Monday, March 28, 2016

New Morbid Anatomy Book on the Uncanny Allure of the Anatomical Venus!

The strangest, without a doubt, is an 18th century wax figure known as the "Anatomical Venus": a comely young woman, life-sized and nude, lying prostrate on a pink silk cushion in what looks to be a state of sensual rapture, her torso flayed and all her glistening organs -- including a womb containing a tiny fetus -- revealed. Her long brown hair is real, her eyes are open and unfocused, and the cloth of her pillow is crumpled -- she might as well be writhing. The product of one sculptor's clearly intimate experience with cadavers, she suggests an Enlightenment-era St. Teresa ravished by communion with the invisible forces of science.
--"Exposing classical art's true colors: A Getty Villa exhibit adds brilliant hues to works once thought to be unadorned." Holly Myers for the Los Angeles Times, 2008
Morbid Anatomy began in 2007 as a research tool for an exhibition called Anatomical Theatre, which explored the uncanny allure of historical wax medical models. Of all those models, by far the most seductive and fascinating is life-sized, ecstatically posed Anatomical Venus.

Since that time, the Anatomical Venus has served as both a guide and a muse for the entire Morbid Anatomy project, inspiring research and trips around the world; exhibitions including Exquisite Bodies at the Wellcome Collection; a variety of lectures and articles; and, as of May 24th, a brand new, hardcover, gorgeously designed and lavishly illustrated (see sample page spreads above) 224 page book entitled The Anatomical Venus, published by Thames and Hudson in the UK (top image) and by DAP (second image) in the USA.

The book uses The Anatomical Venus as a point of departure to explore the many paths that lead from her; it situates her within her "historical and cultural context in order to reveal the shifting attitudes toward death and the body that today render such spectacles strange. It reflects on connections between death and wax, the tradition of life-sized simulacra and preserved beautiful women, the phenomenon of women in glass boxes in fairground displays, and ideas of the ecstatic, the sublime and the uncanny."

The full official ad copy for the book follows; stay tuned for information on parties and symposia to celebrate its release taking place in both New York City and London! And, although the book will not be officially released until mid-May, it can be pre-ordered in the USA here, and here for the rest of the world.
Of all the artifacts from the history of medicine, the Anatomical Venus—with its heady mixture of beauty, eroticism and death—is the most seductive. These life-sized dissectible wax women reclining on moth-eaten velvet cushions—with glass eyes, strings of pearls, and golden tiaras crowning their real human hair—were created in eighteenth-century Florence as the centerpiece of the first truly public science museum. Conceived as a means to teach human anatomy, the Venus also tacitly communicated the relationship between the human body and a divinely created cosmos; between art and science, nature and mankind. Today, she both intrigues and confounds, troubling our neat categorical divides between life and death, body and soul, effigy and pedagogy, entertainment and education, kitsch and art.

The first book of its kind, The Anatomical Venus, by Morbid Anatomy founder and Morbid Anatomy Museum co-founder and director Joanna Ebenstein, features over 250 images—many never before published—gathered by its author from around the world. Its extensively researched text explores the Anatomical Venus within her historical and cultural context in order to reveal the shifting attitudes toward death and the body that today render such spectacles strange. It reflects on connections between death and wax, the tradition of life-sized simulacra and preserved beautiful women, the phenomenon of women in glass boxes in fairground displays, and ideas of the ecstatic, the sublime and the uncanny. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mater Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows), Italian School, Probably 16th Century

Painting of the Mater Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows), Italian School, Probably 16th Century. Via Bukowski's Auction House.

