Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Art (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Tiffanie Townsend


During the sixteenth century, many individuals became fascinated by the human form, which led to an increase in artistic and scientific focus on these subjects. Artistic interest in the human body resulted in a close relationship between artists and anatomists during the time, and the societal acceptance to public demonstrations of dissections, including flaying, was often converged with Mannerist ideals. It is historically evident that écorché figures during Mannerism were based on these, as well as torture methods during the time. As these demonstrations became more common throughout the sixteenth century, they began to be monitored in order to ensure that ethics were being followed. This, however, did not limit the relationship between anatomists and artists; in fact, many artists actively participated alongside the anatomists in their studies. As artists became exposed to new information on the human form, they were able to begin depicting the bizarre, highlighted by exaggerated contrapposto and figura serpentinata forms and amplified occurrences of écorché figures. These figures manage to maintain a calmness to them, accepting and, sometimes, participating in their own dissection. There exists a difference between artists documenting anatomical demonstrations and artists using these studies to further their works. This paper will address the ways in which artists co-opted the scientific studies to further their works: Andreas Vesalius devoted most of his time as a documenter, illustrating an entire book on the workings of the human body. Other artists such as Michelangelo and Titian focused on the aesthetic and symbolism of these figures.

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