Anatomy for artists: John Tinney, Stephen Francis Rigaud and one “R.H. Nash”

Following on from my earlier post about provenance, here is another volume with an interesting owner.

John Tinney. ‘A compendious treatise of anatomy’ (London: Robert Sayer, [ca. 1762]). NAL: 38041800958878

The book is ‘A compendious treatise of anatomy’ by John Tinney (1706?-1761). As the full title makes clear, it was designed for the practising artist, providing just enough anatomy to give an understanding of the visible structure of the human body. Although it is a derivative work (Tinney acknowledges that the plates are derived from the famous 16th century anatomist Andreas Vesalius and William Cowper, an English anatomist whose work on the human musculature first appeared in 1696) its particular focus ensured its popularity. The first edition, published by Tinney himself, appeared in 1743, with the title ‘Compendium anatomicum’, and at least 7 editions followed, the last nearly a century later in 1842. The edition represented here was probably published around 1770.

Tinney was not an anatomist, but an engraver and print publisher. Although little known himself, he nurtured talent: his apprentices included William Woollett and Anthony Walker, both of whom are well represented in the V&A’s prints collection. He does not appear to have worked much in the field of book illustration. The only other work of his I have been able to identify in the National Art Library is the frontispiece to a 1745 edition of the Fables of Phaedrus, and some illustrations in ‘The antiquities of Constantinople’ (1729), a translation, by John Ball, of Pierre Gilles’ ‘De topographia Constantinopoleos’. 

John Ball. ‘The antiquities of Constantinople’ (London: for the benefit of the translator, 1729). NAL: 38041800143299

As well as this frontispiece and engraved title page, the book contains 11 other plates, most of which are signed by Tinney. The V&A’s prints collection includes a number of individual prints by Tinney, but of particular interest here is this pattern book of armorial designs for “coach painters, chasers, embroiderers, engravers &c” (a chaser engraves on metal). Again, a book aimed at the practising artist.

John Tinney. Title plate for ‘A new drawing book of coats, supporters & crests’. Engraving. Museum no.: E.669-1911

And now to the owner. Stephen Francis Rigaud (1777-1861) was a painter, an early member of the Society of Painters in Water Colours, and illustrator of Milton. Unfortunately, the V&A does not hold a copy of the 1801 edition of Milton’s works in which his illustrations appeared, but this watercolour in the V&A’s collection gives some indication of his style.

Stephen Francis Rigaud. ‘Telemachus discovering the priest of Apollo’. Watercolour, 1809. Museum no.: 76-1873

So, just as in my previous post we had an architectural book owned by an architect, here we have a book for the instruction of artists, owned by a practising artist. Whether he actually used it we cannot say. An earlier edition of the same work in our collection shows clear signs of use: 

John Tinney. ‘A compendious treatise of anatomy’ (London: Robert Sayer, 1762). NAL: 38041800958894

The muscles on two of the plates have been neatly labelled in manuscript. This has been copied from the printed explanation on the facing page, but whether it was done as a test, or just for clarification, we will never know. Of course, the names we find inscribed in books are not always identifiable. In this case, although the signature is quite legible, I cannot trace the owner. If anyone is able to suggest an identity for this “R.H. Nash”, I would be interested to hear from you.

John Tinney. ‘A compendious treatise of anatomy’ (London: Robert Sayer, 1762). Detail of title page NAL: 38041800958894

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *