Saturday, May 31, 2008

"Anatomy: The Foundation of Medicine; From Aristotle to Early Twentieth Century Wall Charts," Online Exhibition

The afore mentioned anonymous "Friend of Morbid Anatomy" has directed my attention to a new online exhibition housed on the University of Virginia Health System website called "Anatomy: The Foundation of Medicine; From Aristotle to Early Twentieth Century Wall Charts." It features an excellent selection of images and a short essay on the history of anatomical illustration. See the exhibition (and its snappy opening page) here.

All images above are taken from the exhibition, and are examples of "W. & A. K. Johnston's Charts of Anatomy and Physiology," By Dr. Wm. Turner, Professor of Anatomy, University of Edinburgh (Now Sir William Turner, Prinicipal of the University of Edinburgh), and were originally published in the 19th Century.

Friday, May 30, 2008

19th C Anatomical Venus, Unknown Modeller and Workshop, Museu d'Història de la Medicina de Catalunya

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.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Portraits of Dead Nuns, Victorino García Romero (1791-1870)

I found these lovely 19th Century portraits of "Nuns at Rest" in their funereal repose by Columbian artist Victorino Garcia Romero on a blog called Apuntes Criticos.

More information (in Spanish) here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Stethonet Website

I just discovered the Stethonet Website via the blog La Rubrique Necro. The site contains a number of fascinating images, including those shown above--French pharmaceutical advertisements from 1942 and surgical photographs with nuns lurking in the backgound. Visit the website (perhaps with the assistance of Google's "translate this page" feature) to see and read more.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"Culpeper's English Physician and Complete Herbal," C. 1790

The wonderful illustrations in this book, which has been completely scanned and posted online, was brought to my attention by a "Friend of Morbid Anatomy" who would like to remain annonymous.

Full description reads: Culpeper's English physician and complete herbal : to which are now first added upwards of one hundred additional herbs, with a display of their medicinal and occult properties physically applied to the cure of all disorders incident to mankind, to which are annexed rules for compounding medicine according to the true system of nature, forming a complete family dispensatory and natural system of physic ... / illustrated with notes and observations, critical and explanatory by E. Sibley ..., London : printed for the proprietors and sold by C. Stalker ..., 1790.

Peruse the whole book (and learn more about it) here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Phineas Gage on the BBC!

I just read on the Neurophilosophy blog that the BBC 4 radio show Case Study will be airing a story tomorrow, at 11:00 AM British Summer Time, about the 19th century medical curiosity Phineas Gage.

The BBC website also includes a nice collection of links for those interested in learning more about Gage, as well as information about books, articles, and even a banjo song about the man. A synopsis of the case, and more about the program, from the website:

Phineas Gage was a railway worker in 19th century Vermont who survived a bizarre accident: A metre-long iron rod shot through his head, changing him and the study of neuroscience forever.

In the third programme Claudia visits Harvard Medical School Museum in Boston to see for herself what remains of The Man With The Hole In His Head. At the Oliver Zangwill Centre for Neuropsychological Rehabilitation in Ely, Cambridgeshire she meets clients with brain injuries similar to those suffered by Phineas Gage and discovers how far we've come in understanding and treatment since Gage suffered his appalling trauma on 13 September 1848.

A moment's distraction was Phineas' downfall. As foreman of the gang clearing rocks for the laying of the railway line near Cavendish, Vermont, he was responsible for setting the charge, drilling a hole in the rock and using an iron rod to tamp the explosive down before lighting the fuse. But this time the tamping iron struck the side of the hole, setting a spark which ignited the powder and sent the iron - over a metre long and 3 centimetres in diameter - up through his skull above the eye and out through the top of his head, landing 30 metres away. Unconscious for a few seconds, Gage then got up, rode an oxcart into town and lived for a further 12 years.

But he was no longer the hardworking, dependable and well-liked foreman. Now Gage swore and was shiftless, behaving inappropriately. For the first time here was evidence that the brain affects the way we behave; the scene was set for the mapping of the brain.

Thanks, Lance, for sending this my way!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Enigmatic Postcard, "Eene Aangezigtspyn-Phantasie van Alexander V.H.," 19th Century

Postcard purchased from the Museum Dr. Guislain giftshop, caption reads "C.C.A. Last - Eene Aangezigtspyn-Phantasie van Alexander V.H., Lithogravure, 19de eeuw." Was unable to find out any additional information; if anyone knows anything about this image or its maker, please let Morbid Anatomy know.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Musée Dupuytren, Paris, France

The Musée Dupuytren is a medical museum in Paris, France. It was established in 1835 and features an amazing collection of waxes and teratological specimens, all with beautiful antique labels. Their website appears to be down at the moment, but you can find out more about the museum here. Also, I uploaded a really poor-quality video of a walk through an assortment of the pathological waxes here and an overview of the pathological specimens here.

All these photo (and video) were taken on a visit back in 2003.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Vintage Mortician Photos?

