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Anatomy and Art Research Guide

Drawing Manuals

The illustrations of anatomy that are sometimes found in early printed drawing manuals as well as art treatises are indicative of the subject’s foundational role in the artist’s mastery of the human figure. Drawing manuals offered both the artist at the beginning of his career and the amateur instructive examples to copy. First appearing in the 16th century, they may be considered a reflection of how the young artist was taught. Frequently drawing manuals begin with the eye and the other parts of the face, followed by complete heads in various attitudes, individual body parts and whole figures so that they functioned as a pattern book for the human form. Additionally, other subjects covered could include geometry, perspective, animals, architecture, landscape, etc.

The anatomy depicted is of the elements of most use to artists – the bones and the muscles - and was drawn from a variety of sources. Prints could be based on circulating drawings. Some copies of Scuola perfetta per imparare a disegnare tutto il corpo humano, a drawing manual of the early 17th century linked to the Carracci school of Bologna, include a print after an anatomy drawing by Michelangelo. Écorché models, sculptures displaying the muscles of the body that were often to be found in artist academies, were another subject. Illustrated anatomy books, such as Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica (1543) and Bernhard Siegfried Albinus’s Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (1747), known through innumerable copies, also provided inspiration. Printed drawing manuals, produced in order to be copied by artists, were themselves frequently mined for later editions, such as Browne’s Ars pictoria (1675).

The following lists are a selection of publications from Getty Library’s Special Collections with descriptions and secondary source publications which are helpful starting points for further research.

Cousin, Jean (the Younger). Livre de pourtraicture; La vraye science de la pourtraicture descrite et demontrée par maistre Jean Cousin, peintre & geometrien tres-excellent. Paris: Guillaume le Bé, 1671. Getty Research Institute, 86-B8575. Click on the image to view a digitized copy of the book. 

Click on the image to view a digitized copy of the book. Click on the title to view the Getty Library's catalog record.


Scuola perfetta per imparare a disegnare tutto il corpo humano cavata dallo studio, e disegni de Caracci. [Rome: s.n., 16--]

The Scuola perfetta is composed of prints by Luca Ciamberlano (active 1599-1641) and Francesco Brizio (ca. 1574-1623), mainly after works of Agostino Carracci (1557-1602) and some after those of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), like the one illustrated here.






Lautensack, Heinrich. Dess Circkels unnd Richtscheyts auch der Perspectiva, und Proportion des Menschen und Rosse, kurtze doch gründtliche Underweisung deß rechten gebrauchs. Frankfurt: Egenolff Emmel, in verlegung Simonis Schambergers, 1618

First printed in 1564, Lautensack, a German goldsmith and painter, employs the skeleton to establish the proportions of the body.




Van de Passe, Crispijn. La prima-[quinta] parte della luce del dipingere et disegnare. Amsterdam: Crispijn van de Passe, 1643–44.

Made up of five parts with some 200 engravings and with a text in four languages, Van de Passe’s publication is a particularly comprehensive drawing manual, from putti to insects.







De Poutre, Ioan. A. Varie figure academiche: novamente raccolte dal naturale con grandissima fatica, e spesa molto commode per la gioventu, la quaele si diletta dal arte dal disegno. Antwerp: Ioan A. de Poutre [1650-1670?].

Based on an earlier edition by the Flemish printmaker Pieter de Jode (1570-1634), published in 1629.







Cousin, Jean (the Younger). Livre de pourtraicture; La vraye science de la pourtraicture descrite et demontrée par maistre Jean Cousin, peintre & geometrien tres-excellent. Paris: Guillaume le Bé, 1671.

First published in 1595, versions of Cousin’s book were in print into the 19th century. In this edition, no real anatomical explanation is given, and the text focuses on proportions and measures relative to other body parts. For example, the width of the upper thigh is given as three nose lengths.



Arfe y Villafañe, Juan de. Varia conmensuración para la escultura, y arquitectura. Madrid: Francisco Sanz, 1675.

First published in 1585-1587, Arfe y Villafañe’s book which also deals with geometry, proportions, perspective, animals, and architecture contains the earliest published illustrated commentary on anatomy by an artist. A Spanish sculptor and goldsmith, Arfe y Villafañe (1535-1603) did not consider dissection necessary for an artist’s knowledge of anatomy and encouraged instead observation of living models.





Browne, Alexander. Ars pictoria: or an Academy Treating of Drawing, Painting, Limning, Etching. to which are Added XXXI. Copper Plates, Expressing the Choicest, Nearest, And Most Exact Grounds and Rules of Symmetry. Collected out of the Most Eminent Italian, German, And Netherland Authors. 2nd revised ed. London: printed for Arthur Tooker, at the Globe in the Strand, over against Ivie-Bridge; and William Battersby, at Thavie's Inne Gate in Holborn, near S. Andrew's Church, 1675.

First published in 1669, Ars pictoria is a collection of previously published prints by various authors, as indicated by the title. Going unacknowledged is the author’s reuse for the text of passages from Richard Haydocke’s 1598 translation of Giovanni Paolo Lomazzo’s treatise on art.




Van Hoogstraten, Samuel. Inleyding tot de Hooge Schoole der Schilderkonst, anders de Zichtbaere Werelt. Rotterdam: François van Hoogstraten, 1678.

The Dutch painter and engraver Van Hoogstraten (1627-1678) assures young painters a lifetime of useful knowledge of anatomy can be attained if they briefly apply themselves to the study of anatomy. In this way, they will understand the function of muscles and their appearance on the body and with this knowledge “perceive life while painting after it” (p. 56).





Jombert, Charles-Antoine. Méthode pour apprendre le dessin: ou l'on donne les regles générales de ce grand art, & des préceptes pour en acquérir la connoissance, & s'y perfectionner en peu de tems. Paris: Alex. Jombert, 1784.

An earlier edition appeared in 1755. The anatomy figures are after Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (1543). They are signed “Le Titien del.” This attribution of the design of the Vesalian woodcuts to the Venetian artist Titian was one expressed earlier in the Abregé d’anatomie, accommodé aux arts de peinture et de sculpture by François Tortebat and Roger de Piles (1668). Today they are considered the work of Jan Steven van Calcar and other artists in Titian’s orbit.





Volpato, Giovanni, and Raffaello Morghen. Principes du dessein tirés d'après les antiques statues: ouvrage fort interessant à tous ceux qui s'appliquent aux beaux arts. Rome: Pagliarini, 1786.

The final plate of the survey of antique sculpture is dedicated to anatomy as demonstrated by a variant of one of Jean-Antoine Houdon’s écorché models.

(link to the digitized book coming soon)




Bosio, Jean. Traité élémentaire des règles du dessin. Paris: Bosio, 1800–1801.

Bosio (1764–1827) was professor of drawing at the École Polytechnique, Paris. Some of the illustrations in this small portable book are after an écorché model by the French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828).







Carradori, Francesco. Istruzione elementare per gli studiosi della scultura. Florence: n.p., 1802.

The first three illustrations in this practical manual for sculptors with etchings by Carlo Lasinio (1759–1838) were inspired an écorché model by the French sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon (1741-1828). For more detailed information on anatomy, Carradori (1747-1825), professor of sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Florence, refers his readers to “the great work” of the anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus, denoting the renowned Tabulae sceleti et musculorum corporis humani (1747).





Pinet, Nicolas. Nouveau cours de dessin: comprenant les principes de la figure, dans les trois états d'enfance, de virilité et de décrépitude: l'anatomie (myologie et osteologie), la perspective, un traité des ombres et du clairobscur, et une méthode pour dessiner les paysages, les fleurs et les ornemens, avec un grand nombre de figures en tailledouce, pour l'application des principes: précédé de réflexions sur une nouvelle méthode, propre à accélérer l'avancement de la jeunesse dans l'étude du dessin. Namur: J.J. Martin, An XII [between Sept. 24 1803 and Sept. 23 1804







Raisonette, Nicolas. Premieres leçons sur une partie des sciences et des arts liberaux, présentées a l'Institut des sciences et arts…; ouvrage utile aux écoles secondaires, orné de 96 estampes. Paris: Levrault, 1806.








