Anatomy has been studied by art students as well as by medical
students, surgeons, natural philosophers, bio-engineers, and
others. Artistic anatomy is mostly concerned with surface anatomy,
but the muscles and bones beneath the skin have also been taught to
students who hoped to make a career from painting or sculpting the
human figure in action.
This watercolour was made by one such artist, the Swiss Johann
Conrad Zeller (1807-1856). Born in Zurich, Zeller, like many
Northern artists, travelled to Rome where he stayed for 23 years.
There he studied Italian paintings, many of which used human
figures in action to narrate biblical scenes and the lives of
saints, painted by artists such as Raphael who had themselves
studied anatomy. Zeller and some of his contemporaries followed the
example of those earlier artists by copying the surface anatomy of
living models, ancient marble sculptures, and, as it appears from
this and other watercolours, actual cadavers.
Although not French, Zeller studied in Rome in the ambit of the
Académie de France under the directorship of his mentor Horace
Vernet (1789-1863), and it was probably through the Académie that
he was able to receive such a thorough training in anatomy.