From Wikipedia:
The Seven Sorrows of Mary are a popular Roman Catholic devotion. In common religious Catholic imagery, the Blessed Virgin Mary is portrayed in a sorrowful and lacrimating affect, with seven daggers piercing her heart, often bleeding. Devotional prayers that consist of meditation began to elaborate on her Seven Sorrows based on the prophecy of Simeon... [Those seven sorrows are]:

The Prophecy of Saint Simeon. (Luke 2:34–35)
The Escape and Flight into Egypt. (Matthew 2:13)
The Loss of the Child Jesus in the Temple of Jerusalem. (Luke 2:43–45)
The Meeting of Mary and Jesus on the Via Dolorosa.
The Crucifixion of Jesus on Mount Calvary. (John 19:25)
The Piercing of the Side of Jesus, and His Descent from the Cross. (Matthew 27:57–59)
The Burial of Jesus by Joseph of Arimathea. (John 19:40–42)

Monday, March 21, 2016

Philippe Curtius' Sleeping Beauty: Breathing 1920s Waxwork Cast from original 1767 Mold; From the Morbid Anatomy Book "The Anatomical Venus"


The Sleeping Beauty, a waxwork whose breast rises and falls ever so slightly, as seen in the video above.

The model pictured here is a 1925 replica cast from his original mold after the original 1767 wax model destroyed in a fire and crafted by Philippe Curtius. Curtius was the uncle (or possibly the illegitimate father) of the Anne-Marie Grosholtz, who would rise to fame as a wax modeller in her own right under her married name Madame Tussaud. 

This piece can still be seen, breathing gently, at Madame Tussaud's in London. In her book Phantasmagoria, Scholar Marina Warner says of this piece: "The illusion of permanent sleep is invoked to deny the reality of death... The Sleeping Beauty functions as anti-memento mori....she promises immortality as the suspension of time."

Find out more in the new Morbid Anatomy book The Anatomical Venus, published by DAP in the US and Thames and Hudson in the rest of the world. You can find out more here.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Mysterious 1933 Autopsy Film: Michael Sappol from the National Library of Medicine Collection


Michael Sappol--historian at the National Library of Medicineauthor of A Traffic of Dead Bodies, and curator of Dream Anatomy--just shared news of a mysterious film in his Library's collection. This 1933 film contains, in the Library's own words, "an autopsy, perhaps the first ever performed before a motion picture camera. On screen, a bespectacled man in a white coat happily cuts open an unidentified dead man, chatting all the while with students and colleagues..."

You can watch the film (probably NSFW) above. The full description of the film follows; you can also read a post about it on the Circulating Now blog.
Herr Professor Doktor Jakob Erdheim Search the transcript
1933 / 5:16
Film fragment, no producer, no director, Vienna, Austria
Silent, black-and-white.

Sometime in the last century a fragment of silent film landed at the National Library of Medicine. How it got there is a mystery: no paperwork survives to tell the tale; no other prints of the film appear to have survived; no other sources on its making or showing have turned up. The film itself gives no direct information on its origins or purpose. It has no real title or credits, only a single intertitle that tersely announces the featured player, setting, and time: “Herr Professor Doktor Jakob Erdheim. Prosektor. Krankenhaus Der Stadt Wien. September 1933.”

What comes after that is extraordinary, a minor landmark of medical cinema: an autopsy, perhaps the first ever performed before a motion picture camera. On screen, a bespectacled man in a white coat happily cuts open an unidentified dead man, chatting all the while with students and colleagues...

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Common Shade! 19th Century Dime Museums of Europe! Santa Muerte, The Love Sorceress! Beauty & Terror of the Twilight Zone! JSTOR Presents! And More! 

Common Shade! 19th Century Dime Museums of Europe! Santa Muerte, The Love Sorceress! Beauty & Terror of the Twilight Zone! JSTOR Presents! And More! 
We have many wonderful upcoming events at the Morbid Anatomy Museum!

First, for a change: we have decided to move this year's Morbid Anatomy Gala to our home base at the museum! Enjoy a fine catered meal, Hendrick’s cocktails, burlesque by Jo Weldon, a song by Angela Di Carlo, and the victrola stylings of Joel Schlemowitz. There where also be an auction of one-of-a-kind items such as wine in the catacombs at Green-Wood Cemetery, wine and a tour of the home museum of Ryan Matthew Cohn of TV’s “Oddities,” a VIP tour of the Bronx Zoo, an original print from the first edition of "The Raven" by Gustave Dore (1884) and much more—all in a space gorgeously styled by Rebecca Purcell and Evan Michelson!

