BetaThis search tool is in development. Find out more.

An anatomical dissection by Realdus Colombus, attended by onlookers. Collotype after a woodcut, 1559.

Colombo, Realdo, 1516-1559.


Free to use with attribution CC BYCredit: Wellcome Collection
Can I use this?

About this work


This is the only illustration to Realdus Colombus's De re anatomica, published in Venice in 1559, the year of his death. It is known, however, that he had planned an illustrated text. In his letter to Duke Cosimo de'Medici of 17 April 1548 he requests leave from his post as lecturer in anatomy at the University in Pisa in order to work on his busok, mentioning the assistance he is receiving from the "leading painter in the world" as well as how, on a previous stay in Rome, he dissected cadavers and supervised artists. This "leading painter" has usually been identified as Michelangelo, whose friendship with Colombus is documented in the 1553 biography of the artist by Ascanio Condivi. Colombus dispatched the body of "a young and very handsome moor" for Michelangelo to dissect and also treated him successfully for kidney stones. Colombus is noted for offering an early description of pulmonary circulation and for being a proponent of vivisection, the subject of the fourteenth book of De re anatomica. In the title page, the dissection is being followed by several observers, two of whom are consulting books, one of which is illustrated. At the lower left a young man is seated, taking notes or sketching on a pad.


Realdi Columbi Cremonensis, in almo gymnasio Romano anatomici celeberrimi, De re anatomica libri xv.



Physical description

1 print : collotype ; image 28.2 x 20 cm

Publications note

G. Wolf-Heidegger and A. M. Cetto, Die anatomische Sektion in bildlicher Darstellung, Basel and New York 1967, pp. 220-221, no. 133

E. D. Coppola, "The Discovery of the Pulmonary Circulation: A New Approach," Bulletin of the History of Medicine, xxxi, 1957, pp. 44-77

J. J. Bylebyl, "Realdo Colombo," Dictionary of Scientific Biography, iii, 1974, pp. 354-357


Wellcome Library no. 24584i

Reproduction note

The original: is the woodcut title page to Realdo Colombo's De re anatomica libri xv, Rome 1559


  • Latin

Where to find it


License information

License information

You can use this work for any purpose, including commercial uses, without restriction under copyright law. You should also provide attribution to the original work, source and licence.

Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) terms and conditions


An anatomical dissection by Realdus Colombus, attended by onlookers. Collotype after a woodcut, 1559. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY

We’re improving the information on this page. Find out more.