The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Digital Library

Anatomy for Artists

Sceleti anteriorem

Sceleti anteriorem, from Bidloo's Anatomia humani corporis (1685).

During the early modern period, anatomy was closely connected to art and religion as well as to science. Late Renaissance, Neoclassical, and Baroque periods of art were all dedicated to rendering the body as realistically as possible. As a result, several anatomical textbooks were published not for medical students but for art students. The full anatomy plates produced by Bernardino Genga and artist Charles Errard were published posthumously in Anatomia per uso et intelligentza del disegno in 1691. While the images within the text were used in art academies throughout Western Europe, they were most often used in Italy. The figures, particularly skeletons, represent the different poses of a real three-dimensional body in space. The images also maintain the moralizing and classical themes common in sixteenth century art and anatomy.

Dutch anatomist Govard Bidloo also published an anatomical text that combined elements of art, religion, and science. Largely inaccurate, the numerous illustrations, based on the drawings of Gérard de Lairesse, were published in Anatomia humani corporis in 1685. The images are very dramatic, Neoclassical, and symbolic of Christian themes. They appear as if they are from a still life, but this quality distorts their scientific objectivity. Both Bidloo and Genga's texts exemplify the union of art and science that began to unravel in the next century.