Under The Skin: The Beauty of Bones

I am fascinated by bones. Over at Beautiful Beasts this coming week I shall be drawing some bones, bits of those fabulous structures which support most of the beasts that Sue and I will be drawing and painting.

A couple of weeks ago Chris and I went to the Hunterian Museum in London. Located in the Royal College of Surgeons building it is an awe inspiring collection of lots of things in jars, bits of bones of people and things.. good and bad. There are teeth, surgical instruments and accounts of the history of surgery and more, more, more. It is completely fascinating.

“The Hunterian Museum houses one of the oldest collections of anatomical, pathological and zoological specimens in the UK and is based on the items assembled by John Hunter, surgeon and anatomist (1728-1793). The collection comprises more than 3,500 anatomical and pathological preparations, fossils, paintings and drawings and also includes specimens donated by Edward Jenner and Sir Joseph Banks.”
from Time Out’s description


I am desperate to go back with my sketchbook and would love to just move in for a week or so. There are many things to wonder at but some things I particularly liked were the comparative skulls showing different teeth, the set of teeth bound together with gold, the surgical instruments and the dodo skeleton.

An Incomplete Dodo I was particularly interested in this because it is incomplete, bits of bones held together with wire. It is the incompleteness of it that appeals to me. You may not take photos in the museum and there was no time for drawing on this trip but it was on my mind all day, so made this quick memory sketch on the train on the way home.

There are a few views of it in the Hunterian archives… more sketches from those.

hunterian Dodo bg

“Raphus cucullatus
Object Type
Mounted dry bone An imperfect mounted skeleton of a dodo (Raphus cucullatus). The bones are from several individuals. This mounted skeleton of a dodo is a composite from several individuals. The bones were from a large collection excavated at La Mare aux Songes in Mauritius in 1865. The first hundred or so of these bones were shipped to Richard Owen and from these he published his monograph on the osteology of the dodo in 1869. Further collections of bones were sent to England and were sold by auction. The College Conservator, William Henry Flower, purchased a series of bones for £10 from which he was able to construct this partial articulated skeleton for display.” Description from the Hunterian Catalogue

dodo-2-bg                             dodo-3-bg

Pencil sketches: A5 Sketchbook

The whole story of the poor Dodo is fascinating. In the autumn we went to the Natural History Museum at Tring.
They have two, a bit plumper :).
Here is my photo.


There are lots of bones there too…another wonderful place for sketching.
I will be returning to the Hunterian and hopefully to Tring very soon.