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Beauchêne preparation of a long-horned beetle

A long-horned beetle is a type of beetle. The specimen in front of you has been completely disarticulated, or taken apart, and has then been reassembled according to the Beauchêne technique. This technique entails that the anatomist allows for some distance in between the various parts. This way, you can clearly see how even the most intricate of structures fit together. Our complex reality thus becomes more transparent and organised. Precisely for that reason, Professor of Biology Felix Plateau (1841 – 1911) relied on Beauchêne preparations for his teaching materials.
  • Maker: Felix Plateau
  • Date: 1880
  • Location: Ghent, Belgium
  • Collection: Zoology
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In a Beauchêne preparation, an exoskeleton or skull is completely taken apart. Then each part is mounted back in the correct position but slightly separated from the rest.

Who was Felix Plateau?

Felix Plateau (1841-1911) was a zoologist by career. He observed and studied animal anatomy and morphology. In 1870, he became a professor of comparative anatomy and zoology at Ghent University. He greatly expanded the university’s zoological collection to include preparations, stuffed and mounted animals and skeletons, which he used in his lessons. Felix Plateau was the son of the famous Belgian physicist and mathematician Joseph Plateau (1801-1883).

What is a Beauchêne preparation?

In a Beauchêne preparation, an exoskeleton or skull is completely taken apart. Then each part is mounted back in the correct position but slightly separated from the rest. This retains the impression of the whole object, but you can also see all the separate parts.

Where does the name Beauchêne come from?

The technique is named after its inventor, the French surgeon and anatomist Edmé François Chauvot de Beauchêne (1780-1830).

How do you make a Beauchêne preparation of a skull?

The first skulls prepared according to the Beauchêne technique had to be cleaned, boiled and soaked to make it easier to separate the different parts. Later in the 18th century, model makers used the ‘exploded technique’, in which they filled the skull with dried beans or peas that absorbed liquid, then swelled up, ultimately forcing the bones of the skull apart. Once the different parts were dry, they could be put back together.

What is a longhorn beetle?

The family of longhorn beetles (Cerambycidae) is a member of the animal kingdom (Animalia), the phylum of arthropods (Anthropoda), the class of insects (Insecta) and the order of beetles (Coleoptera). There are more than 33,000 species of longhorn beetles, with a wide variety of colours and patterns. Their basic shape is usually the same: a long body, slender legs and long antennae.

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