De Rubeis, Giovanni Battista. De' ritratti, ossia, Trattato per coglier le fisonomie = Des portraits, ou, Traité pour saisir la physionomie. Paris: Arthus Bertrand, 1809.

The first volume of this book on portraiture by Italian artist and writer de Rubeis (1743-1819) addresses the positions of the muscles of the face found in different expressions. Parts of anatomy are named and discussed in the second volume that has a title that translates as “A Treatise of Anatomy for the Use of Portrait Painters.”




Hatton, Richard G. Figure Drawing and Composition: Being a Number of Hints for the Student and Designer upon the Treatment of the Human Figure. London: Chapman and Hall, 1895.

Authored by the English sculptor Richard George Hatton (1864-1926).








Bolten, Jaap. Method and Practice: Dutch and Flemish Drawing Books, 1600–1750. Translated by Alexander Dietz. Landau: PVA, 1985.

Amornpicketkul, Chittima. “Seventeenth-Century Italian Drawing Books: Their Origin and Development.” Children of Mercury: The Education of Artists in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. Exhibition catalog. Providence, RI: Dept of Art, Brown University, 1984: 108-18.

Gombrich, E. H. Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, 2nd revd. ed. New York; Pantheon, 1962: 146-172.

Griest, Alexandra Arvilla. “A Rediscovered Text for a Drawing Book by Odoardo Fialetti.” Burlington Magazine 156 (January 2014): 12-18.

Heilmann, Maria, Nino Nanobashvili, Ulrich Pfisterer, and Tobias Teutenberg, eds. Punkt, Punkt, Komma, Strich: Zeichenbücher in Europa, ca. 1525–1925. Exhinbition catalog. Passau: Dietmar Klinger, 2014.

Heilmann, Maria, Nino Nanobashvili, Ulrich Pfisterer, and Tobias Teutenberg, eds. Lernt Zeichnen! Techniken zwischen Kunst und Wissenschaft 1525–1925. Passau: Dietmar Klinger, 2015.

Nanobashvili, Nino. Die Ausbildung von Künstlern und Dilettanti: Das ABC des Zeichnens. Petersberg: Michael Imhof, 2018.

Remond, Jaya. “‘Draw Everything That Exists in the World’: ’T Light der Teken en Schilderkonst and the Shaping of Art Education in Early Modern Northern Europe.” In Jorink, Eric, Ann-Sophie Lehmann, and Bart Ramaker eds. Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek: Lessons in Art: Art, Education and Modes of Instruction since 1500 68 (2019), 287–321.

Rosand, David. “The Crisis of the Venetian Renaissance Tradition.” L'Arte 11-12 (1970): 5-53. 

Sellink, Manfred. “‘As a Guide to the Highest Learning’: An Antwerp Drawing Book Dated 1589.” Simiolus: Netherlands Quarterly for the History of Art 21, no. 1/2 (1992): 40–56.

Sloan, Kim. ‘A Noble Art.’ Amateur Artists and Drawing Masters c. 1600-1800. Exhibition catalog. London: British Museum, 2000: 43-45; 55-63.

Sancho Lobis, Victoria. “Printed Drawing Books and the Dissemination of Ideal Male Anatomy in Northern Europe.” In The Nude and the Norm in the Early Modern Low Countries, edited by Karolien de Clippel, Katharina Van Cauteren, and Katlijne van der Stighelen, 51–64. Turnhout: Brepols, 2011.

Whistler, Catherine. Learning to Draw in Venice: The Role of Drawing Manuals. In Rethinking Renaissance Drawings. Essays in Honour of David McTavish, edited by Una Roman D’Elia, 121-36. Montreal & Kingston, London, and Chicago: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015.