Anatomical Horse

Giambologna b. 1529 – d.1608
Anatomical Figure of a Horse (écorché), 1585
Bronze with black patina
Gifted in 1836
Art Collection: EU0643

This outstanding bronze sculpture by artist Giovanni Bologna (‘Giambologna’, born Jean Boulogne), is a highlight of the University’s prestigious Torrie Collection. Rendered écorché, meaning sculpted showing the musculature and skeletal form without skin, the work captures the quest of Renaissance artists to understand and analyse the mechanics of the body’s structure.

Standing at around a third of the height of a life-size horse, it was intended to facilitate close anatomical study on the part of both artists and scientists in their joint exploration of the moving body. Indeed, a clear visual relationship exists between the sculpture and woodcuts printed in the first published thesis on equine anatomy Anatomia del Cavallo (1598), by the Bolognese scholar Carlo Ruini. The work almost certainly informed the illustrations, testifying to the astonishing anatomical detail.

The sculpture, along with a further 80 or so Dutch, Flemish and Italian artworks, forms the Torrie Collection which was bequeathed to the University upon the death of Sir James Erskine, third Baronet of Torrie (1772 -1825). An accomplished soldier and a practicing artist, Erskine built his collection during the early 19th century and donated it with the express purpose of, “laying the foundation of a gallery for the encouragement of the Fine Arts.”

The gift marked the first donation of a full collection to the University, and it also became the founding collection for the National Gallery of Scotland upon its opening in 1859. Many of the significant and large works remain on long-term loan and display at the National Gallery on the Mound, illustrating its integral part in forming Scotland’s national heritage.

Story by Julie-Ann Delaney, Art Collections Curator