One cannot know anatomy too well: Jēkabs Prīmanis and anatomy for artists


  • Uldis Zariņš The Art Academy of Latvia, Rīga
  • Ieva Lībiete Institute of History of Medicine, Rīga Stradiņš University, Rīga



plastic anatomy, anatomy for artists, medical art, Jēkabs Prīmanis, Art Academy of Latvia, University of Latvia


In recent years the scholars have stressed the role of anatomical collections and their histories as crucial to new interdisciplinary studies that investigate the interaction between arts and sciences. This could be attributed as well to the new exposition of Anatomy museum of Rīga Stradiņš University, that was opened to visitors in 2021. Museum galleries reveal the interplay between anatomists, artists and museum specialists, both in historical and contemporary contexts. Between the specimen jars and human bones, the anatomical drawings of both medical and art students are displayed. Sculpture-like life casts of congenital deformities made by anatomists contrast the ideal but skinless muscle man L’Ecorche Combattant. Historical artefacts interact with modern anatomical 3D illustration and multimedial solutions created by contemporary artists. No doubt, artists were and are important for visualising, explaining and displaying anatomy. But what about the role of anatomists in arts? This article aims to investigate an episode in the biography of long-time museum director anatomist and anthropologist professor Jēkabs Prīmanis (1892–1971) and his role in teaching the so-called plastic anatomy to the students of the Art Academy of Latvia.


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