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Ecorche by Leonardo da Vinci. A Dead or Moribund Man in Bust Length.jpg
Écorché by Leonardo da Vinci.
An ecorche (with mummification) by the French anatomist Honore Fragonard Ecorche cavalier Fragonard Alfort 1.jpg
An écorché (with mummification) by the French anatomist Honoré Fragonard
Ecorche by Paulus Pontius. 0 Ecorche - Paulus Pontius - SNR - 3 PONTIUS - BNF (3).jpg
Écorché by Paulus Pontius.

An écorché (French pronunciation:  [ekɔʁʃe] ) is a figure drawn, painted, or sculpted showing the muscles of the body without skin, normally as a figure study for another work or as an exercise for a student artist. The Renaissance-era architect, theorist and all-around Renaissance man, Leon Battista Alberti, recommended that when painters intend to depict a nude, they should first arrange the muscles and bones, then depict the overlying skin. [1]

Figure study

A figure study is a drawing or painting of the human body made in preparation for a more composed or finished work; or to learn drawing and painting techniques in general and the human figure in particular. By preference, figure studies are done from a live model, but may also include the use of other references and the imagination of the artist. The live model may be clothed, or nude, but is usually nude for student work in order to learn human anatomy.

Renaissance art painting, sculpture and decorative arts of that period of European history known as the Renaissance

Renaissance art is the painting, sculpture and decorative arts of the period of European history, emerging as a distinct style in Italy in about 1400, in parallel with developments which occurred in philosophy, literature, music, and science. Renaissance art, perceived as the noblest of ancient traditions, took as its foundation the art of Classical antiquity, but transformed that tradition by absorbing recent developments in the art of Northern Europe and by applying contemporary scientific knowledge. Renaissance art, with Renaissance Humanist philosophy, spread throughout Europe, affecting both artists and their patrons with the development of new techniques and new artistic sensibilities. Renaissance art marks the transition of Europe from the medieval period to the Early Modern age.

Renaissance architecture architectural style

Renaissance architecture is the European architecture of the period between the early 14th and early 16th centuries in different regions, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance architecture followed Gothic architecture and was succeeded by Baroque architecture. Developed first in Florence, with Filippo Brunelleschi as one of its innovators, the Renaissance style quickly spread to other Italian cities. The style was carried to France, Germany, England, Russia and other parts of Europe at different dates and with varying degrees of impact.


Some of the first well known studies of this kind were performed by Leonardo da Vinci, who dissected cadavers and created detailed drawings of them. However, there are some accounts of this same practice taking place as far back as ancient Greece, though the specifics are not known.

Study (art) drawing, sketch or painting done in preparation for a finished piece of art

In art, a study is a drawing, sketch or painting done in preparation for a finished piece, or as visual notes. Studies are often used to understand the problems involved in rendering subjects and to plan the elements to be used in finished works, such as light, color, form, perspective and composition. Studies can have more impact than more-elaborately planned work, due to the fresh insights the artist gains while exploring the subject. The excitement of discovery can give a study vitality. Even when layers of the work show changes the artist made as more was understood, the viewer shares more of the artist's sense of discovery. Written notes alongside visual images add to the import of the piece as they allow the viewer to share the artist's process of getting to know the subject.

Leonardo da Vinci Italian Renaissance polymath

Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, more commonly Leonardo da Vinci or simply Leonardo, was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, drawing, painting, sculpting, architecture, science, music, mathematics, engineering, literature, anatomy, geology, astronomy, botany, writing, history, and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology, ichnology, and architecture, and he is widely considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute, helicopter, and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal.

Ancient Greece Civilization belonging to an early period of Greek history

Ancient Greece was a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history from the Greek Dark Ages of the 12th–9th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Roughly three centuries after the Late Bronze Age collapse of Mycenaean Greece, Greek urban poleis began to form in the 8th century BC, ushering in the Archaic period and colonization of the Mediterranean Basin. This was followed by the period of Classical Greece, an era that began with the Greco-Persian Wars, lasting from the 5th to 4th centuries BC. Due to the conquests by Alexander the Great of Macedon, Hellenistic civilization flourished from Central Asia to the western end of the Mediterranean Sea. The Hellenistic period came to an end with the conquests and annexations of the eastern Mediterranean world by the Roman Republic, which established the Roman province of Macedonia in Roman Greece, and later the province of Achaea during the Roman Empire.


