Fragonard Museum: The Écorchés by Christophe Degueurce
Nonfiction • 127 color illustrations • $50.00
Hardcover • 8.25 x 10.25″ • 160 pages
A desiccated rider mounted atop a galloping horse, wondrous demonstrations of animal anatomy: these impressive spectacles of permanently preserved bodies, some of the original teaching aids from the world’s first veterinary schools founded from 1762 to 1766, challenge our understanding of historical science, Western culture, and the display of the dead, and they are the historical precursor to modern-day plastinated anatomical specimens popularly exhibited worldwide.
Honoré Fragonard (1732—1799) — cousin of the Rococo artist Jean-Honoré Fragonard famed for luminous paintings of elegance and beauty — created thousands of magnificent anatomical specimens. Aimed at elucidating the new science of comparative anatomy, the Écorchés satisfied as well a passion among France’s privileged society enthralled by the Enlightenment to possess their own cabinets des curieux, as Fragonard called them, evidence of their cultivation in the age of spectacular new scientific advances and philosophical ideas expounded by such intellectual giants as Diderot and Buffon.
Author Christophe Degueurce, curator of the Fragonard Museum, evokes the social turmoil and intellectual ferment surrounding Honoré Fragonard and brings to life not only the character of the uncommonly gifted anatomist, but reveals as well his recent discovery of Fragonard’s secrets of the Écorchés’ manufacture.
Like today’s plastinated descendants of the centuries-old tradition and technique of injection, Fragonard’s intriguing Écorchés were intended to offer a lasting insight into the interior complexities of the body. They were among the first momentous contributions to the great anatomical teaching collections of the eighteenth century and belong to a realm between art and science.