There will also be an after party at the Bell House with DJ sets by Erasure's Vince Clarke and “Semiotics of 80s Goth Subculture” lecturer Andi Harriman; beer by our sponsor Sixpoint Brewery; Aaron Rodriguez’s amazing Insect Petting Zoo, and tarot or palm reading by members of The Tarot Society. This is free for gala attendees, but folks can purchase tickets for just this part of the evening here.

Join us at Green-Wood Cemetery's Historic Chapel as host Evan Michelson welcomes Anna Sale of the Death, Sex & Money podcast for a conversation about her experiences with life’s (and death’s) inevitabilities (Monday, March 28, 6:30 pm). We are also very honored to have Dr. Peter M. McIsaac—author of the text for our current House of Wax exhibition—for a rare look at panoptica—popular museums of Europe much like the dime museums of the USA followed by an exhibition tour (Tuesday, April 5, 7pm). We are also excited to announce a new partnership with JSTOR with events exploring the unseen, the imperceptible, and the ghostly in poetry (Thursday, April 28th, 7 pm) and a look at how deaths have been staged in the theatre over the centuries, from Roman executions to the Grand Guignol (Wednesday, July 27th, 7 pm).

Other offerings include local taxidermist Amber Maykut with another of our popular anthropomorphic taxidermy classes (Sunday, April 3rd, 12 pm to 4 pm); a talk on the cult of Santa Muerte—the Mexican saint of death—in her fascinating role as Love Sorceress with Dr. Chesnut (Monday, May 30th, 7 pm); JR Pepper reprising her popular lecture on the various forms of body horror exhibited in anime (Tuesday, June 14th, 7 pm); and Chris Alexander on television's groundbreaking dark fantasy series, The Twilight Zone, discussing the genesis of the program an its influence on popular culture (Friday, July 1st, 7 pm).

We are also thrilled to announce a symposium to celebrate the release of The Anatomical Venus, a new Morbid Anatomy book by creative director Joanna Ebenstein exploring the strange and fascinating history of seductive female anatomical wax models, packed with never before published images from around the world. The event will feature short talks and screenings exploring the range of topics covered by in the book including anatomized women, wax, the ecstatic, Catholicism and the cult of the saints, the uncanny, and more (Saturday, June 4th).

And, for the New Jerseyites among you: please come pay us a visit at Fringe New Jersey on April 9th! Our creative director, Joanna Ebenstein, will be giving a talk and we'll have a table with books, bags and other goodies. For tickets and a full programs of events please click here.

This week, we will explore the costuming of shamans and tribal leaders, royalty, warriors and witches (Thursday, March 17th, 7 pm); and teach a bat skeleton articulation class with local taxidermist Wilder Duncan (Saturday, March 19th, 1 pm). Next week we'll have a new installment of Forensic Pathology 101 with a focus on the forensic examination of brains (Tuesday, March 22nd, 7 pm); moving image works created via photochemical manipulations in 16mm film with live music by Katherine Bauer (Wednesday, March 23rd, 7 pm); a look at the association between photography and embalming as aesthetics and mourning practice with Dead Matter author Margaret Schwartz (Thursday, March 24th, 7 pm); and Black Gold's Gold Dig with thousands of LPs, 12 inches, and 45s—all for $1.00 each (Saturday, March 26th, FREE). We hope to see you there!
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 IMMEDIATELY UPCOMING EVENTS
Morbid Academy Presents: The Real Paranormal: A Conversation with Stacy Horn and Mitch Horowitz
Wednesday, March 16th, 7 pm, $10. Tickets and more info here.

