Jollat, Jean "Mercure" (French, flourished 1490-1550)

Female Anatomical Figure with her Abdomen Exposed From De Disectione partium corporis humani libri tres. Una cum figuris et incisionum declarationibus a Stephano Riverio compositis

Reference Type:
Details regarding the publication of physician Charles Estienne’s De dissectione partium corporis humani libri tres (“Three Books on the Dissection of the Parts of the Human Body”) varies according to the source. Estienne collaborated with anatomist Etienne de la Rivière, who was also a surgeon and an artist. Their book was ready for publication in 1539, but printing was delayed until 1543 due to a disagreement between the two authors. During that period Andreas Vesalius published his now famous Fabrica, which rendered Estienne’s work much less influential than it might have been. The woodblock prints, based on drawings by Rivière, are most often attributed to a well-known artist named Jean “Mercure” Jollat. Here, a naked woman stands in a domestic setting nonchalantly holding the placenta (A) and umbilical cords (B) that lead to twin fetuses in her uterus. Her unusual pose and demeanor for such a scene supports the theory that this and other images in Estienne’s book appear to have been created using two separate woodblocks. Close observation of this image will reveal a thin white line around the woman’s abdomen where a second woodblock was inserted into the first. One possible explanation for this is that, due to a lack of models for the female body, the printmaker borrowed forms from earlier erotic illustrations; Rivière then designed the appropriate anatomical diagram, which was inserted into the figure. (For additional information on this theory, visit Notes by Mariann Smith
History of Medicine
Clendening Library, University of Kansas, Kansas City