Giovanni Morelli (1816 – 1891) trained as a doctor in Germany, but never practiced. Instead he was drawn to art and aesthetics, and to government. He served 4 terms in Italy’s newly formed government, helping to draft laws curtailing the export of art. Morelli was a collector of paintings and drawings, and his collection was left to the Accademia Carrara in Bergamo, his native city. It wasn’t until after his political career, at the age of 60, that he started publishing on what’s known as the Morellian Method, where art works are linked by seemingly small details. The 1911 Brittanica has a good entry on Morelli written by Constance Jocelyn Foulkes, a translator of Morelli’s work. In it she says of Morelli:
Studying one day in the Uffizi, it suddenly struck him that in a picture by Botticelli containing several figures the drawing of the hands was remarkably similar in all; that the same characteristic but plebeian type, with bony fingers, broad square nails, and dark outlines, was repeated in every figure. Turning to the ears, he observed that they also were drawn in an individual manner, and that in the numerous figures in which the ear was visible the same typical form recurred. Having noted these fundamental forms, he proceeded to an examination of other works by this painter, and found that the same forms were exactly repeated, together with other individual traits which seemed distinctive of the master: the characteristic type of head and expression, the drawing of the nostrils, the vitality of movement, the disposition of drapery, harmony of colour (where it had not been tampered with by the restorer), and quality of landscape.
Verrocchio and Morelli were on the same plane in their thinking on isolating parts of the body for study. Vasari tells of Verrocchio’s casting hands, feet, knees, legs, arms, and torsos.
I thought I’d see how this Morellian Method works by assembling some Andrea del Verrocchio ears. Pretty early on I realized it would be important to know the words to describe an ear, so here’s a link to a diagram of an ear. Morelli’s study of medicine and anatomy, of course, helped him a lot with this. The one thing I can really say about the ears below is that Verrocchio liked nicely round antitraguses.