Drawings for William Cheselden’s Osteographia
Until 26 October 2007
In the Library Print Room
Art produced in the service of medical science is the subject of this display of drawings for the illustrations to William Cheselden’s Osteographia, Or The Anatomy Of The Bones (1733).
Gerard van der Gucht (1696/97 – 1776), The back of the sacrum, by 1733. Pencil
Cheselden (1688-1752) was a leading British surgeon and anatomist, and his Osteographia was a comprehensive study of the human skeleton. It was magnificently illustrated with engravings by Gerard van der Gucht (1696/97- 1776) and Jacob Schijnvoet (1685-1733), a selection of whose original drawings from the Royal Academy’s collection can be seen here.
Cheselden praised Van der Gucht’s large pencil drawings for their ‘open, free style’. He considered Schijnvoet, who produced smaller, pen and ink studies, to be the lesser artist, although other commentators praised the delicacy of his work. Some of the drawings were made with a camera obscura, which, according to Cheselden, allowed the artists to draw in 'a few minutes' what would otherwise have taken many hours or even days. Every bone in the human body was included 'delineated as large as life, and again reduced to lesser scales, in order to shew them united to one another'. Also included was a section on diseased bones, and comparative images of the skeletons of animals.
Jacob Schijnvoet (1685 – 1733), Skeletons of a rat and a weasel confronting each other, by 1733. Pencil, pen and ink
The drawings and a copy of the Osteographia were presented to the Royal Academy in 1771 by Cheselden’s assistant, John Belchier, presumably to help the students of the recently-established Academy in their study of anatomy, then central to artistic training.
10am–1pm, 2–5pm Tuesday–Friday