The human central nervous system on Jacques-Fabien Gautier Dagoty's anatomical plates
Jacques-Fabien Gautier (or Gautier-Dagoty: he added his mother's name from 1756, probably to be told from Gautier de Montdorge, one of Le Blon's sponsors) is one of the pivotal figures in the history of eighteenth century anatomical illustration. Like Jan Ladmiral, who signed plates for Bernard Siegfried Albinus and Frederik Ruysch, Gautier-Dagoty was an assistant to Jacob Christoph Le Blon, but after only six weeks, he was already thinking of taking over his master's color printing procedure. He was granted the copyright in 1745, and produced then a succession of anatomical, surgical, and natural-history coloured plates, some life-sized.
The aim of this presentation is to study the evolution of neuroanatomical illustration in Gautier-Dagoty's plates from 1748-1776. Plate IV of the Anatomie de la tête en tableaux imprimés (Paris, 1748) shows a midline sagittal section of adult head and neck. It was drawn and engraved after dissections by Pierre Tarin, who succeeded Jacques François Marie Duverney. Plates XI, XVII and XIX of the Exposition anatomique du corps humain (Marseille, 1759) include many neuroanatomical accessory figures in the margins. Plate XI shows the parieto-occipital cortex, both cerebellar hemispheres and the septa of the cerebral dura mater (falx cerebri and tentorium cerebelli). Plate XVII depicts the base of the brain with its vessels and the spinal cord. Plate XIX includes the 1748 sagittal section of the head (but of much poorer quality) and a horizontal section of the brain dissected to remove the roofs of the lateral ventricles. One unnumbered plate of the Supplement à l'atlas sur le cerveau (1770) shows a standing man from behind. His head was transversely sawed so that the brain, cerebellum and brain stem become visible. However, the brain area is rather small and reminds one of similar illustrations by Charles Estienne (1545). Plate VI of the Exposition anatomique des organes des sens (Paris, 1776), Gautier-Dagoty's last achievement, shows the base of the brain with cranial nerves which have been spread. This plate seems to have been inspired by many authors, Andreas Vesalius (1543), René Descartes (1662) and Claude Nicolas Le Cat (1740), among others.
The accuracy of plates depicting the central nervous system never achieved that one of the wonderful plates of the human muscles contained in his Myologie complette en couler et grandeur naturelle (Paris, 1746). As the years went by, Gautier-Dagoty introduced more and more confusing and conflicting emotions into his plates, and cared less and less about their scientific accuracy.
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