Past Events

"Curiously Engraven from the Life": Animating the Body in Late Seventeenth-Century London

Research Lunch – Sophie Morris

  • 14 October 2016
  • 12:30 – 2:00 pm
  • Seminar Room, Paul Mellon Centre

A black and white drawing of a man This paper presents research conducted with a PMC Research Support Grant, used to travel to the Yale Center for British Art. The material is work in progress for Sophie Morris' doctoral thesis that takes John Browne’s Treatise of the Muscles (London, 1681) as its central case study. A commercially successful volume with forty engraved plates that explicate the muscular structures of the human body, Browne’s printed figures are images that pull together different types of modern knowledge about the anatomical body from diverse areas of late seventeenth-century print culture, such as, fashion plates, scenes from the Restoration playhouse and artist’s manuals and drawing books. This paper focuses on the intersection between Browne’s anatomical plates, and the practice of drawing from statuary as an important pedagogical stage in artistic training. Both in the drawing manuals and in Browne’s Treatise, the presentation of the human body can be seen as a kind of valorisation of classical statuary. In these images, the framing of the body as a sculpted classical form is an experimental ground upon which to create new ideas: new art in the case of the drawing manuals and new ways of thinking about anatomy and the modern body as a machine in Browne’s engraved plates. In the process of pulling together this visual material, the importance of public statuary in creating a sense of order and authority in Restoration London comes to the fore.

About the speaker

  • Sophie Morris is currently in the final year of writing an AHRC-funded doctoral research project, Motion, Muscles and Manners: Anatomical Bodies and Print Culture in Late Seventeenth-Century London. This project explores the representation of bodily movement in the Restoration playhouse, costume and courtesy culture and artistic practices of drawing ‘from life.’ She has recently completed a research trip to the Yale Center for British Art looking at the intersection between drawing from statuary and anatomical investigation in seventeenth-century London. This summer she also completed a fellowship at the Huntington Library and Art Collection.