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The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, University of Glasgow 2018
AFTER SPANG, Michael Henry; (Danish; died 1762) CAST UNKNOWN
This bronze statuette is a reduced version of Hunter's first plaster écorché, which he cast from the life for teaching at the St Martin's Lane Academy in about 1750. The figure was moved to the premises of the embryo Royal Academy in 1767, and it appears later in Zoffany's two paintings of the Academy. The statuette was made by a Danish artist in the circle of Roubiliac, Michael Henry Spang, who must have studied anatomy with Hunter at St Martin's Lane. Spang exhibited his wax reduction of Hunter's figure (Hunterian Museum) at the Society of Artists in 1761 (162). The artist died soon afterwards, and Hunter seems to have acquired the wax, and to have taken forward the project of making bronze casts to provide artists with a portable version of his anatomical figure. Hogarth's Analysis (1753, p. 64) recommended the use of small casts of the Belvedere Torso, and he made the point in his Apology for Painters that the smaller size had advantages: 'the little casts of the gladiator the Laocoon the Venus etc. if true copies - are still better than the large as the parts are exactly the same the eye comprehends them with most ease and they are more handy to place and turn about.' Naturally, Hunter's écorché would have been even more useful as an anatomical reference.
Casts of varying quality exist, and one - now lost - was originally in Hunter's collection. What little information we have about the making of bronze casts suggests the involvement of various artists over the decades following the making of Spang's wax figure. Malcolm Baker records that Albert Pars was awarded a premium for a 'Cast of an Anatomy figure, after Spang' in 1767 by the Society of Artists. The artist Thomas Paine the younger carried with him on his journey to Italy in 1768 'a little Anatomycal figure in bronze, by Spang, from a model he made in wax…', and he reported that it was 'much admired at Paris, Rome etc. for its excellence, and portability'. Spang had died by then, but his dedication to Hunter's anatomy lived on through the fame of his reduction of Hunter's figure. It was to artists what Gray's Anatomy would later become to doctors: J.T. Smith in Nollekens and his Times referred to the statuette as 'that small anatomical figure so well known to every draughtsman'.
Purchased with the support of The Art Fund and the National Fund for Acquisitions, 2006
ECORCHE : ACADEMY FIGURE : NEOCLASSICISM : NEO-CLASSICISM : ANATOMY : HUNTER 2007 : SCORTICATO : MYOTOMIA : MUSCLES : ON DISPLAY :