Human body, anatomical model. Maison Deyrolle, Paris early 20th century


Anatomical model of the human body in polychrome plaster. Made with removable parts such as the right section of the face, the arms and the frontal part of the torso; the latter contains the removable organs, made in papier mâché. It rests on an oak base with wavy legs and wheels, equipped with a brass plate bearing the inscription “Les Fils d’Emile Deyrolle, 46 Rue du Bac, PARIS”; it is signed “Émile Deyrolle” also in the hollow of the right arm. Original lacquering preserved, slight signs of aging; missing lungs.

Dimensions: 196 x 75 x 55cm. base 48.5


Historical stylistic analysis:

The Maison Deyrolle has its roots way back in 1831, when Jean-Baptiste Deyrolle, driven by a passion for entomology and a natural educational vocation, started the family business at 23 Rue de la Monnaie, which was soon taken over by his son Achilles. The two quickly developed a thriving business selling insects and hunting equipment to natural history collectors as well as the taxidermist business previously known by Jean-Baptiste. A little over thirty years after its foundation, in 1866 Émile Deyrolle, French naturalist, natural history dealer and nephew of Jean-Baptiste, took over the boutique in a period of real mania for observation and entomological collecting, enriched in recent years by large quantities of specimens collected around the world by scientists and passionate travellers.

Thanks to the favorable period and the great commercial skills, Émile will develop the sales volume by dedicating a large part of his activity to the publication and sale of specialized works on fauna and flora: this allowed him to establish himself worldwide, directing his didactic articles towards educational, scientific, technical and museum centers in nearly 120 countries. In 1888 he set up his offices and shop at 46 rue du Bac, in the former private residence of Samuel Bernard (son of Louis XIV’s banker), where he still is today, continuing to perpetuate that educational inclination by making equipment scientific, taxidermy and osteology pieces, teaching models, school furniture and display boards supplied to all schools and universities in France.

From the end of the 19th century it became known as “Les Fils d’Émile Deyrolle”, a wording that in fact appears inside the brass plate affixed to the wooden base of our example. The fame achieved will make the company, during the 20th century, a popular destination for surrealists such as Andre Breton and Salvador Dali. The anatomical reproduction exhibited here is characterized by great precision and meticulousness of details, also highlighted by the original polychromy which, combined with the peculiarity of a model of the human body in its entirety, make it of the highest quality.

Archive images

Illustration 1: the Antica Boutique
Illustration 2: The Taxidermy Atelier
Illustrations 3 and 4: Photo reportage by Robert Doisneau entitled "Reportage au paradis des formes naturelles dans les usines Deyrolle", 1958: the anatomical models of the human body are clearly visible.


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