive or complex than those of Vesalius, Albinus and Tortebat.

The 1878 edition of the work describes it as having been 'lately used as a text book of anatomy in the art schools at South Kensington'.

Nineteen drawings relating to the eighteen plates after Flaxman in this work are preserved in the Royal Academy's Prints and Drawings Collection. They were originally bound in Sir Francis Chantrey's dedication copy [i.e. the Library's 'second' copy]), purchased by the Academy in February 1885.


[First copy:] 1 July 1841: 'Resolved that Flaxman's Anatomical Studies be purchased for the Library at £1' (RA Council Minutes, IX, 196).

[Second copy:] With the verso of the front free-endpaper inscribed in ink 'F. C.' [i.e. Francis Chantrey] and in pencil by a later 19th-century hand: 'Plates on India Paper - not so published - / Dedication Copy. F. C. is Chantrey'. Offered to the RA Librarian, J. E. Hodgson RA, together with 19 of the original drawings for the work, by a 'Mr. Sewening' [?] for 10 guineas [i.e. £10. 10s.]; ordered to be purchased on 24 February 1885 (RA Council Minutes, XVIII, 221).

Binding Note

[First copy:] 19th-century green cloth-covered boards, upper cover carrying printed label reading 'Flaxman's Anatomical Studies, Engraved By Henry Landseer. Twenty-Two Plates. £1:4:0.'; spine carrying printed label reading 'Flaxman's Anatomical Studies. Twenty-Two Plates. £1:4:0.'

[Second copy:] 19th-century red morocco, upper and lower covers with gilt-stamped borders; gilt-decorated spine lettered 'Flaxman's Anatomical Studies'.

Name as Subject


Drawings - Great Britain - 19th century
Manuals - Great Britain - 19th century
Pictorial works - Great Britain - 19th century


John Flaxman RA, draughtsman, source artist
Henry Landseer, engraver
William Robertson, editor, draughtsman, lithographer
Michael Angelo Nattali, publisher
William Marchant, printer
Sir Francis Chantrey RA, dedicatee, previous owner
Michelangelo Buonarroti, source artist
Clauson, etcher
Jean Graf, lithographic printer
Graf and Saret, lithographic printer

Images from this book

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