Wednesday, February 25, 2009

More from The Science Museum of London's "Brought to Life" Website

More (see recent post!) artifacts to be featured on the Science Museum of London's "Brought to Life: Exploring the History of Medicine" website, due to launch in just days! (March 2nd, to be exact).

So, what do we have here? From the item description:
Set of nine wax plaques showing foetal development and dissection views of a female figure, Europe, 1801-1830

This series of nine wax plaques shows both the development of a foetus during pregnancy and anatomical details from the dissection of a young female figure who is pregnant in a number of the images.

Top to bottom: Female figure, deep dissection to show kidneys, uterus, etc.; Female figure, part of skin and wall of uterus removed showing foetus in utero; Foetus in placenta in utero.
For more on the "Brought to Life" project--with pictures!--click here. For more on the Science Museum's astounding history of medicine collection, click here. To count down the days until the website launches, visit the official website here.

All images © The Science Museum

Pedagogical Posters, 19th C, Maison Deyrolle, Paris

A really nice gif animation of a variety of pedagogical posters from the recently fire-damaged (see recent post) Maison Deyrolle, via Mapping the Marvelous.

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Fantasie Macabres," Paolo Vincenzo Bonomini (1757-1839)

One wonderful artist I discovered in the recently gushed about book Death and Resurrection in Art (Guide to Imagery) is Paolo Vincenzo Bonomini, also known by the last name of Borromini. I have found precious little about the artist in English; the "translate" function applied to the Italian Wikipedia entry reveals (to the best of my deciphering...) that he was an Italian artist who decorated many civic and religious buildings and is best known for his "Fantasie Macabres," a series of scenes depicting living skeletons (see above), which was commissioned by a parish in Bergamo, his hometown. He produced 6 paintings as part of the series, many of them featuring recognizable caricatures of well-known townsfolk; another (guess which?) serves as a skeletal self-portrait. They are housed in the church of Santa Grata Inter Vites di Borgo Canale.

Top two photos found here. Bottom image found here.

Images, from top to bottom: Il pittore; Il tamburino della Cisalpina; Il carpentiere.

Evanion Collection, 19th C Ephemera Collection by Conjuror and Ventriloquist Henry Evans (1832?-1905)

Check out these wonderful posters, found on the livejournal Dark Victoria (found via Apuntes Críticos).

Here is what they have to tell us about the collection:
Evanion collection
Evanion collection: In 1895 the British Museum purchased a rich and fascinating collection of 19th century ephemera formed by Henry Evans (1832?-1905), a conjuror and ventriloquist, who performed under the stage name "Evanion". During the course of a long career, he took every opportunity to amass a large collection of material relating to Victorian entertainment and everyday life. Harry Houdini, who described the collection as "full of priceless treasures", later acquired many of the items relating to magic. These are now in the possession of the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin.
The British Library owns approximately 5,000 items from Evanion's collection. These fall into two main categories – popular entertainment, and everyday life - and include posters, advertisements, trade cards and catalogues.
This is just a selection of my favorite posters; visit Dark Victoria to see the entire collection. Really wonderful images of early spectacle! (Click on images to see larger versions!)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

"Confronting Mortality with Art And Science" Book Release Party and Film Screening, March 2, 7:30 PM

Morbid Anatomy would like to invite all readers to a book release party for "Confronting Mortality with Art and Science: Scientific and Artistic Impressions on What the Certainty of Death Says About Life," the illustrated catalog for a conference of the same name that I partipated in back in 2007 in Antwerp (see image above).

The event, which is free and open to the public, will take place next Monday, March 2 at 7:30 PM in the as-of-yet un-named space (more on this soon! And more events in this space to come!) sandwiched between Proteus Gowanus, Cabinet Magazine, and the Morbid Anatomy Library; For full practical details, see the bottom of this post.

Also featured in the evening's festivities will be a screening of the book's companion film "Art : Science = Science x Art" (a 30 minute documentary on Medical Art), and the whole will be introduced by visiting editors fresh off the plane from Belgium, Ann Van de Velde and Pascale Pollier-Green. There will also be wine.

