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GLAHM C.6: 'Anatomical Figure' - click to view larger image

"Anatomical Figure"


CRE SPANG, Michael Henry; (Danish; died 1762) 1760 London England

wax; wooden support; wooden base
H. 25cm W. 10.5
This wax statuette was made by the Danish neo-classical sculptor Michael Henry Spang. It is a reduced version of a flayed figure cast in plaster by William Hunter to use for teaching at the St Martin's Lane Academy in London c1753. Spang came to London to train as an artist; he died young, and so little is known about him. However he was well known in London about 1760, both as one of Robert Adam's stone carvers, and as a teacher of drawing to Joseph Nollekens among others. This wax statuette is evidence that he studied anatomy at the St Martin's Lane Academy with William Hunter. The Academy's life-size figure, cast in plaster by Hunter, is now lost, but it was taken from St Martin's Lane, with other equipment, to the Royal Academy in 1768, and it appears in the background of Johan Zoffany's painting of the Royal Academy life class, 1771 (Royal Collection). Spang died soon after this wax was exhibited, but Hunter seems to have taken forward the project of making bronze casts of it to provide artists with a portable version of his anatomical figure. Various casts, of varying quality exist (e.g. Hunterian Museum, London; V&A, Science Museum), and one was originally in Hunter's collection, now lost. A replacement for the missing cast was purchased in 2006 (GLAHA 55238). The artist James Paine (1745-1829) 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 in Paris and Rome for its excellence and portability (Martin Kemp, Burlington Magazine (June 1983). The casts from Spang's reduction spread the fame of Hunter's anatomical figure in Academy across Europe. See SCRAN project 0656: Science and Scientists www.scran.ac.uk

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For more information please contact Malcolm.Chapman@glasgow.ac.uk