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Started: oct 17, 2004
Last Update: july 13, 2005

Skeletons in the background


I suggested in Verduin (2004) that Memoires pour servir a l'histoire naturelle des animaux might contain some illustrations on which the skeletons in the upper left part of the Versailles painting are based. In this painting we can see the skeletons of a Lion, a Gazelle, a small, long-billed bird and an Ostrich.
The 1671 and 1676 volumes contain no full size illustrations of complete animal skeletons (except for the cameleon). Some of the decorative engravings by Sebastien Le Clerc however do have skeletons in them (see e.g. Watson, 1939).
I then remembered that animal dissections are mentioned in the anatomy sections of the yearly reports in the HARS I.
The next table contains extracts from the HARS I and what it shows is that the lion was dissected in 1670 and that the ostrich and the gazelle were dissected in 1671. See however below for some additional information which undermines most of the statements made in the previous sentence.

The frontispiece of the Memoirs shows a man (leClerc?) holding an engraving of the gazelle from the same Memoirs. See also Watson(1939 p. 570).

For comparison the engraving of the gazelle as it appears in the Description anatomique (1669) and the Memoirs has been added. NB in general objects shown in an engraving will be a mirror-image of the original.

The Dissection of the Fox (detail) shows again a man (leClerc?) holding an engraving of what again seems to be the gazelle.

yearHARS Iremarks
1667p. 18-20 Perrault presents his design for a Histoire des Plantes and des Animaux.
NB A. Guerrini (2003, p. 589) also mentions the dissection of a lion in this year. As the skeleton of the Beaver, in the following year, is mentioned as the first to enter the Salle des Squeletes, it is unclear if or when the skeleton of the lion became available.
1668p. 52 Dissection of a Fox, see engraving by Sebastien Le Clerc.
"Le Premier Animal étranger dissequé par l'Académie, fut le Castor. M. Marchant. qui etoit aussi grand Anatomiste, en monta le Squelete, & et ce fut le premier de la Salle des Squeletes: dans la suite on instruisit un particulier qui se rendit adroit pour ces sortes d'ouvrages"
List: Renard, Deux Herissons, Porc-Epics, Choüette (owlet), Blereau (=Blaireau: Badger), Ours, Fouïne (steenmarter), Castor, Cameleon, Dromedaire &c
1669p. 82Lijst: Civettes, Elant, Veau Marin
1670p. 117 Two Lions and two lionesses.
List: Lions, Lionnes, Chat-Pard, Loup Cervier
1671p. 134 Gazelles, Ostriches (136)
List: Gazelle, La Vache de Barbarie, Les Autruches, Aigrettes (witte reigers), Gruës de Levant, Pigeons
1672p. 151 List: Paintades (guinea fowl), Aigles, Otardes
1674p. 179List: Singes, Cormoran
1675p. 191List: Cerf de Canada, Demoiselle de Numidie
Note that of Perrault (see appendix 1) already discusses the gazelle, which suggests that before 1669 at least one gazelle had been dissected and could have provided the skeleton shown in the Memoirs frontispiece and in the Versailles painting. In fact there is mention in the 1669 publication of four gazelles that were dissected 'that year' (see below).
This makes it uncertain whether 1671 really was the year the first ostrich was dissected.

Matching dissections with the Memoires contents.

I had no acccess to the 1671 & 1676 editions and therefore used the content table of the 10 volume 1733 edition of the HARS (that can be found in volume I) as a approximate indication of the content of the original edition.
I then matched the year in which an animal was dissected with the part and chapter of the Memoires in which it was discussed, and constructed the following table. As an afterthought I looked up the page numbers of the various chapters in the Index volume of the HARS (p 17-21).
I suspect that the content table in HARS I for the volume HARS III, represent an extended edition (post 1676). This can also deduced from the page numbers of the last chapters of the first part that run well in to the 200, while the 1671 edition only counted 91 pages.

