Alice Zamboni

PhD student

Thesis: Bringing the muscles to life. Artists, anatomists and the negotiation of the graphic anatomical image in the Dutch Republic

Supervised by: Prof. Joanna Woodall 

Funded by: CHASE 

My thesis is a comparative analysis of 17th-century Dutch artists’ and physicians’ understanding of human anatomy through graphic images: intaglio prints and drawings. By means of a series of case studies, it develops a diachronic argument about continuity and change in conceptions and visualisations of the structure of the human body in the century following that of the publication of Andreas Vesalius’ atlas De humani corporis Fabrica (Basel, 1543). It draws attention to the gradual transformation of the animated anatomical image (especially the écorché) characteristic of the Fabrica – which represented a collaboration and a unification of the interests of artists and physicians – into new visual idioms that were intended specifically for and developed by Dutch artists. Artistic anatomy thus slowly separated from medical anatomy, the course of instruction in anatomy taught at University.

Through the comparison with medical anatomy, knowledge of the musculature and the understanding of bodily mobility emerge as the core elements of Dutch artists’ engagement with anatomy. The thesis explores the relationship between movement and animation in the human body and the shifting understanding of life intimated by the difference between Vesalius’ animated écorché and the much-debated view of the body as a statue-machine advanced by René Descartes.

A thematic organisation highlights similarities and divergences between the images of artistic and medical anatomy, and foregrounds three modes of representation of human anatomy that appealed to both audiences. Part I is concerned with the visual segmentation of the body into parts, setting into conversation images from artists’ drawing manuals with medical students’ textbooks. The focus of Part II is images of different sorts of statues as mediators of anatomical knowledge. Part III explores the representation of the flayed body in relation to the older tradition of the écorché and the Cartesian mechanistic view of the body through drawings of the muscles executed from life by a professional artist for an anatomist.


  • 2017 – 2022 (submitted), PhD Candidate at the Courtauld Institute;
  • January-May 2019: fellowship at the University of Utrecht, Artechne Project
  • 2016-2017, MA, The Courtauld Institute of Art (Distinction) Special Option: “Bodies of Knowledge in the early modern Netherlands, 1540-1650.” Award: The Dean’s Prize for Outstanding Overall Performance at MA level
  • 2012-2016, MA (Hons), University of St Andrews, Art History and German (1st Class). Awards: The Miller Prize for most outstanding student graduating in the Faculty of Arts; The Principal Scholarship for Academic Excellence; O. E. Saunders Prize for Best Short Dissertation in Art History

Research interests

  • Prints and the dissemination of knowledge
  • Epistemic images and the concept of nae ‘t leven / ad vivum
  • Collaboration in print and painting production
  • artistic identity, mobility and migration



Associate Lecturer: BA1 Topic Course Looking at the overlooked. Still life in early modern Europe


Teaching assistant: BA1 Foundations (Autumn Term 2019); BA3 Special Option Course Trading Identities in the early modern Netherlands (guest lectures – Autumn Term 2019); MA Bodies of Knowledge in the early modern Netherlands (guest lectures – Spring Term 2020)

Other academic activities

  • Co-organiser of the eighth Early Modern Postgraduate Symposium Perceiving Processions, The Courtauld Institute of Art, 24th November 2018
  • Associate editor for the Courtauld peer-reviewed postgraduate journal Immediations
  • Placement with the Research Development Team, Wellcome Collection, London (spring term 2020)
  • Placement with the British Library: Cataloguing Hans Sloane’s Natural History Albums (spring-autumn 2021)

Publications & public engagement writing

Alice Zamboni, ‘Making contact. Friendship and collaboration in the circle of Netherlandish artists at the Munich court of Wilhelm V’, Nederlands Kunsthistorisch Jaarboek 70 (2020), 62-95.

Alice Zamboni, “The title page of Jacob van der Gracht’s Anatomie and 17th-century Dutch artists’ education in anatomy,” In A Gateway to the Book: The Art of the Frontispiece in early modern Europe, edited by G. Bertram, N. Büttner and C. Zittel (Leiden: Brill, 2021): 449-474.  

“Cataloguing Hans Sloane’s Natural History Albums of Drawings.” Short article written for the AMARC newsletter, September 2021 issue 

“Unexpected Items found cataloguing Hans Sloane’s natural history drawings.” British Library Untold Lives Blog, 3 November 2021. Link here 

“The body dissected, drawn and displayed. Anatomy in an album of drawings from Hans Sloane’s Collection.” British Library Untold Lives Blog, 7 December 2021. Link here 

“Early modern Iran seen through the eyes of G. Hofstede van Essen.” British Library Untold Lives Blog, 4 January 2022. Link here

Conference papers

“Models of mobility: statues and the study of the living body in the Dutch Republic”. Cambridge Workshop for the early modern period, 15 March 2021.

“The anatomy of statues in Jan de Bisschop’s Signorum veterum Icones (The Hague: 1668).” The Courtauld Third Year PhD Symposium, 8-9 October 2020.

“A Dutch artist as reader and user of J. van der Gracht’s Anatomie”. Early Modern Matters. Materiality and the Archive, The University of East Anglia, 11-12 May 2019.

“The body as a text. Crispijn de Passe’s ‘T Licht der teken- en schilderkonst and 17th-century Dutch artists’ study of anatomy”. Paper presented at History of Art seminar at the University of Amsterdam, 11 April 2019.

“Making Contact. Collaborative printmaking in the group of Netherlandish artists at the Munich court of Wilhelm V.” International Conference Many Antwerp Hands, Rubenianum, Antwerp 5-6 November 2018.

“A schilderkundige anatomie? Dutch artists as learners of anatomy in the 17th- century Dutch Republic.” Postgraduate Medical Humanities Conference, The University of Exeter, 7-8 June 2018.