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Gopnik's Daily Pic: An anatomy of art

By Blake Gopnik

The latest feed from my morning musings about art and objects at

(Courtesy the National Gallery of Art)

An image by the great French theorist Roger de Piles, from his 1668 volume on anatomy for artists. It's in the collection of the National Gallery of Art Library, which is hosting a tiny one-room show called "The Body Inside and Out: Anatomical Literature and Art Theory" target="new". What I like so much about early anatomical illustrations is the elegant emotion they give to their flayed and dismembered subjects. (The images by Titian for Vesalius's De Fabrica are the greatest example of that.)

There's a sense that artistic and aesthetic etiquette trumps mere scientific discovery, which hasn't been the case for some time now. Of course, images like this are really conceived from the start as an x-ray-specs version of art, so it's no wonder they have the same grace as artistic bodies with skin on. Despite a pretense that it's otherwise, in the Renaissance it's the skin that shapes what's underneath, rather than the other way around.

By Blake Gopnik  | October 28, 2010; 7:30 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Museums  | Tags:  Daily Pic  
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