Morbid Anatomy reader Aeron Alfrey sent along these wonderful photographs, which he described as "Vintage Mortician Photos." Looking at the photos, it seems to me that they are probably medical students with their cadavers rather than morticians in training, due to the level of dissection we see in the images. Nevertheless, they are lovely. He originally found them here.

Thanks, Aeron!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Nicolas Poussin painting a model for Anatomical Venuses?

A report from the field, compliments of my good friend Evan, co-proprietor of Obscura Antiques and Oddities:

I was taking in the wonderful "Poussin and Nature: Arcadian Visions," exhibition currently up at the Metropolitan Museum, when I was struck by his famous “Venus (or a Nymph) Spied On by Satyrs” [above, top]. The falling of the drapery, the hand gesture, and the blatantly revelatory pose - all very, very reminiscent of the famous wax Venus models found at La Specola, the Jospehinum [above, bottom], and beyond.

No one will know exactly what Clemente Susini was thinking when he modeled his masterpiece, but I'd like to think that he was consciously or unconsciously referencing Poussin. The viewer, whether physician, student or casual admirer, becomes the Satyr, but our gaze is no longer lascivious or threatening; we are now dispassionately clinical. Just one difference, perhaps, between art and science.

It really is the most striking resemblance.

Images shown for your consideration and comparison:

Top: Nicolas Poussin, “Venus (or a Nymph) Spied On by Satyrs,"oil on canvas, circa 1627

Bottom: "Anatomical Venus," Wax model with human hair in rosewood and Venetian glass case; Workshop of Clemente Susini of Florence, 1781-1786, held by The Josephinum, Vienna, Austria

Saturday, May 3, 2008

18th Century Italian Anatomical Waxworks in 3D, on Flickr!

Grab your red/blue 3D glasses and head over to Flickr to check out a few of master wax-worker Clemente Susini's (1757-1814) anatomical waxes in 3D (!!!), compliments of Stanford Medicine's newly released series of anaglyphs. Robert Chase, MD, along with a team of many others, have produced 3D stereo photos of Susini waxes held at the Museo delle Cere Anatomiche Luigi Cattaneo and made 6 of them available for public perusal on their Flickr page. This is a curious development; it adds to Stanford Medical School's already rich and idiosyncratic Flickr collection, and suggests to me that they might be trying to produce a series of "classic 3D anatomy" products, perhaps to compete with the virtual 3D anatomy software packages dominating the contemporary educational market.

Theses 6 images, taken in 2007, mark the launch of a larger program (that will include, one supposes, many more images to be made available, and at a cost) and will be launched later this year. The purported goal of the project is to"bring these waxworks to a larger audience that includes medical students and art enthusiasts alike."

Now, I happen to have some 3D glasses and was unable to get much effect from them. Maybe the form of their next release will intensify the effect? Or maybe my glasses were defective? So far, however, I, for one, prefer the waxworks in good, old fashioned 2-D!

Check out all 6 images on Flickr Page. Find out more about the project here.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Arcane Media Night at Proteus Gowanus, Brooklyn, New York

I am organizing (curating and introducing) an afternoon of Arcane Media at my favorite gallery, Proteus Gowanus, on Sunday, May 18th [invitation above]. All New York based Morbid Anatomy readers are formally invited. Also, I would like to organize a second presentation sometime soon, so if anyone has some arcane media--magic lantern slides, phantasmagoria, etc.-- they would like to present, or knows someone who might, please let me know!

If you are interested in attending, I recommend that you RSVP quickly--Time Out New York is going to be listing the event, so it might sell out.

RSVP by Email at or phone: 718-243-1572. More information on the Proteus Gowanus website, here; Also, feel free to contact me with any questions.

Hope to see you there!

Details, per the Proteus Gowanus website:

Sunday, May 18th, 3 p.m. $5 per person.

An afternoon of magic lantern slides and arcane media coordinated by various “Lanternists,” including:

Zoe Beloff is a media artist who works with film, stereoscopic projection performance, interactive media and installation. She will introduce and demonstrate her "Nic Projector."

James Walsh lives in Brooklyn, works mainly in video and artist's books, and has a keen interest in natural history. He will present a video of lantern slides images from the archives of the American Museum of Natural History. The lantern slides document the later years of the American naturalist and nature essayist John Burroughs (1837-1921), who was influential in the beginnings of the conservation movement and was friends with Walt Whitman, Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and other leading writers and industrialists of his day. Through the medium of video these images are brought to life and set to a soundtrack inspired by his writings, creating an intimate portrait of this enigmatic, contradictory, and once-popular figure.

g. f. Newland is a Brooklyn based animator and musician. He is fond of his old stuff and likes to show it to people when they will let him. He will be showing antique magic lantern slides, some of them animated. 

A selection of rare glass plate three dimensional slides will be presented utilizing polarized projection. Over 90 years old, these stereo photographs display an uncompromising view of WW1. With electronic Theremin accompaniment and 3D glasses provided for the audience.

Joanna Ebenstein is a Brooklyn based graphic artist and photographer. Much of her work is about fascination with antique forms. She organized this night so that she could finally see magic lantern slides projected; it took on a life of its own. She is the curator of the event, and will give a brief introduction.