Jacques Gautier d’Agoty was born in Marseilles in about 1717 and was trained as a printmaker under the noted Jacob Christoph Le Blon (1670–1741). Le Blon, originally from Frankfurt-am-Main, was the first to use colored mezzotinting, which involved making three different impressions (with blue, yellow, and red inks) using copperplates. His students, Jan Ladmiral (1698–1773) and Gautier d’Agoty, both later claimed to have invented the process themselves after Le Blon’s death. Gautier d’Agoty’s only known improvement on the process was adding an impression of black ink, which was not considered by many to be significant.
Gautier d’Agoty associated himself with surgeon Jacques-François-Marie Duverney (1661–1748) and together the two produced a number of large, colorful anatomical atlases, which were noted more for their style and sometimes their shocking appearance than their usefulness to physicians. After Duverney’s death, Antoine Mertrud (d. 1767) also worked with the printer to create several other anatomical works. Jacques Gautier d’Agoty died in Paris in 1785.
The monumental Anatomie générale des viscères is thought to have been printed in Paris in 1752. Both Duverney and Mertrud assisted Gautier d’Agoty in its creation, but he writes in the colophon, “je suis le demonstrateur, le peintre, et le graveur tout ensemble.” The Library’s copy has 18 large plates, though a variant edition of the work has 24 plates (see Choulant).
Using the images scanned here, four complete human figures can be put together with three plates each: a female body with vessels and muscles; a male body with viscera, vessels, and muscles; a back view of a body with the nerves, muscles, and vessels; and a skeleton with nerves and arteries. In the edition with 24 plates, an image of a woman’s head accompanies the image of a pregnant woman with open uterus and fetus. The remaining five images of viscera and other body parts were designed to stand alone.
Also included in this gallery is a single image from Gautier d’Agoty’s Suite de l'Essai d'anatomie en tableaux imprimés ([Paris: Gautier, 1745]), which is a supplement to his Essai d'anatomie en tableaux imprimés, published in Paris the same year. The image is one of Gautier’s most famous, known by many as “The Flayed Angel.” Copies of the Suite and the Essai are bound in the same elephantine volume owned by the Library, featuring a contemporary calf binding with extensive gold stamping and gold and aqua morocco inlays. The provenance of the volume is unfortunately not known, though its owner was clearly an important person.
Choulant, L. History and bibliography of anatomic illustration. Trans. and annotated by Mortimer Frank. (New York: Hafner, 1962). Pp. 265-274.
Dictionnaire de biographie française. (Paris: Letouzey et Ané, 1933- ). Vol. 15, p. 847.