A plate from Bernhard Siegfried Albinus’ famous “Tabular Sceleti et Cusculorum Corporis Humani”, etched by Jan Wandelaar from his own drawing.
Tabulae Sceleti et Musculorum Corporis Humani was arguably the most important illustrated anatomical work of the Eighteenth Century. Anatomist Bernhard Siegfried Albinus and artist Jan Wandelaar carefully composed each rendering to find the optimal point of view from which the anatomy could be best viewed and took pains to depict them in accurate proportions and shade them to convey their three-dimensional form. The complex process involved supporting the specimens with stands and cords attached to the walls and ceiling while checking the accuracy of the poses against a thin male model who posed nude in the same position. Furthermore, the artist viewed the specimens through a gridded net to capture the precise proportions. The active poses and backgrounds incorporate elaborate Baroque landscapes and architecture, placing the figures in a spatial context and adding aesthetic interest. This painstaking process required 20 years of work to complete the Tabulae, which was published in Leiden in 1747 with 40 plates that Wandelaar engraved in 1740 after his own drawings.
Prior to meeting Albinus, Jan Wandelaar was already an accomplished natural history artist. He studied with Dutch printmaker Jacob Folkema, Dutch engraver and mapmaker Gillem van der Gouwen, anatomical artist Gérard de Lairesse, and botanist and anatomist Fredrik Ruysch.