Paris. Mid- Nineteenth Century.


Height: 70 1/2" (179cm)
Width: 81" (206cm)


Of carton-pierre plaster and wood. Constructed of many movable components, delicately colored to show the organs, veins, muscles and bone structure, the whole raised on a plinth base with castors.

The Parisian physician Louis Thomas Jerôme Auzoux was the most celebrated anatomical model maker of the nineteenth century.

While studying medicine, Auzoux became interested in models as a readily accessible and economical way to observe anatomy, and at the age of nineteen he began the construction of his first life-sized human model. Human cadavers were difficult to obtain, deteriorated rapidly, and were illegal to dissect. Early in the nineteenth century anatomical models were constructed from wax and other malleable materials, however such models were fragile and impractical as teaching aids.  Auzoux began to experiment with alternative materials, studying the work of artists and sculptors in order to master their techniques, including a local doll manufacturer. By 1822 he had perfected a paper paste that was flexible enough to mold into shape but which hardened into a solid, light, unbreakable material. The carton-pierre allowed a high degree of detail and careful labeling, and had the advantage, unlike wax models, of being able to be taken apart and reassembled. The new material also allowed these models to be mass produced and widely distributed. Figure 1 depicts a veterinary school lecture utilizing an Auzoux model of a horse, circa 1900.

Auzoux completed his medical degree in 1822, and that same year exhibited his first anatomical male model to the Paris Academy of Medicine. In 1827 he opened a factory, devoted first to the production of human anatomical models, and later included veterinary and botanical models. Almost all of the models were signed with the inscription “Anatomie Clastique de Dr. Auzoux,” ‘clastique’ deriving from the Greek ‘klaoo’ which means “to break.”1 He won several awards and his models were displayed at a variety of exhibitions, including The Great Exhibition in London in 1851.

Auzoux’s most frequent subject was the human body. He made life size and half size models, as well as smaller models of individual organs which students themselves could afford to purchase.

More unusual are Auzoux’s models of animals. Several texts refer to ‘a six-foot horse’, and Auzoux is known to have exhibited a model of a horse in the Académie de Médicine, Paris in 1844.2 The present piece is one of only three large carton-pierre horses known to exist. A catalogue, published by Auzoux’s company in 1858, reveals that  other non-human subjects included an eight foot tall gorilla and a fifteen foot boa-constrictor.3

Auzoux’s models were in great demand throughout the nineteenth century. Expansion of the universities across Europe and America, coupled with laws prohibiting grave-robbing in the US, England and Russia, meant that tutors became increasingly reliant on accurate and durable models. As such, these models provided an invaluable aid to the advancement of medical science.

1. W.J. Mulder, ‘De “Anatomie Clastique” Van Dr L.T.J. Auzoux’, Tijdschrift voor de Geschiedenis der Gneeskunde, Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Techniek, Jaargang 4, 1981, p.138.
2. ibid., p.141.
3. ibid., p.142.

Full research report available on request.