Here is some information about the book, care of the editors:

"Confronting Mortality with Art and Science: Scientific and Artistic Impressions on What the Certainty of Death Says About Life" is a rare entry into the nexus of science and art, this thought-provoking exploration introduces the ongoing research by scientists and artists into the fascinating subject of death and mortality. The unique practices of medical and scientific artists share a desire to piece the world together using the power of representational drawing. Their common belief that to draw is to see seeks to answer the riddles of mortality through the cultivation of their art, and what begins as an exploration of death ultimately becomes a celebration of life. This collection presents an introduction to the front lines of medical and scientific art, elaborating upon the ethos of their movement, and showcasing some of their greatest discoveries.

Artists, and more specifically medical artists, have always incorporated the various symbols of death, the cessation of biological functions, throughout their work. They believe it is important to identify with the concept that we are in fact mortal creatures. Nevertheless they consider their work to be a celebration of life and a preservation of something beautiful.

In "Confronting Mortality with Art and Science" it is not Art for the service for Science and vice versa, because there must always remain some degree of integrity of disciplines; a sort of demarcation of discourse, intentions, motivations and outcomes. This does not exclude very close ties and cross fertilisation/contamination between Art and Science. Only when the demarcation is there, however, will the results will be focused and enormously interesting.

Most of the presented work in this book is an ongoing visual investigation of mortality. Artists and scientists draw carefully observed representations of things that have wandered off this mortal coil - birds, plants, bugs and animals. Each is equal to the others in its mortality. Medical and scientific artists have a desire to pull the pieces of the world together, to make it whole and to make sense of our fractured reality. They believe in the power of representational drawing. To draw is to see. Sometimes the work is complete when the drawing is finished. At other times the drawing becomes a point of departure…"

Authors: Rudy Van Eysendeyk (B) Jacques M.C Spee (NL) Patrick McDonnell (CAN) Beverly Ress (USA) Emmanuel Gilissen (B) Frederic Daman (B) Francis Van Glabbeek (B) Robrecht Van Hee (B) Eleanor Crook (UK) Werner Jacobs (B) Richard Neave (UK) Wim Hüsken (B) Patrick Allegaert (B) Filip Geerardyn (B) Jeff Wyckoff (USA) Bart Koubaa (B) Laurie Hassold (USA) Jo Ann Kaplan (UK) J. Fabre (B) & EO Wilson (USA) Elisabetta Cunsolo (I) Erika Giuliani (I) Bernard Lernout (B) John McGhee (UK) Maartje Kunen (NL) Robert Zwijnenberg (NL) Sofie Hanegreefs (B)

Artists: Caitlin Berrigan (USA) Phil Bloom (NL) Eleanor Crook (UK) Joanna Ebenstein (USA) Bryan Green (UK) Laurie Hassold (USA) Jo Ann Kaplan (UK) Adrienne Klein (USA) Dries Magits (B) Joanneke Meester (NL) Museum Dr. Guislain (B) Caroline Needham (UK) Chantal Pollier (B) Pascale Pollier-Green (B) Robert Quint (F) Jody Rasch (USA) Beverly Ress (USA) Jess Rutten (B) Martin uit den Bogaard (NL) Ann Van de Velde (B) Donat Willenz (B) Jeff Wyckoff (USA)

With the kind support of the ‘Association Européenne des Illustrateurs Médicaux et Scientifiques’ (AEIMS) and the ‘MedicalArtists’Association of Great Britain’ (MAA), the ‘Association of Medical Illustrators’ (AMI), the ‘Vesalius Trust’ and ‘Art & Science Collaborations, Inc.’ (ASCI).

This should be a really good event! Hope to see you there!

Practical Details
"Confronting Mortality with Art And Science: Scientific and Artistic Impressions on What the Certainty of Death Says About Life" Book Release Party and "Art : Science = Science x Art" Film Screening
Monday, March 2, 2009
7:30 PM
Admission: Free
Address: 543 Union Street, Brooklyn, New York 11215
Entry via Proteus Gowanus Interdisciplinary Gallery and Reading Room; go through back door of gallery, then take a left to find event. Directions here or call 718.243.1572.

Feel free to email me at with any questions.