The Cult of Fashion, An Illustrated Lecture with Alexis Karl
Thursday, March 17th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Bat Skeleton Articulation Class with Wilder Duncan
Saturday, March 19th, 1 pm to 6 pm, $200. Tickets and more info here.

The Other Paris: The Shadow Side of 19th Century Paris, Lecture and Book Signing with Luc Sante
Monday, March 21st, 7 pm, $5. Tickets and more info here.
RESCHEDULED FROM FEBRUARY 10TH, SOLD OUT

Forensic Pathology 101: Basics of Neuropathology, An Illustrated Lecture with Jay Stahl-Herz, Medical Examiner and Forensic Pathologist
Tuesday, March 22nd, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Invoking the Femme Fatale: Katherine Bauers Fatal, Feline Rites and Rituals: Screening with 16mm film and live music!
Wednesday, March 23rd, 7 pm, $10. Tickets and more info here.

Dead Matter: The Meaning of Iconic Corpses, An Illustrated Lecture with Margaret Schwartz, Fordham University

Thursday, March 24th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Black Gold's Gold Dig: Thousands of LPs, 12 inches, and 45s—all for $1.00 each!
Saturday, March 26th, 10 am to 6 pm, FREE! More info here
_____________________________________________
NEWLY ANNOUNCED EVENTS
Common Shade: A Discussion with Anna Sale of WNYC’s Death, Sex, and Money Podcast
Monday, March 28, 6:30 pm, $25/$20 members of Green-Wood or Morbid Anatomy Museum, **offsite at Green-Wood Cemetery's Historic Chapel, 500 25th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232. Tickets and more info here.

Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Amber Maykut
Sunday, April 3rd, 12 pm to 4 pm, $120. Tickets and more info here.

Into the Panopticum: Spectacle and Education in Popular Museums of 19th Century Europe with Dr. Peter M. McIsaac, Associate Professor of German and Museum Studies at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Tuesday, April 5th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Fringe New Jersey: Lecture and Table by Morbid Anatomy
Saturday, April 9th, 9 am to 6 pm, **offsite at Hilton Garden Inn, 800 Route 130, Hamilton NJ 08690, $45, full day, open seating; $30, half day (morning or afternoon), $25 full day for students with ID, as space permits. Tickets and more info here.

JSTOR Presents: Spectres, Traces, Phantoms, and Sparks: A Poetry Séance by Dorothea Lasky
Thursday, April 28th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Come to Me, or Else! Santa Muerte, the Love Sorceress, An Illustrated Lecture with Andrew Chesnut

Monday, May 30th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Anatomical Venus Book Release Party and Symposium Save the Date
Saturday, June 4, time TBA. More info here.

And I Must Scream: An Examination of Body Horror in Japanese Animation, An Illustrated Lecture with JR Pepper
Tuesday, June 14th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

JSTOR Presents: Dying Onstage: Real and Imaginary Deaths in Live Performance: An illustrated Lecture by Michael Lueger
Wednesday, July 27th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

The Beauty, Truth and Terror of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, An Illustrated Lecture with Chris Alexander
Friday, July 1st, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.
_____________________________________________
ALL UPCOMING EVENTS
Common Shade: A Discussion with Anna Sale of WNYC’s Death, Sex, and Money Podcast
Monday, March 28, 6:30 pm, $25/$20 members of Green-Wood or Morbid Anatomy Museum, **offsite at Green-Wood Cemetery's Historic Chapel, 500 25th St, Brooklyn, NY 11232. Tickets and more info here.

The Strange Case of William Seabrook: Traveller, Pervert, Occultist, Drunk, and the Man Who Brought the Zombie to America, An Illustrated Lecture with Robert Luckhurst
Tuesday, March 29th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Stiffs, Skulls & Skeletons: Medical Photography and Symbolism, Illustrated Lecture & Book Signing by Stanley B. Burns, MD & Elizabeth A. Burns
Thursday, March 31st, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Victorian Hair Art Workshop with Master Jeweler Karen Bachmann
Saturday, April 2nd, 11 am to 6 pm (with one hour lunch break), $150. Tickets and more info here.

