Lorna Davies

STUBBS, George. The Anatomy of the Horse (London, 1766)

The Anatomy of the Horse by George Stubbs was the first anatomical study of the horse since the one conducted by Carlo Ruini in his Dell Anatomia et dell’ Infirmita del Cavallo, which was published in 1598, over one hundred and sixty years before The Anatomy of the Horse.1 To complete this study, George Stubbs dissected the equines with the assistance of his partner, Mary Spencer, in a Lincolnshire farmhouse.2 Stubbs injected the blood vessels of the horses with wax and worked on each horse for a number of weeks, apparently untroubled by the smell.3

The images have been engraved and then an impression made from the original engraving by George Stubbs. Sources indicate that the style is ‘linear’ in manner, but the difficulty in discerning the exact method used suggests an overlap in methods and styles. The lines are blunt ended and do not taper to a point; note that there are techniques in engraving to determine a blunt ended line. The dark areas of the image consist of a multitude of individual lines, not a single block of colour. In some areas, the lines are broken up into a series of ‘dots’, which assist in defining depth and tone. A denser area of lines derives a darker tone (shadow) into the image and a sparse area of lines shows a lighter tone (direction of light source) where applicable. These images show features of etching and engraving – a combination of techniques.

Image 6

HPHI131-1

‌This engraving consists of two images. The first image on the left depicts a simplified bone structure of a horse and is labelled with single letters and numbers for reference; these labels refer back to information earlier in the text. This is a basic sketch consisting of solid lines and the subject of the image faces towards the viewer at an angle so that more of the bone structure may be viewed. The subject is caught in mid-motion, walking.

The right image is an artistic depiction of an equine’s bone structure with the skull and subject facing forwards, as it was in the previous image on the left of the engraving. This image is sketched and shaded to a greater extent so that depth and texture may be perceived. The skeleton engraving is also in the motion of walking and the two images are mirror images of one another in different styles.

Image 14

HPHI131-2

‌This engraving is of a single equine with the majority of the skin and muscle stripped away from the bones. The subject of the image faces to the right in a side-on view and the horses’ ears are still present, appearing to still have skin and hair. The legs are devoid of skin and muscle whereas the bulk of the body shows how layers have been removed for anatomical study. The engraving is unlabelled. 

Image 20

HPHI131-3

‌There are two images present on this engraving and both are mirror images of one another. The engraving on the left is a simple sketch of an equine with the mane and tail removed (hair only). The subject of the image is facing away from the viewer at an angle so that a section of the chest, neck and head may be viewed from another angle for anatomical study. The lines are bold and straight, labelled with numbers and letters, which refer to descriptions and extended detail in an earlier part of The Anatomy of the Horse. Some of the lines within the frame of the body depict lines of muscles, which is evident when compared to second image on the right.

The image on the right of the engraving is a detailed, artistic version of the left image with the subject facing away at an angle in the same position. The subject is in the motion of walking and the ears are angled back towards the viewer. There is no hair included for the mane or tail of the horse and the muscles of the hindquarters are clearly shown beneath the skin and coat. A section of the hooves is detailed, particularly the horse’s ‘frog’, which can be seen where the subject has two hooves raised while ‘walking’. A sense of depth can be gained from the image due to the ‘linear’ style that Stubbs’ used while engraving. 

Notes:

  1. ‘George Stubbs, an engraving from The Anatomy of the Horse’, British Museum, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pd/g/george_stubbs,_an_engraving_fr.aspx . Accessed 23rd April 2013.
  2. ‘George Stubbs, an engraving from The Anatomy of the Horse’, British Museum, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pd/g/george_stubbs,_an_engraving_fr.aspx . Accessed 23rd April 2013.
  3. David M. Knight, Natural Science Books in English 1600-1900 (London: Portman Books, 1972) p.91

Bibliography

Gascoigne, Bamber, How to Identify Prints: A complete guide to manual and mechanical processes from woodcut to ink jet (Bamber Gascoigne, 1986, repr. 1988)

Knight, David M., Natural Science Books in English 1600-1900 (London: Portman Books, 1972) p.91

Stubbs, George, The Anatomy of the Horse (London: J. Purser, 1766)

‘George Stubbs, an engraving from The Anatomy of the Horse’, British Museum, http://www.britishmuseum.org/explore/highlights/highlight_objects/pd/g/george_stubbs,_an_engraving_fr.aspx . Accessed 23rd April 2013.

 

Lorna Davies