ADDENDUM: Due to many queries I have received on this matter--if you would like to purchase the book but can not attend the event, you can do so by clicking here.

The House of a Quack, circa 1745, William Hogarth, "Marriage-à-la-mode"

Above you see "Bonnet Found," Plate III of William Hogarth's six-print series "Marriage-à-la-mode" which were conceived as a succession of "cautionary tales aimed at fostering the self-improvement of individuals and society [wherin] Hogarth uses six engravings to track the establishment, breakdown and bloody end of an ill-fated marriage of convenience" as the National Library of New Zealand's website explains. The website goes on to describe plate III thus:
"Bonnet Found" Squanderfield and his young mistress visit a 'quack doctor' where he questions the effectiveness of the mercury pills proscribed for his condition. The doctor is not a good advertisement for this cure. Like Squanderfield, both he and his assistant are ravaged with syphilis sores. The deformed skull sitting on the table and the multiple other signs of mortality signal the fate of everybody in this room.

The devil is in the detail. The passive and downcast mistress dabs a sore on her mouth, the first sign of the disease. The pocket-watch hanging from her belt indicates that her time is up. She has become a victim of Squanderfield's carefree and excessive lifestyle.
There are some great details in this print--I highly encourage you to click on the image to see it in its larger, more perusable version. Be sure to note the amorous relations between the skeleton and anatomical model in the closet, the hanging crocodile suggesting the alchemist's laboratory, and the intriguing wall hangings. To read more about the Hogarth and the collection, visit the Library's website by clicking here.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Polychrome Wax Relief of a Plague Scene, Gaetano Zumbo, Late 17th C

With so few remaining works by Sicilian wax artist and anatomical wax pioneer Gaetano Zumbo, I was quite surprised to find this one, a rendering of a plague scene "depicting three dismembered and decaying bodies in a grotto," on the Christies auction results website. The piece was sold for £12,600 in 2006 as part of an auction entitled, incongruously, "Important European Furniture, Sculpture and Tapestries Including Reflected Glory: A Private Collection of Magnificent Mirrors;" the pre-lot text reads, provocatively, "the property of a lady." The lot notes from the Christie's site are a pretty great read, too:

Although his artistic career was extremely short-lived, Gaetano Zumbo was arguably one of the finest wax modellers active in the second half of the 17th century. Born to noble parents in Syracuse, Sicily, he took up art after a long period of self-criticism and self-tuition. He made his debut as an artist in Bologna in 1691 and was soon after taken into the service of Cosimo III, Grand Duke of Tuscany. By 1695 Zumbo left Florence for Bologna, and then went on to Genoa where he entered into partnership with Guillaume Desnoues, a French surgeon, for whom he made exact models in coloured wax of the human anatomy to assist medical studies. His collaboration with Desnoues was, again, short-lived and by 1700 he had moved to Paris and obtained a royal privilege for the manufacture of anatomical preparations in coloured wax. He died in Paris in 1701.

Zumbo's work demonstrates a rigorous and scientific observation of the various stages of decomposition of the human body and, essentially, the inevitable decay of human beauty and power. The present lot, which is identified by Pyke (loc. cit.) as C.68 in Zumbo's oeuvre, is extremely comparable to Zumbo's other documented works (see Pratesi, loc. cit.) in terms of style, composition and details, and combines formidable realism with almost romantic images of young, well developed, bodies condemned to the vilest metamorphoses. The Marquis de Sade's first impressions upon seeing Zumbo's work are as follows:

'So powerful is the impression produced by this masterpiece that even as you gaze at it your other senses are played upon, moans audible, you wrinkle your nose as if you could detect the evil odours of mortality… These scenes of the plague appealed to my cruel imagination: and I mused, how many persons had undergone these awful metamorphoses thanks to my wickedness?' (Sade, op. cit.).

What lucky lady or gentleman now cites this marvelous object among their possessions? I, for one, would like to know them.