The term écorché, meaning literally "flayed", came into usage via the French Academies (such as the École des Beaux Arts) in the 19th century. [1]

Flaying method of slow and painful execution in which skin is removed from the body

Flaying, also known colloquially as skinning, is a method of slow and painful execution in which skin is removed from the body. Generally, an attempt is made to keep the removed portion of skin intact.


Although there are some accounts of practices similar to écorché as far back as ancient Greece, the degree of similarity is unclear.[ citation needed ] The term as used today can be applied with the greatest confidence to the Renaissance period onwards.


During the Renaissance in Italy, around the 1450 to 1600, the rebirth of classical Greek and Roman characteristics in art led to the studies of the human anatomy. The practice of dissecting the human body was banned for many centuries due to the belief that body and soul were inseparable. It wasn’t until the election of Pope Boniface VIII that the practice of dissection was once again allowed for observation. [2] [3] Many painters and artists documented and even performed the dissections themselves by taking careful observations of the human body. Among them were Leonardo da Vinci and Andreas Vesalius, two of the most influential artists in anatomical illustrations. [4] Leonardo da Vinci, in particular, was very detailed in his studies that he was known as the “artist-anatomist” for the creation of a new science and the creative depiction to anatomy. Leonardo’s anatomical studies contributed to artistic exploration of the movement of the muscles, joints and bones. His goal was to analyze and understand the instruments behind the postures and gestures in the human body. [5]

Pope Boniface VIII 193rd Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Boniface VIII was Pope from 24 December 1294 to his death in 1303.

Andreas Vesalius Flemish anatomist

Andreas Vesalius was a 16th-century Flemish anatomist, physician, and author of one of the most influential books on human anatomy, De humani corporis fabrica. Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy. He was born in Brussels, which was then part of the Habsburg Netherlands. He was professor at the University of Padua and later became Imperial physician at the court of Emperor Charles V.

Anatomy The study of the structure of organisms and their parts

Anatomy is the branch of biology concerned with the study of the structure of organisms and their parts. Anatomy is a branch of natural science which deals with the structural organization of living things. It is an old science, having its beginnings in prehistoric times. Anatomy is inherently tied to developmental biology, embryology, comparative anatomy, evolutionary biology, and phylogeny, as these are the processes by which anatomy is generated over immediate (embryology) and long (evolution) timescales. Anatomy and physiology, which study (respectively) the structure and function of organisms and their parts, make a natural pair of related disciplines, and they are often studied together. Human anatomy is one of the essential basic sciences that are applied in medicine.

17th–19th centuries

The study of anatomical figures became popular among the medical academies across Europe around the 17th and 18th century, especially when there was a lack of bodies available for dissections. [4] Medical students relied on these figures because they provided a good representation of what the anatomical model looks like. The écorché (flayed) figures were made to look like the skin was removed from the body, exposing the muscles and vessels of the model. Some figures were created to strip away the layers of muscles and reveal the skeleton of the model. Many of the life-size scale écorché figures were reproduced in a smaller scale out of bronze that could be easily distributed. [6]

Écorché figures were commonly made out of many different materials: bronze, ivory, plaster, wax, or wood. By the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, wax was the most popular use of material in creating écorché statues. The production of colored wax anatomies allowed for a variety of hues and tone that makes the models appear realistic. [7]

21st century

The écorché form of study still continues at traditional schools throughout the world including the New York Academy of Art, the Art Students League of New York, the Grand Central Academy of Art in New York City, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, and the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. [8]

Related Research Articles

History of anatomy

The history of anatomy extends from the earliest examinations of sacrificial victims to the sophisticated analyses of the body performed by modern scientists. The study of human anatomy can be traced back thousands of years, at least to the Egyptians, but the science of anatomy, as we know it today, did not develop until far later. The development of the study of anatomy gradually built upon concepts that were understood during the time of Galen and slowly became a part of the traditional medical curriculum. It has been characterized, over time, by a continually developing understanding of the functions of organs and structures in the body.