premiere partienamenumber from 1734dissectedHARS III
1 Le Lyon41670I-1
2 La Lyone31670I-19
3 Le Cameleon31668I-34
4 Le Chameau (camel) (=Dromedaire?)21668?I-69
5 L'Ours21668I-81
6 La Gaselle71671I-93
7 Le Chat-Pard11670I-108
8 Le Renard-Marin1I-117
9 Le Loup Cervier11670I-125
10 Le Castor11668I-136
11 La Loutre (otter)1I-150
12 La Civette51669I-157
13 L'Elant11669I-178
14 Le Veau-Marin11669I-187
15 Le Chamois (mountain goat)1I-201
16 Le Cormoran11674I-211
17 Le Coc-Indien3I-221
seconde partienamenumber from 1734dissectedHARS III
18 La Demoiselle de Numidie (dragonfly)61675II-1
19 Le Coati-Mondi4 II-15
20 La Vache de Barbarie11671II-24
21 & 22 Le Porc-Epic, & le Herisson8 + 41668II-31
23 Les Singesplusieur S. de diff. esp.1674II-51
24 & 25 Le Cerf de Canada,
& La Biche de Sardaigne (deer and hind)
1 + 21675II-65
26 La Peintade plusieurs1672II-77
27 L'Aigle31672II-88
28 L'Otarde (=Outarde, Bustard)61672II-99
29 L'Autruche81671II-110
30 Le Casouar4II-155
31 La Tortue de Indes1II-170

Appendix 1: editions

    Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des animaux
    Two variant illustrations of the cameleon are shown for the 1700 and 1702 editions, to give an impression of the way the illustrations changed over time. Compare these also with the illustration of the cameleon in the 1669 edition shown above.
  1. Perrault, Claude (Auteur)
    Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des animaux
    Paris, Impr. royale : 1671
    Gr. in-fol., pièces limin., 91 p., frontisp. et pl.
  2. Perrault, Claude (Auteur)
    Mémoires pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des animaux, dressez par M. Perrault,...
    Paris, Impr. royale : 1676
    Gr. in-fol., pièces limin., 208 p., frontisp. et pl.
  3. Description anatomique de divers animaux dissequez dans l'Académie Royale des Sciences... et représentez en figures gravées. Avec les observations faites en leur dissection (Paris, Laurent d'Houry, 1682) 2nd edition of 1669
  4. PERAULT, C. (i.e. Claude Perrault). Memoire pour servir a l'histoire naturelle du Lion, de la Lionne , du Caméléon, de l'Ours, de la Gazelle, du Chat-pard, du Renard marin, du Loup-cervier, de la Loutre, de la Civette, de l'Elan, du Veau marin & du Chamois ... avec douze figures gravées d'après Séb. Leclerc, par de bons artistes. Paris, Imprimerie du Louvre, 1700. Folio. pp. (4), 124, with 20 engraved plates. Contemporary full calf (rubbed).
  5. Perrault, Claude, 1613-1688. The natural history of animals containing the anatomical description of several creatures dissected by the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris ... / done into English by a Fellow of the Royal Society ; to which is added An account of the measure of a degree of a great circle of the earth, published by the members of the same academy; English'd by R.W.[Richard Waller] SRS. -- London : Printed for R. Smith ..., 1702.

  6. Academie Royale des Sciences, Paris. Memoires de L’Academie Royale des Sciences. Contenant les ouvrages adoptez par cette academie avant son renouvellement en 1699. Tome premier. Memoires pour servir à l’histoire naturelle des animaux. Paris : La Haye, P. Gosse, & J. Neaulme, 1731.
  7. Claude Perrault (1734) Mémoire pour servir à l'histoire naturelle des animaux In: Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences : III, Paris. 3 vol. : ill. ; 4º .
    1734 edition in three volumes comprising the three parts (1671, 1676 and later additions). Engravings are redone and split in upper- an lowerhalf.

Appendix 2: addenda