The Anatomical Venus: Wax, God, Death & the Ecstatic
The inimitable Joana Ebenstein of The Morbid Anatomy Museum has just published a remarkable book on the subject of the Anatomical Venus.
Of all the artifacts from the history of medicine, the Anatomical Venus―with its heady mixture of beauty, eroticism and death―is the most seductive. These life-sized dissectible wax women reclining on moth-eaten velvet cushions―with glass eyes, strings of pearls, and golden tiaras crowning their real human hair―were created in eighteenth-century Florence as the centerpiece of the first truly public science museum.
Conceived as a means to teach human anatomy, the Venus also tacitly communicated the relationship between the human body and a divinely created cosmos; between art and science, nature and mankind. Today, she both intrigues and confounds, troubling our neat categorical divides between life and death, body and soul, effigy and pedagogy, entertainment and education, kitsch and art.
The book is extensively researched and features over 250 images. It looks absolutely amazing. I’m sure many readers of this blog will want to pick up a copy. Let me know what you think!