Écorché figure, Probably 1771
RA Collection: Art
On free display in The Julia and Hans Rausing Hall
In this ecorché figure the naturalistic paintwork and areas of deep dissection showing different layers of muscle combine to produce a powerful if gruesome effect. William Hunter (1718-1783), the Academy's first Professor of Anatomy, supervised the creation of several similar figures and this is possibly the cast that he made in 1771 from the corpse of a thief. The painter James Northcote, then a student at the RA, noted that there were only two lectures over the corpse because Hunter needed 'the body fresh to cast a plaster anatomical figure from it...to be drawn from'.
Ecorchés were produced for the use of both artists and medical students. Once flayed, the corpses were often set in classical poses and this example, with one arm raised and the legs in contrapposto, corresponds with illustrations in seminal anatomical treatises like the Fabrica of Vesalius. Recent conservation of the figure found that a removable section is incorporated into the figure's abdomen to reveal the internal organs, indicating Hunter's thorough approach to anatomy teaching for artists.
1715 mm x 610 mm x 475 mm, Weight: 65 kg
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