The human body is the structure of a human being. It is composed of many different types of cells that together create tissues and subsequently organ systems. They ensure homeostasis and the viability of the human body.

The human skeleton is the internal framework of the body. It is composed of around 270 bones at birth – this total decreases to around 206 bones by adulthood after some bones get fused together. The bone mass in the skeleton reaches maximum density around age 21. The human skeleton can be divided into the axial skeleton and the appendicular skeleton. The axial skeleton is formed by the vertebral column, the rib cage, the skull and other associated bones. The appendicular skeleton, which is attached to the axial skeleton, is formed by the shoulder girdle, the pelvic girdle and the bones of the upper and lower limbs.

William Hunter (anatomist) Scottish anatomist and physician

William Hunter was a Scottish anatomist and physician. He was a leading teacher of anatomy, and the outstanding obstetrician of his day. His guidance and training of his equally famous brother, John Hunter, was also of great importance.

Mondino de Luzzi Italian anatomist

Mondino de Luzzi, or de Liuzzi or de Lucci,, also known as Mundinus, was an Italian physician, anatomist and professor of surgery, who lived and worked in Bologna. He is often credited as the restorer of anatomy because he made seminal contributions to the field by reintroducing the practice of public dissection of human cadavers and writing the first modern anatomical text.

Moulage art of applying mock injuries

Moulage is the art of applying mock injuries for the purpose of training emergency response teams and other medical and military personnel. Moulage may be as simple as applying pre-made rubber or latex "wounds" to a healthy "patient's" limbs, chest, head, etc., or as complex as using makeup and theatre techniques to provide elements of realism to the training simulation. The practice dates to at least the Renaissance, when wax figures were used for this purpose.

Dissection cutting procedure used in anatomy

Dissection is the dismembering of the body of a deceased animal or plant to study its anatomical structure. Autopsy is used in pathology and forensic medicine to determine the cause of death in humans. Less extensive dissection of plants and smaller animals preserved in a formaldehyde solution is typically carried out or demonstrated in biology and natural science classes in middle school and high school, while extensive dissections of cadavers of adults and children, both fresh and preserved are carried out by medical students in medical schools as a part of the teaching in subjects such as anatomy, pathology and forensic medicine. Consequently, dissection is typically conducted in a morgue or in an anatomy lab.

Wax sculpture

A wax sculpture is a depiction made using a waxy substance. Often these are effigies, usually of a notable individual, but there are also death masks and scenes with many figures, mostly in relief.

Muscleman Disambiguation page providing links to topics that could be referred to by the same search term

Muscleman may denote any man with well-developed muscles, in particular a bodybuilder. In art-related and anatomical contexts, the term is also used for a model in wax showing the muscles of a man. Such a figure showing the muscles of the human body without skin is also called écorché.

Science and inventions of Leonardo da Vinci Wikimedia list article

Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) was an Italian polymath, regarded as the epitome of the "Renaissance Man", displaying skills in numerous diverse areas of study. Whilst most famous for his paintings such as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, Leonardo is also renowned in the fields of civil engineering, chemistry, geology, geometry, hydrodynamics, mathematics, mechanical engineering, optics, physics, pyrotechnics, and zoology.

Dimitrie D. Gerota , Romanian anatomist, physician, radiologist, urologist, and a corresponding member of the Romanian Academy from 1916.

A cadaver is a dead human body that is used by medical students, physicians and other scientists to study anatomy, identify disease sites, determine causes of death, and provide tissue to repair a defect in a living human being. Students in medical school study and dissect cadavers as a part of their education. Others who study cadavers include archaeologists and artists.

