Wax anatomical model of an Anatomical Venus, pregnant woman with a foetus. Barcelona, unknown modeller and workshop, second half of the 19th Century, Museu d'Història de la Medicina de Catalunya.
From the museum website:
It is difficult to set exactly the origin and manufacturing date of this piece, though we must doubtlessly place it in the 19th Century. It was in the first decades of that century that anatomical Venuses became extremely popular in some European museums of anatomy. This is due to the fact that the exhibition of whole-body anatomical figures allowed knowledge popularisation, without any effort by the observer, through a precise representation of Nature. These elements can be found in the Anatomical Venus, which shows an evident external beauty, combined with anatomical rigor of internal components, yielded by the medical knowledge acquired through dissectional practice. In fact, the carrying out of anatomical models through different materials always harbours to two basic aims regarding pedagogical and, in a lesser way, artistic or aesthetic aspects. The persistence over time of this form of artificial representation of human anatomy reminds us of the complementary role of pedagogical comprehension that these models had in faculties of medicine, where the expert anatomist directed the work of the modeller artist.
In the case of the Anatomical Venus, two objectives come together: education and entertainment. Through an intense realism, the woman we find is lying in a resting position and invites the viewer to come closer. Female nudity constituted a pretext for public exhibition while avoiding moral incorrectness and attracting a greater number of observers. As in other resembling models preserved in European museums, such as in Vienna or Florence, the resting woman is pregnant and allows access to her body’s inside through successive dissections all the way to the foetus. The aim to instruct a wide segment of non-expert public was achieved from a representation of Nature, utterly live and natural, based on the construction of a kind of perfect human body, that of Venus’ beauty.
For more on "Anatomical Venuses," see these recent Morbid Anatomy posts. To find out more about Museu d'Història de la Medicina de Catalunya, visit the museum website here.