You can find out more about this object here. You can read more about Zumbo and his work on the Curious Expeditions website by clicking here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"Death and Resurrection in Art: Guide to Imagery," Enrico De Pascale, 2007

As one of the unavoidable realities of human existence, death is also one of the oldest and most common themes in the history of art. From Egyptian tomb paintings and battle scenes on Greek vases by anonymous artists, to depictions of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus by the great Renaissance masters, to contemporary encounters with these subjects by such artists as Damien Hirst and Andres Serrano, the contents of this book highlight three thousand years of the iconography of death and resurrection.... De Pascale explores depictions of these two subjects thematically, through chapters on violent death, ceremonial tributes to the departed, allegorical depictions of death, and the journey to the afterlife.

I have just received what may well be my new favorite book: Death and Resurrection in Art: Guide to Imagery, by Enrico De Pascale.

Published by the J. Paul Getty Museum as a translation from an Italian original (which may explain why its so dang good!), the book is a lavishly illustrated and encyclopedic examination of artworks--ranging from ancient Egypt to the present--featuring themes of death and resurrection. The book is organized via a broadly imagined grouping of themes, such as (just a few of my favorites here) martyrdom, suicide, ex votos, "the black lady," "ars moriendi" (or "art of dying"), symbols of death, vanitas, plague, monument of the fallen, blood, Eros and Thanatos, "investigated body" (the anatomical body), the cult of the dead, relics and reliquaries, and tomb art.

The book features hundreds of amazing artworks beautifully reproduced--some old favorites, and some new revelations--augmented by fascinating, concise-yet-thorough documentation. Each topic is introduced by a page that outlines the theme by providing a definition, linking it to corresponding literature, and surveying its iconographic distribution. Each page is set up in a friendly, lots-of-white-space DK Books kind of layout with lots of commentary (see top image--click on image to enlarge) that invites close reading. I really cannot put it down, and have found much to be inspired by in the images and information I've found here. This is the book I always wished had existed when I was just discovering the richness of this topic as a teenager. I could not recommend this book more highly!

You can find out more about the book (which is now available at a pre-order discount!) here.

All images shown above are featured in the book. Top to bottom: Self Portrait with Death, Edvard Munch, page view from book; The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb, Hans Holbein; Skeletons Fighting Over a Smoked Herring, James Ensor (1891); Death and the Maiden, Egon SchieleSchiavonetti (1808); Bidibidobidiboo, Maurizio Cattelan (1996); The Triumph of Death, from the Heures de Rohan (c. 1418-25). (1915); The Soul Hovering over the Body Reluctantly Parting with Life, drawn by W. Blake and etched by L.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Anatomical Waxes, Vienna Musuem of Natural History

Somehow I visited the Naturhistorisches Museum Wein and never saw these waxes. Does anyone know who created them or anything else about them?

Top image: Dianepernet; Other images from Moonjazz's Flickr Photostream.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Evolution of Images in Anatomy Books, 1450-1800

If you are interested in the history or anatomical illustration, you might want to check out Bookn3rd's post "Memento Mori Part I," where the book-historian author shares her research into the evolution of anatomy books illustrations between 1450 and 1800, making use of wonderful images from National Library of Medicine's Historical Anatomies on the Web exhibit to illustrate her text. Part II will hopefully appear sometime this week.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pacific Museum of Anatomy and Science, Zymoglyphic Museum Curator's Web Log

The Pacific Museum of Anatomy and Science, located on Pine Street between Montgomery and Sansome. This educational institution, "For Gentlemen Only", specialized in wax models of instructive anatomy, most of whom were female, along with a collection of Egyptian mummies and preserved anatomical curiosities. It was a place where men fancying themselves refined gentlemen could gaze in detail on female anatomy in a civilized manner, foregoing the whorehouses, back alleys, and dangerous hellholes of the nearby Barbary Coast.

The Zymoglyphic Museum Curator's Web Log has just posted a really nice story on The Pacific Museum of Anatomy and Science, a popular anatomical museum located in San Francisco from the 19th until the early 20th century. If the above quotation piques your interest, I highly recommend you check out the entire fascinating post (click here) and also the similarly themed "'Morbid curiosity': The Decline and Fall of the Popular Anatomical Museum" by Michael Sappol (click here).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Compliments of Morbid Anatomy and Corbis Images.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Rosalia Lombardo, or "Sleeping Beauty" of the Capuchin Catacombs of Palermo, Italy

Today, waiting to get my haircut, I picked up an issue of National Geographic featuring a story on the famous mummies of the Capuchin catacombs of Palermo, Italy. Now, I had long been familiar with the epic array of mummies in this catacombs, but somehow I had not been aware of one of the crypts more enchanting residents --Rosalia Lomnbardo, or the"Sleeping Beauty" of the catacombs.