Medical Renaissance

The Medical Renaissance, from 1400 to 1700 CE, is the period of progress in European medical knowledge, and a renewed interest in the ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Such medical discoveries during the Medical Renaissance are credited with paving the way for modern medicine.

Musée Fragonard dAlfort museum

The Musée Fragonard d'Alfort, often simply the Musée Fragonard, is a museum of anatomical oddities located within the École Nationale Vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort, 7 avenue du Général de Gaulle, in Maisons-Alfort, a suburb of Paris. It is open several days per week in the cooler months; an admission fee is charged.

Marcantonio della Torre (1481–1511) was a Renaissance Professor of Anatomy who lectured at the University of Pavia and at the University of Padua. It is believed that della Torre and Leonardo da Vinci, who studied the human anatomy by dissecting corpses, were intending to publish a book, but this did not eventuate as della Torre's life was cut short by plague in 1511. By this time Leonardo had made over 750 detailed anatomical drawings with annotations. Both Giorgio Vasari and Paolo Giovio claim that della Torre had written anatomical texts, but none are known to have survived to the modern age.


Smugglerius is an écorché sculpture of a man posed in imitation of the ancient Roman sculpture known as the Dying Gaul. The original bronze cast was made in 1776 by Agostino Carlini for William Hunter, first Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy Schools, from the body of a muscular criminal, flayed after he was hanged at Tyburn. The criminal was thought to be a smuggler, and so the cast of his body was given the mocking cod Latin name "Smugglerius".

Clemente Susini Italian artist and anatomist

Clemente Michelangelo Susini (1754–1814) was an Italian sculptor who became renowned for his wax anatomical models, vividly and accurately depicting partly dissected corpses. These models were praised by both doctors and artists.

<i>Studies of the Fetus in the Womb</i> two drawings by Leonardo da Vinci

Studies of the Fetus in the Womb are two colored annotated sketches by Leonardo da Vinci made in around 1511. The studies correctly depict the human fetus in its proper position inside a dissected uterus. Da Vinci depicted the uterus with one chamber, in contrast to theories that the uterus had multiple chambers which many believed divided fetuses into separate compartments in the case of twins. Da Vinci also correctly drew the uterine artery and the vascular system of the cervix and vagina.

Torrie horse

The Torrie horse or Mattei horse is a bronze Renaissance anatomical sculpture of a horse, created in Florence by Giambologna in the 1580s.


  1. 1 2 Écorché defined at ArtLex.com
  2. Lemire, M (1 December 1992). "Representation of the human body: the colored wax anatomic models of the 18th and 19th centuries in the revival of medical instruction". Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy. 14 (4): 283–291. doi:10.1007/BF01794751.
  3. Ginn, Sheryl R.; Lorusso, Lorenzo (16 July 2008). "Brain, Mind, and Body: Interactions with Art in Renaissance Italy". Journal of the History of the Neurosciences. 17 (3): 295–313. doi:10.1080/09647040701575900. PMID   18629698.
  4. 1 2 Wallace, Martin Kemp, Marina (2001). Spectacular bodies : the art and science of the human body from Leonardo to now. London: Hayward Gallery. pp. 22–90. ISBN   978-0520227927.
  5. Keele, Kenneth D. (October 1964). "Leonardo Da Vinci's Influence on Renaissance Anatomy". Medical History. 8 (4): 360–370. doi:10.1017/s0025727300029835. PMC   1033412 . PMID   14230140.
  6. Owen, Harry (1 April 2012). "Early Use of Simulation in Medical Education". Simulation in Healthcare: the Journal of the Society for Simulation in Healthcare . 7 (2): 102–116. doi:10.1097/SIH.0b013e3182415a91. PMID   22374231.
  7. DARLINGTON, ANNE (1 December 1986). "The Teaching of Anatomy and the Royal Academy of Arts 1768-1782". Journal of Art & Design Education. 5 (3): 263–271. doi:10.1111/j.1476-8070.1986.tb00207.x.
  8. "Academy of Art University On Campus Labs" (PDF). academyart.edu. Academy of Art University . Retrieved 23 November 2016.