The "living cadaver" might at first glance seem horrifically bizarre. In fact, it continues the tradition of anatomical study that became a cornerstone of artistic training during the Renaissance. The exceptional accuracy of the figure prompted art academies around the world to order plaster casts of it from the artist, bringing the work into the ranks of the revered antique statues, casts of which formed the basis of artistic training.
The oldest sculpture in the Tanenbaum Collection, this Écorché or Flayed Man was an early work by Houdon, France’s greatest Neoclassical sculptor. Houdon created it while he was a Prix de Rome student at the French Academy in Rome during the 1760s, and later used the same skill at precise observation in bust-length portraits—such as that of Napoleon at the entrance to the main galleries—that would make him famous.