Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
Anatomy in Academies of Art 1 (002).pdf (558.27 kB)

Anatomy and academies of art I: founding academies of art.

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posted on 2021-01-05, 13:53 authored by U Sealy, Clive LeeClive Lee
The structure of the human body and its parts is of obvious relevance in medicine, but it has also played a role in art. Accurate observation of surface or external anatomy is essential in both disciplines, and its understanding has been enhanced by knowledge of what is found beneath the skin, the internal anatomy, usually based on dissection. The role of anatomy in art in general, and in academies of art in particular, is the theme of this paper. The revival of dissection in 14th-century Italy was, if not causative, at least coincidental with the Renaissance. In 1563, Vasari founded the Accademia del Disegno in Florence, with una Anatomia included in its regulations. As a liberal art taught by university graduates, anatomy helped raise the status of painters and sculptors from artisans to artists and from guild to academy. Anatomy teaching was required in subsequent academies in Rome (1593) and Paris (1648), where the pattern of drawing from drawings, from casts, and from life was established and a Professor of Anatomy appointed in 1777. Anatomy was central to two of the Academy’s most important genres, history painting and portraiture. The Academy system, with its emphasis on anatomy, spread to other European cities and to the Caribbean and the Americas from the 17th to the 19th centuries. This paper is concerned with the role of anatomy in the founding of art academies in general, while its companion paper, 'A Tale of Two Cities', considers the cases of the academies in London and Dublin in particular.


Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland



This is the peer reviewed version of the following article:, Sealy U, Lee TC. Anatomy and academies of art I: founding academies of art. Journal of Anatomy. 2020;236(4):571-576, which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving. Presented as part of a plenary lecture, Art & Anatomy, at the 19th Congress of the International Federation of Associations of Anatomists, London, 2019.

Published Citation

Sealy U, Lee TC. Anatomy and academies of art I: founding academies of art. Journal of Anatomy. 2020;236(4):571-576.

Publication Date

8 December 2019

PubMed ID



  • Anatomy and Regenerative Medicine

Research Area

  • Surgical Science and Practice
  • Biomaterials and Regenerative Medicine




  • Accepted Version (Postprint)

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