Anthropomorphic Mouse Taxidermy Class with Amber Maykut
Sunday, April 3rd, 12 pm to 4 pm, $120. Tickets and more info here.

Alchemy and Dream: The Lunar Realm of Alchemy, An Illustrated Lecture with Brian Cotnoir
Monday, April 4th, 7 pm, $10. Tickets and more info here.

Into the Panopticum: Spectacle and Education in Popular Museums of 19th Century Europe with Dr. Peter M. McIsaac, Associate Professor of German and Museum Studies at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Tuesday, April 5th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Morbid Academy Presents: Tales from the Crypt: A Conversation with Ptolemy Tompkins and Mitch Horowitz
Wednesday, April 6th, 7 pm, $10. Tickets and more info here.

Fringe New Jersey: Lecture and Table by Morbid Anatomy
Saturday, April 9th, 9 am to 6 pm, **offsite at Hilton Garden Inn, 800 Route 130, Hamilton NJ 08690, $45, full day, open seating; $30, half day (morning or afternoon), $25 full day for students with ID, as space permits. Tickets and more info here.

The Witch of Lime Street: Séance, Seduction, and Houdini in the Spirit World: An Illustrated Lecture with David Jaher
Monday, April 11th, 7 pm, $5. Tickets and more info here.

Second Annual Morbid Anatomy Museum Gala with Honorary Chair Parker Posey
Tuesday, April 12th, 7 PM (6:30 for VIP), $250 (Regular Ticket), $500 (VIP Ticket with champagne toast at the Museum); $2500 (Table for 5, includes VIP champagne toast); $5000 (Table for 10, includes VIP champagne toast).
Tickets and more info here.


Gala Afterparty with DJ Set by Erasure's Vince Clarke and Sponsored by Sixpoint Brewery
Tuesday, April 12th, 9 pm till late, $50, 21+. Tickets and more info here.

Atomic Doomsday Battle of the DJs: 78 Records vs. 16mm Film
Wednesday, April 13th, 7 pm, $10. Tickets and more info here.

Demystifying Shamanism: An Illustrated Presentation with Dr. Stanley Krippner
Thursday, April 14th, 7 pm, $15. Tickets and more info here.

Stop Motion Cut-Out/Collage Animation Class with Nicole Antebi
Sunday, April 17th, 12 pm to 6 pm, $50. Tickets and more info here.

Image Within/ Image Without: Iconography, Symbols, and the Psychology Reflected Therein - A Discussion of Historical and Modern Divinatory Practices with Dr. Al Cummins and Jesse Hathaway Diaz
Monday April 18th, 7 pm, $15. Tickets and more info here.

Bringing Back the Cabinet of Curiosities, Including a Brief and Wondrous History of the Wunderkammer: An Illustrated Lecture with Susan Harlan
Tuesday, April 19th, 7pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Behind the Walls: Shadows of the New England Asylums, An Illustrated Lecture by Kate Anderson
Tuesday, April 20th, 7 pm, $5. Tickets and more info here.

Life After Near Death, An Illustrated Lecture with Debra Diamond
Thursday, April 21st, 7 pm, $5. Tickets and more info here.

Gloom, Torment and Nightmare: Francisco Goyas Black Paintings, an Illustrated Lecture with Cristina Perez Arranz
Saturday, April 23rd, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

The History of Leopard Print, An Illustrated Lecture with Jo Weldon
Tuesday, April 26th, 7 pm, $10. Tickets and more info here.

Goth 101: A History of the Postpunk and Goth Subculture, 1978 - 1992, An Illustrated Lecture with Andi Harriman
Wednesday, April 27th, 7 pm, $12. Tickets and more info here.

