Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty, Myologie complette en couleur et grandeur naturelle : composée de l’Essai et de la Suite de l’Essai d’anatomie, en tableux imprimés [d’après les parties disséquées et préparées], 1746

Photos: Wellcome Collection

One of the most famous eighteenth-century anatomical atlases, which was created with the participation of the graphic artist and anatomist Jacques Fabien Gautier d’Agoty (1716-1785). The main task of this work was to facilitate the study of anatomy for students of medicine, surgery, painting and sculpture. In the creation of this work and other anatomical atlases, Gautier d’Agoty collaborated with Jacques Francois Duverney, a Parisian surgeon and anatomy demonstrator at the Jardin du Roy. As far as the medical value of the content of the atlas is concerned, it was small in the eyes of specialists and has added nothing significant to science since the time of Vesalius. On the other hand, the illustrations that complemented it were extremely valuable. They were made using the mezzotint method, which Gautier d’Agoty learned from his master Jacob Christoph Le Blon, enriching them later with the addition of black. The anatomical pictures from Myologie complette aroused much controversy in the 18th century. They were attributed to sublime drama, artistic arrogance, and sometimes even an insult to Christian morality. The realistic close-ups of female and male genitals depicted next to each other were particularly controversial. In some cases, they were read as disguised personal erotic fantasies of the artist. It seems, however, that in this way he rather wanted to draw the attention of influential personalities to his works, which could have positively influenced the expansion of his printing activities. Today, due to the characteristic style and extremely original compositions, Gautier d’Agoty is considered to be the progenitor of surrealism.

Andreas Vesalius, De Humanis Corporis Fabrica, 1543

Source: Public domain

The most famous anatomical textbook of the modern era. Written by Andreas Vesalius from Brussels, educated in Paris and professor in University of Padua. It summarizes the years of entire human research that led to the challenging of medical science in Galen’s day. It became possible thanks to the regular dissections of human corpses by Vesalius. The work of De Humanis Corporis Fabrica contains 273 illustrations. Their author was most likely Titian’s student Jan Stefan von Calcar. The characters presented by him are characterized by dynamics and, above all, diversity. Both the skeletons and flayed ecorché were captured in a pensive or dancing pose. All the drawings are distinguished by an extremely perfect observation of the muscular system, a precise capture of the structure of nerves, vessels and bones. No one before Vesalius has combined medicine and art so closely in one work, therefore the question is often asked who played a greater role in its creation, the doctor or the artist. The work, thanks to the print, was very quickly disseminated in Europe. It was enthusiastically received in many circles, but there were also voices of criticism that did not approve of the progress of science captured in it.

Guido de Vigevano, Anothomia Philippi Septimi , 1345

Source: Public domain

The work of Queen Jeanne de Bourgogne’s personal physician Guido de Vigevano (c. 1280 – c. 1349) was dedicated to the King of France, Philip VI. It is one of the most interesting 14th-century manuscripts dedicated to human anatomy. He refers directly to the Galen manuscripts and the teachings of the mentor Vigevano Mondino de Luzzi. Especially valuable are the illustrations contained in it, which were created thanks to the experience of this physician in carrying out an autopsy on human corpses, although they were officially prohibited during his lifetime. In one of the drawings the human body is even shown on the “autopsy” table, so that the corpse and the anatomist standing next to it occupy two planes next to each other. The next pictures show the anatomy of the abdomen, chest and head, and this is the most famous anatomy of a woman’s body with a visible “seven-chambered” uterus in reference to Galen’s hypothesis. In Vivegano’s work there are also drawings showing treatments carried out on living patients. All pictures are highly schematic and with low precision. In 1926, Vigevano’s work was reissued in color by the French librarian and historian of medicine Ernest Wickersheime.

Edouard Pernkopf, Topographische Anatomie des Menschen : Lehrbuch und Atlas der regionär-stratigraphischen Präparation. B. 1. Hälfte 1, Allgemeines, Brust und Brustgliedmasse

Without a doubt, the most controversial anatomical atlas in the history of medicine. Its author was the Austrian anatomist and rector of the University of Vienna Edouard Pernkompf (1888-1955). He invited four artists who were responsible for the preparation of the illustrative material of the Atlas. Initially, in the years 1937-1941, two volumes  devoted to the anatomy and muscles of the abdomen, pelvis and pelvic limbs, respectively, were published. The album was famous for its amazingly beautiful, colorful drawings and from a scientific point of view it was a scientific masterpiece. His assessment was overshadowed by the affiliation of Pernkompf and his assistants to the Nazi party, which was revealed in the album itself by the Nazi symbolism emphasized in many places. The use of the bodies of WWII victims and Nazi ideology for dissection was even more controversial. After the end of the war, Pernkopf stayed in an Allied prison for several years, then returned to work on the next volumes of the atlas. In 1952, the third part devoted to the head and neck was published, while the devil appeared after his death. In total, in the second half of the 20th century, the Pernkopf Atlas was published in five language versions.

Mondino de Luzzi (Mundinus), Anathomia Mundini, 1316 (printed in 1476)

Source: Public domain

The first work on anatomy since ancient times based on the results of an autopsy. Its author, Mondino de Luzzi (1270-1320), called the “restorer of anatomy”, received his medical education at the University of Bologna. During Mundinus’ lifetime, performing an autopsy was not the basis of medical training, but this did not prevent him from being the first physician to perform an autopsy since the times of Herophilus and Erastritos in Alexandria in the 3rd century BC. His life’s work “Anathomia”, was not however, an original work, as it was based primarily on knowledge from the times of Galen and on the results of research from the various Arab schools. In several places the author allowed himself, but very carefully, to undermine Galen’s authority, but this did not translate into the whole work. Mundinus’ descriptions were also imprecise, and the illustrations supporting them did not reflect the exact structure of individual organs and their arrangement in the cavities of the human body. This was due to the fact that dissection at that time was more like quartering and had nothing to do with professional preparation of the body. The preparations he prepared for educational purposes were dried, for example, in the sun in order to show the structure of tendons and ligaments. Until the sixteenth century, however, “Anathomy” was the most widely published publication in universities on the structure of the human body.