A Curious Art: The Evelyn Tables

A Curious Art: The Evelyn Tables

A Curious Art:
The Evelyn Tables

Four wooden boards,
bodies splayed out.
Engrained into knots;
Italian pine.

Spinal cord draped,
melted branches.
Soft varnished hard;
invisible ink.

Arteries glow red,
injected pigment.
Thickly voluptuous;
pulses bound.

Sympathetic starburst,
nervous system.
Innervate our organs;
liver and lung.

Veins hang limply,
cut the strings.
Movement arrested;
no return.

Evelyn’s tables,
Hunterian Museum.
Seeing wooden eyes;
ancient dead.

Words Copyright Eliot North 2014

With thanks for the inspiration to The Hunterian Museum, Royal College of surgeons.  Check out their twitter feed: @HunterianLondon


Check out this fab video made by The Royal College of Physicians with information about anatomical tables.

The Story Behind ‘Curious Anatomys’

I love the Hunterian Museum (at The Royal College of Surgeons: Holborn, London) and the good news is it’s open to the public. On both of my visits I haven’t been able to move past the Evelyn Tables at the entrance to the museum. Something about their solid but other-wordly presence arrests me every time I walk through the door of the museum. I think this might be because they are one of the very few displays made of wood. Glowing,  eerie wood with human remains artfully displayed, almost melting into the grains and knots.

So that’s where this poem came from. I find the Evelyn Tables arresting in a way that is difficult to put my finger on, so the poem is an exploration of that as well as an attempt to put into words what they look and feel like to view them. The above poem is part of my collaboration with artist Rachael Allen. We secured a collaboration bursary from a-n: ‘Lessons in Anatomy: Dissecting medicine and health through visual and literary arts collaboration.’ For more information please click on this link:







Lab (Skeleton) – by Shanell Papp


Lab (Skeleton) - by Shanell Papp


Amazing life-size crocheted model of the human skeleton and internal organs by Canadian artist Shanell Papp.

Check out Shanell’s blog on wordpress: http://shanellpapp.com/textiles/

and her interview on the blog ‘Order of the good death’:


and even more amazing images on ‘Magpie and Whiskeyjack’ blog:


The Jackdaw – by Fiona Campbell

I found this stop-motion animation video clip on Rachel Poliquin’s fantastic website ‘Ravishing Beasts’

Her book ‘The Breathless Zoo: Taxidermy and the Cultures of Longing’ is also an excellent read.
The only people who perform human taxidermy as far as I can see are anatomists. The only anatomists to display human bodies as we have been accustomed to seeing animals is Gunther von Hagens in his Body Worlds exhibition using a technique called ‘plastination.’


Beauty In Death

As I’m just getting the hang of this blogging business I’ve stumbled on so many great creative people who are blogging and sharing that creative energy.

This image by Rosie Scribblah struck me as being particularly beautiful.


19 dead crow

Husb and I went to the Mission Gallery’s new show opening tonight and nearly fell over with the heatwave after about 10 minutes so we left and strolled along the seafront on our way home and came across this dead bird. It’s some sort of crow and was fairly recently dead as only a couple of flies had found it. Such a beautiful creature, black and glossy and at repose. Then as we arrived home, some friends arrived and stayed for some ice cold home-made elderflower cordial. It’s so refreshing in this weather. Our friends asked if we’d taken a photo of the bird.

“Ew no!” I said, “that would be weird!”

“And standing around for 10 minutes in public drawing a little corpse isn’t?” they asked.

Hmm. Fair comment. Drawn into my A5 cloth-bound sketchbook, prepared with ripped brown wrapping paper, with Faber Castell Pitt pens, sizes S, F…

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The Anatomist’s Hat

The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp; Rembrandt van Rijn 1632

The Anatomist’s Hat

after Rembrandt’s ‘The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp’

It is a cold January in Amsterdam, 1632. Seven bearded surgeons stand in the weigh-house at Nieuwmarkt. They gaze at the body of Adriaen het Kint who lies on a wooden slab in front of them. Physician Tulp, marked out by his wide-brimmed black hat, demonstrates to those assembled.

The Anatomist’s voice, low and sombre, forces the surgeons to crane their white-ruffed necks. My easel is set on the left and towards the dead man’s feet. Dr Tulp moves his scalpel like an extended finger as he parts the man’s skin, subcutaneous fat and fascia, to reveal the muscles and tendons beneath.

Rotting flesh pollutes the air. I breathe in through my mouth and exhale a rolling mist. The composition is set, body centre stage; waxen skin, smalt-blue lips and blood clotted like rust.  Forceps held in his right hand, Dr Tulp proceeds to talk in tongues: pronator teres, palmaris longus, flexor carpi radialis and ulnaris. The words fall from his lips like pearls scattered amongst swine.

Winter sun fades and candles gutter. The criminal’s arm appears to beckon. I feel my own hand tighten in response. The work progresses assuredly. Paint applied to canvas layer on layer as the man’s body is stripped back just as carefully, before being dumped in the drink.

Copyright 2013 Eliot North





I love Rembrandt, I love anatomy.

Anyone visiting Amsterdam should definitely check out Rembrandt’s House. He was a hoarder of cool things and it is a real gem of a museum. Probably my favourite museum in Amsterdam.

I wish I’d seen Body Worlds whilst it was touring and came to London….. one day!