500 Years of Drawing the Human Body

OG Abel (Abel Izaguirre), “Love & Hate” (August 19, 2012), graphite on paper in LA Liber Amicorum / Graffiti Black Book (Los Angeles, 2012), Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles. Gift of Ed and Brandy Sweeney. (© OG Abel, all images courtesy Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles unless otherwise stated)

Before Andreas Vesalius published his landmark title on human anatomy, The Fabric of the Human Body, in 1543, it was a commonly held belief that men had one less rib than women. (As the biblical story goes, God made Eve from Adam’s rib, so the math checked out, at least for the pious.) In De Fabrica, as the book is popularly known, the Renaissance physician dismissed the theory as “clearly ridiculous” and went on to literally and figuratively dissect the human body in one of the most ambitious and influential medical texts of his epoch. It was also among the most intricately illustrated, with 200 woodcut prints based on Vesalius’s anatomical drawings made by Jan Stephan van Calcar, an apprentice of Titian.

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