Monday, August 17, 2009

"Aphrodites of the Operating Theatre" Mark Dery on La Specola, et al.

Mark Dery's guest blogging stint on Boing Boing continues to excite and enlighten. His latest post, entitled "Aphrodities of the Operating Theatre" and dealing specifically with the awe-inspiring La Specola anatomical wax collection of Florence begins:
Why have we not developed an aesthetic of the inside of the body?," wonders one of the twin gynecologists in David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers. He speaks for Cronenberg, who took up the thread in an interview he and I conducted. "We have contests in which we decide who is the most beautiful woman in the world," said Cronenberg, "and yet, if you were to show the inside of that woman's body, you would have a lot of grossed-out people. Why is that? We should be able to have a World's Most Perfect Kidney contest, where women or men unzip to show their kidneys. We can't become integral creatures until we come to terms with our bodies and we haven't come remotely close to that. We're incredibly schizophrenic."

Cronenberg's visceral aesthetic is bodied forth (so to speak) in La Specola, an 18th century anatomical museum at the University of Florence. It's fitting that the name, from the Latin for mirror (the museum is housed in a former observatory), is close etymological kin to speculum, an instrument used, as every woman knows, to dilate the opening of a body cavity for examination. La Specola is home to a collection of visible women and men, medical teaching aids that comprise some of the finest examples of ceroplasty, the art of modeling anatomical specimens in wax...
Check out the whole post by clicking here.

Image: From the series Anatomical Theatre: “La Specola” (Museo di Storia Naturale) : Florence, Italy "Anatomical Venus"; Wax wodel with human hair and pearls in rosewood and Venetian glass case; Probably modeled by Clemente Susini (around 1790)


Anonymous said...

The opening of that post remind me of the Midrash story of Adam's second wife-- she was created after Lilith left him, but before Eve was made.

For this process, Adam was allowed to watch God make her, and got to see all her bones, organs, and other viscera. When she was completed, she so horrified Adam (he saw her as being "full of blood and secretions," not realizing that he himself was the same) he refused to go near her or even give her a name.

Some versions state that she was destroyed, while others claim that she was allowed to leave him and wander the earth.

JE said...

This is a wonderful reference! Thank you so much for sharing this!