Edward Burch, after Michael Spang, Écorché, cast ca. 1767

2018 072 001 V0002Edward Burch (British, 1730–1814), Écorché, after Michael Henry Spang (Danish, active 1750), cast ca. 1767, lead with bronze patina, 9 5/8 inches. Acquired with funds provided by the Bernard Norling and Mary T. Norling Endowment for 18th- and 19th-Century Sculpture, 2018.072.001

This small-scale model of a flayed figure, called by its French name “écorché,” was used by art students studying the anatomical intricacies of the human figure. Artists attended dissections conducted by anatomists in order to be able to render the body more convincingly in the portrayal of their human subjects. This little sculpture is a reduced version of a life-size plaster cast made by the British anatomist William Hunter from the body of a dead criminal in 1750. After using the plaster cast in his lessons, Hunter came to realize that his students would benefit from having a smaller model that could be more easily transported among studios. Hunter commissioned the Danish artist Michael Spang to make a small wax model after his plaster cast. Following Spang’s death in 1767, Hunter asked his friend Edward Burch to make a bronze cast from Spang’s reduced model. These statuettes became very popular, and many casts were made and circulated.


This particular cast was made under the supervision of Hunter and Burch in lead, rather than bronze, which allowed for finer detail. The surface was then treated, or given a patina, to make it look like bronze.


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