Sunday, September 23, 2007
Popular Anatomical Waxworks Auction, Christie's, 2001
"A UNIQUE collection of 350 anatomical wax models which once travelled Europe as a carnival sideshow is expected to raise at least £300,000 at Christie's in London later this month."
--The Telegraph, December, 2001
"I saw men enter blind drunk and leave stone-cold sober."
--Lily Binda, remarking on her collection of anatomical waxes.
I think I am in love with Christie's Auction house. Today I came across an auction they hosted in 2001 called The William Bonardo Collection of Wax Anatomical Models, a private collection of anatomical waxes with a fascinating back story that amounts to a nice snapshot of the changing uses of anatomical waxes over time.
The William Bonardo Collection was originally assembled by Swiss Painter Leonce Schiffman in the early 20th century, and consisted of a variety of waxes covering topics from treppaning to syphillus and from childbirth to siamese twins, many of which were manufactured in Germany in the 19th century.This collection was later inherited by carnival freak show owner Lily Binda, who exhibited them at her show until legislation in the 1960s outlawed such displays. Binda then took her show on the road, creating an itinerant exhibition that toured the fairgrounds of Europe. Binda died 1980s; her husband put the collection, which had been stored at a warehouse in Switzerland, up for auction in 2001.
The collection looks like it was amazing, from what remains on the Christie's website and from the snapshots compiled on a website called "Corkscrew Balloon;" it is all the more remarkable for the fact that most popular anatomical artifacts were destroyed, seen as pornograpic or, at the least, unsavory, and this one appears to have survived intact and in excellent condition. I wonder where these objects now reside?
You can read more about the collection and its history in the Telegraph article Medical waxwork horrors come under the hammer. To read more about popular anatomy in general, check out Michael Sappol's amazing Morbid curiosity: The Decline and Fall of the Popular Anatomical Museum.