GENGA, Bernardino


GENGA, Bernardino Anatomia per uso et intelligenza del disegno.

Rome, Del Rossi, 1691


FIRST EDITION. Large folio. Ff. (i) 56 (i). Some Roman, mainly Italic. Tp ornamental engraving with swags surrounding text, 40 full page engraved anatomical illustrations of osteological and myological body parts and figures in a variety of contexts and poses, 56 plates in total. Foxing to ffeps and tp, lightly to edges throughout, slight age yellowing. Impressive and beautifully engraved, good and clean with exceptional margins. In recent half morocco over marbled boards.

This remarkable posthumous work combines delicately rendered engravings by Charles Errard (1606-1689) and François Andriot with Bernardino Genga’s (1620-1690) studies on anatomy and his preparation of anatomical specimens. Genga was a multi-disciplinary scholar specialising in Classical medical texts, especially those by Hippocrates, as well as anatomical specimens, Classical sculpture, and surgical procedures. Born in Mondolfo, he died in Rome, having practised at the Hospitals of Santo Spirito in Sassia and San Giacomo degli Incurabili. This volume seamlessly marries artistic virtuosity with exhaustive medical study; Garrison Morton 386 calls it “the best of its time, in fact one of the finest of all books on anatomy for artists.”

The Renaissance saw increased scientific investigation of the body, and underlying this was a prevailing fascination with the Classical figure and humanism. Anatomical studies aided both medical professionals as well as artists and sculptors who sought to render the body as accurately as possible through intensive studies of figure and form. The frontispiece of the work explores contemporary perspectives on mortality and the afterlife as well as skeletal forms and decomposition.

40 splendid anatomical engravings depict the human form in terms of its skeletal (osteological) or muscular (myological) makeup. Skulls and bones come first, followed by a nude muscular anatomical depiction of a male in varying poses. The human form is then explored further through the portrayal of renowned classical sculptures including the Farnese Hercules, the Laocoön, the Medici Venus and the Boy Pulling a Thorn from his Foot. These are all exceptionally engraved and presented from a variety of angles. Choulant states “all the plates are excellent anatomically as well as artistically” (p. 255).

Charles Errard was a French painter, architect and engraver who co-founded the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture as well as the Académie de France à Rome. He went on to act as director for both. Errard visited Rome several times and there developed his draughtsmanship. He became acquainted with Poussin and his patron Cassiano dal Pozzo. As well as the engravings in this volume, he illustrated the Vite by Giovanni Pietro Bellori. He was a favourite of Louis XIV, for whom he left bronze copies of Florentine sculpture, including Michelangelo’s sculptures in the Medici Chapel, on his death bed. These now reside in the Louvre. Heirs of Hippocrates 338 states “the plates…were intended primarily for the use of painters and sculptors, and they are still considered to be one of the best collections for the use of student artists”.

Heirs of Hippocrates 338; Wellcome III p. 102; Garrison Morton 386; NLM 2353013R; Choulant p. 254.
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