As National Geographic tells it, Rosalia Lombardo was a two-year-old Sicilian girl who died of pneumonia in 1920. She's is considered one of the world's best-preserved bodies, and has resided in a glass fronted coffin in the crypt since her death. For many years, the formula that preserved her so magnificently was considered a mystery, but it has recently been discovered that her preparator--Sicilian taxidermist and embalmer Alfredo Salafia--injected her with a mixture of formalin, zinc salts, alcohol, salicylic acid, and glycerin. Apparently, its the zinc salts that kept her so well preserved, in effect petrifying her body.

You can read the entire National Geographic article on the Capuchin Crypts here (and look at all the wonderful photos--be sure to check out the photo gallery!); you can read more about the mystery of Rosalia Lombardo here.

Photograph by Vincent J. Musi, as seen in National Geographic.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"New York Dead Baby" 2007-2008, Jenny James

"New York Dead Baby," photo by Jenny James. Sadly, I have found no caption specifying where exactly in New York pictured fetal skeleton might reside. Thoughts, anyone?

Via Kagami, which sourced it from File Magazine.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

“No Monster Exists that Cannot be Made Pleasing Through Art”, 1775

Jacques Louis Moreau (1771-1826). Description des principales monstruosités dans l’homme et dans les animaux précédée d’un discours sur la physiologie et la classification des monstres … avec figures coloriées par N.F. Regnault … Paris: Fournier, 1808.

This book was originally published in 1775 by the artists Nicolas-François and Geneviève Regnault under the title Les Ecarts de la nature ou recueil des principales monstruosités (The Deviations of Nature or a Collection of the Main Monstrosities). For the first time in print, the artists, well aware of the susceptibilities of their readers, exploited the aesthetic beauty of monsters. The prospectus quoted the French poet Boileau: “no monster exists that cannot be made pleasing through art”.

Above is a provocative description of the book Les Ecarts de la nature ou recueil des principales monstruosités from the New York Academy of Medicine's wonderful online exhibition "A Telling of Wonders: Teratology in Western Medicine through 1800", as well as images from the same. Can this really be true, I wonder? Can this truly be the first time print artists "exploited the aesthetic beauty of monsters?" I find it a difficult assertion to support. Regardless, I like the pairing--especially the use of the poet's words--found on a recent post on the wonderful A Journey Round my Skull.

See the original post here. You can visit the "Telling of Wonders: Teratology in Western Medicine" online exhibition here. And you can see larger versions of the images by clicking on them.

Friday, February 6, 2009

"The Anaemic Lady," Samuel van Hoogstraten (1627-1678)

The Anaemic Lady (De Bleekzuchtige Dame), ca. 1667. From the Rijksmuseum website:
This painting by Samuel van Hoogstraten is known as the 'Anaemic Lady'. A pale woman is hanging passively and lethargically in her chair, with her hands together. However, it is unlikely that she is ill. A doctor dressed in a strange, old-fashioned costume, is examining her urine to see whe she is pregnant. The man behind her looks with concern at the bottle. The situation is further clarified by the naked figures in the tablecloth and the painting above the door bearing an image of Venus, the goddess of love. A special role is played by the cat, often a symbol of sensuality. Like the mouse between its legs, this couple has been caught 'in the grip of lust'.

Click image to see much larger view.

More on the wonders of Dutch collections here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

More from the Enigmatic Collection of Captionless Vintage Photos

This collection just keeps on giving. See last post for more information.

Enigmatic Collection of Captionless Vintage Photos

These images are drawn from a large, rather amazing collection of enigmatic vintage photographs found on the Vintage Photo Live Journal page; I urge you to click here to see them all (also, click on images to see larger version). Found via Dream Attack.