I just received a very excited email from my friend Marie; it seems that an ecorché by Honoré Fragonard--18th Century maker of anatomical art objects from dehydrated human specimens-- made it onto the cover of the Sunday travel section of the Washington Post!
I have not (yet!) been able to find a copy of the original hard-copy of the paper (anyone out there with a scanner of a digi cam want to send me a copy?), but above are some image of Fragonard's work, from the website of the Musée Fragonard de l'Ecole vétérinaire deMaisons-Alfort , which is the museum discussed in the story. Here is the excerpt, from Blake Gopnik's "A Brush With The Paris Art Scene: Out-of-the-Way Sites Show Off The Avant-Garde Side of the City" as it appeared in Sunday's Post:
Once in Alfort, we headed toward a complex of charmingly shabby neoclassical buildings and stables, complete with bored-looking horses lounging in a round courtyard, and climbed some ancient stairs to take in works by Fragonard. No, not Jean-Honoré Fragonard, the great painter of ancien-regime bliss. Antoine had led me to Alfort's 250-year-old National Veterinary School (second oldest in the world) to take in the handiwork of that painter's cousin, plain old Honoré Fragonard, the school's founding director and a pioneer in the "art" of the flayed body.
Fragonard's skinned and preserved humans, with veins and nerves picked out in different colors, were on display in the newly renovated rooms of the school's tiny museum, alongside giant bovine tumors and cases full of diseased horses' hoofs. With the exception of the museum's vintage architecture and casework, now polished to a shine, none of this was what you'd call elegant. But that was just the point of the visit: to get a taste of French culture that Americans don't get at the Phillips Collection or the Barnes. This Fragonard's skill fits into a tradition of rational investigation that has deep roots in France (Pasteur, anyone? Marie Curie?) but that our romantic image of Seine-side lovers tends to slight...
And all this 200 years before Gunther von Hagens (though the careful eye might spot just a few similarities...)! Truly, the more things change, the more they say the same.
You can read the whole story on the Washington Post website, here. You can visit the Musée Fragonard de l'Ecole vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort Website to learn more about (and see more of!) this collection by clicking here. You can also see some old photos I took of the collection (with a very bad camera!) here.
Thanks, Marie, for letting me know about this!
Oh! P.S. I will have a few days in Paris next week; does anybody have any recommendations for must-see collections?
Images: Top, The Horseman of the Apocalypse (1766-1771); The Man with a Mandible (1766 - 1771); Human Foetuses Dancing a Gig, all images from the Musée Fragonard de l'Ecole vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort Website.