Écorché Crucifixion

Thomas Banks, R.A.


Plaster cast attached t wooden cross

Life Drawing Room, Royal Academy, London

According to the Pilkington show handout (see bibliography) Banks and two other men associated with the Royal Academy sought to discover if representations of the Crucifixion in painting and sculpture were anatomically accurate. Obtaining the corpse of James Legg immediately after his execution by hanging, Banks and his companions crucified the corpse, flayed it, and then made a plaster cast. Écorché figures were quite common in drawing schools and artist’s studios, and the Life Room has three others — a standing figure attributed to Edmé Bouchardon, a figure of legs and stomach after Jean-Antoine Houdon’s 1767 cast, and a complete horse presented to the RA by Philip Calderon’s son.

The exhibition handout whimsically credits the executed James Legg as sculptor but does not note that this grisly écorché is literally an objectification of Legg. — George P. Landow