Medical anatomical illustration - the history of the study of the human body in atlases of 5 centuries. Part 1

    We continue the story of biomedical and anatomical illustration , which became one of the first methods of human knowledge of the structure of his own body several centuries ago, and subsequently turned into the most powerful tool for transmitting accumulated knowledge. In the next two weeks we will talk about different periods in the history of anatomy through atlases, drawings by great artists, wax models, photos of embalmed bodies frozen and shredded into micron layers, and right up to the iPad applications of our days. Let's go, today is the 15th century and the late Renaissance - the works of Galen become obsolete, scientists, philosophers and artists come to the ideas of humanism, and the church redefines its views on the autopsy and study of human corpses.

    Rebirth, Anatomy and Church

    The prerequisites for the development of anatomy and anatomical drawing in Europe and, above all, in Italy, appeared at the end of the Renaissance. Up to this point, both the study of the human body, and the set of topics available to artists, were significantly limited by the power of the church. Anatomy was stagnant - doctors usually did not go beyond the dogmas known from the time of Galen . Some doctors, for example, Mondino de Luzzi in Bologna, were engaged in research and described methods of human anatomy, but this was not a system.
    Since the Renaissance, people's views on everything have changed dramatically. The emphasis shifted towards a comprehensive study of man, all the divine began to attract less attention.
    Formal order contributed to the development of anatomical sciencePope Sixtus IV of 1472, which allowed anatomists to uncover human corpses for scientific and educational purposes, if they belonged, for example, to executed criminals. The understanding that anatomy is important for the treatment of disease has grown. On the other hand, at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, painting came to the conclusion that it is possible to make images more realistic, to use perspective and volumetric composition, moving away from the medieval understanding of portraits as something symbolic. Artists became interested in harmonious proportions of the body - many painters began to study them, including Michelangelo, who painted the Sistine Chapel, named after Pope, Leonardo da Vinci or Albrecht Durer, who even created illustrated scientific works on this subject.. Artists were less interested in the internal structure of the body, but scientists began to understand that the study of anatomy could be significantly accelerated if the description of the organs was supplemented with illustrations and diagrams. According to some reports, the anatomist Marcantonio della Torre planned to create one of the first anatomical atlases, inviting Leonardo as an illustrator, but the scientist died of the plague before he could finish the work. Only part of the anatomical drawings of da Vinci came to us.

    Anatomical drawing of Leonardo. Skull of a man with a cut out fragment. It can be seen that Leonardo was attentive to detail: the seam between the frontal and parietal bones is shown, the texture of the spongy substance on the cut is visible. The general outlines are conveyed with great accuracy.

    Anatomical drawing of Michelangelo. It can be seen how the artist noted the lengths of individual parts of the body and their proportions ( source )

    . Albrecht Durer's diagram of human proportions ( source ). Compared to Italians, the realism of the image is lower, but one can also see how the proportions of the limbs and their parts were noted.

    XVI century: from the rule of Galen to the rethinking of anatomy

    The sixteenth century became revolutionary for anatomy and medical illustration. In part, the head of the church also contributed to this - Pope Clement VII approved the teaching of this subject. But the central figure of the “anatomical revolution” was Andreas Vesalius) - a scientist born in 1514 in Brussels, who then belonged to the Netherlands. After studying at the University of the Netherlands and at the Sorbonne, Vesalius ends up in Padua, where he quickly becomes a professor at a prestigious local university. Vesalius actively advocated the use of real human bodies in the training of anatomists and physicians, which was not the case before, since Western medicine of that time relied mainly on texts and illustrations by Galen, who lived thirteen centuries earlier, and there were restrictions on working with human corpses filmed not so long ago. During the autopsy, Andreas Vesalius made sketches, the accuracy and quality of which students soon appreciated, and began to replicate them. This activity in 1543 grew into the creation of a real atlas called De humani corporis fabricain which there were 7 volumes. It is curious that in the course of his activity, Vesalius found many errors in Galen's works (for example, he pointed out that there are no holes between the ventricles of the heart, and the lower jaw is one, not two bones). This is easily explained, because Galen worked mainly with the Magots, the only monkeys that lived in Europe, whose anatomy is still significantly different from the human, despite the evolutionary kinship.

    Some historians are convinced that Jan van Kalkar , one of the students of Titian, could help Vesalius in creating an atlas and wood-carved anatomical engravings (woodcuts) . There were 273 anatomical figures in the atlas. The book of Vesalius was printed by Johannes Oporinus .

    Illustrations from the book of Vesalius (source ). Here you can find many more images. It can be seen that the bodies in the illustrations are presented in “artistic” poses, but at the same time, individual muscles, bones or blood vessels are shown in numbers and signatures. The autopsy technique itself, apparently, implied the bending of certain tissue fragments without completely removing them.

    For comparison, van Kalkar’s painting “Cupronickel von Brauweiler”, written in 1540. The graphics in the Vesalius atlases are much more modest in execution, however, to replicate the anatomical tables, it was necessary to cut the figure on a wooden plate, which, of course, affected the quality.

    In addition to Vesalius, the sixteenth century is marked by the work of Gabriele Falloppio ( Falloppius ) and Bartolomeo Eustachy ( Eustachius) Fallopio was a student and friend of Vesalius and was also a professor at the University of Padua for some time. Eustache, by contrast, was an apologist for the anatomy of Galen and at first largely disagreed with representatives of the Vesalius school. A little later, Vesalius, in 1552, he, together with his assistants Pierre Matteo Pini and Giulio de Muse, also finished work on the Anatomical tables , which included 47 printing forms and were replicated only in 1714 . The works of these scientists were reflected in the anatomical nomenclature by the fallopian and Eustachian tubes, however, their works affected the anatomy of all organs and systems of the body and greatly changed ideas about the structure of the human body. Eustace, by the way, was the first to describe the structure of bones and muscles of the inner ear.

    Artworkfrom the atlas of Eustache. The style is reminiscent of works from Vesalius atlases, although it looks somewhat simpler. It can be seen that the detail is still not high, and not a lot of signatures. The terminology of muscles, bones, blood vessels, nerves and other organs in the early stages of development. The location of the vessels of the kidneys does not quite correspond to reality.
    Biblioteca Centrale Biomedica, Cagliari

    It is interesting that among the anatomical and medical books of that time textbooks on general and even plastic surgery came across. You can give an example of the books of Johannes de Vigo or Gaspare Tagliacco . However, there were almost no illustrations in their works.

    In addition to Vesalius and his already mentioned students and colleagues, we can recall a few names and examples of anatomical illustrations of the XVI century. Part can be found at this link . Of the other, lesser known anatomists of the time, Volher Coyter and Guido Guidi deserve attention . Both of them were followers of the Italian school, but Koyter worked for most of his life as a doctor in Nuremberg and was known as a researcher of comparative osteology. Guidy worked and taught in France. One of his notable works was the manual on surgery . The Vidian nerve (n. Vidii) and Vidian artery (arteria Vidiana) are named after this researcher.

    This can be completed with the 16th century, which prepared excellent ground for the further development of anatomy and anatomical illustration. In the next post, we will continue to talk about anatomists from Padua, touch on the subject of anatomical wax models, and also get to Peter the Great, his Dutch friends and their contribution to domestic anatomy and medicine. Next week, we’ll get to the atlases of pathologies, Gray’s anatomy, amazing and controversial works of 20th-century German illustrators and tell us what thoughts about the development of this area the artists of the best modern contemporary atlases and interactive applications shared with us.

    Other posts in the series:
    Part Two
    Part Three

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