JSTOR Presents: Spectres, Traces, Phantoms, and Sparks: A Poetry Séance by Dorothea Lasky
Thursday, April 28th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Murnau's Faust (1926) on 16mm Film With Live Music by Bradford Reed and Geoff Gersh
Friday, April 29th, 7 pm, $12. Tickets and more info here.

The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains, An Illustrated Lecture with Historian Thomas W. Laqueur, University of California at Berkeley
Monday, May 2nd, 7 pm, $5. Tickets and more info here.

Peacock Taxidermy Demonstration with Taxidermist in Residence Divya Anantharaman
Thursday, May 5th, 7 pm, $20. Tickets and more info here.

Psychedelics and Death: A Brief Introduction with Dr. Neal Goldsmith Ph.D
Friday, May 6th, 8 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Insect, Arachnid, and Reptile Petting Zoo with NYU Biology Student Aaron Rodriguez
Monday, May 16th, 7 pm, $12. Tickets and more info here.

Morbid Academy Presents: Things That Go Bump, a Conversation with Shannon Taggart and Mitch Horowitz
Wednesday, May 18th, 7pm, $10. Tickets and more info here.

Shakespeare's Funeral: Illustrated Lecture and Costume Party to Celebrate Shakespeare's 400th Death Anniversary
Friday, May 20th, 7 pm, $20, Tickets and more info here.

"Witchcraft Through the Ages" (Haxan) - Polka music! Butter Churns! 16mm silent film screening with Victrola!
Tuesday, May 24th, 7 pm, $12. Tickets and more info here.
& Wednesday, May 25th, 7pm, $12. Tickets and more info here.

Celebrate Strange Tales: A Reading and Book Launch Party with Author Daniel Braum
Thursday, May 26th, 7 pm, $5. Tickets and more info here.

Double, Double, Toil and Trouble; Narcissism, Mourning & Sexuality: Freud and Lacan Meet Dalí and Goldin, An Illustrating Lecture with Claire-Madeline Culkin and Ray O Neill
Friday, May 27th, 7 pm, $12. Tickets and more info here.

Come to Me, or Else! Santa Muerte, the Love Sorceress, An Illustrated Lecture with Andrew Chesnut
Monday, May 30th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

The Coney Island Incubator Babies: How a Sideshow Became Standard Practice in Neonatal Intensive Care, an Illustrated Lecture with Elizabeth Yuko
Wednesday, June 1st, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Anatomical Venus Book Release Party and Symposium Save the Date
Saturday, June 4, time TBA. More info here.

And I Must Scream: An Examination of Body Horror in Japanese Animation, An Illustrated Lecture with JR Pepper
Tuesday, June 14th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

The Beauty, Truth and Terror of THE TWILIGHT ZONE, An Illustrated Lecture with Chris Alexander
Friday, July 1st, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Surrealism and Alchemy: More than just a pretty picture, an Illustrated Lecture with Brian Cotnoir
Friday July 8th, 7 pm, $10. Tickets and more info here.

JSTOR Presents: Dying Onstage: Real and Imaginary Deaths in Live Performance: An illustrated Lecture by Michael Lueger
Wednesday, July 27th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

The Satanic Sex: Puppets, and the Pathological Feminine in Vienna 1900, an Illustrated Lecture with Frankie Roe

Thursday, November 10th, 7 pm, $8. Tickets and more info here.

Italo Calvino on Dr Spitzner’s Life-sized Wax Model of a Caesarean Section, from Morbid Anatomy's "The Anatomical Venus"

The most incredible example of sadist-surrealist fantasy is to be found among the representations of the various phrases of childbirth and gynaecological operations. A complete model of a patient undergoing a Caesarean section lies with her eyes wide open, her face distorted by pain, her hair impeccable, her calves tied together, dressed in a long, lace nightgown, which is open only at the part of her body which has been cut open by a scalpel, where the baby appears. Four male hands are placed on her body (two operating, two holding her waist): fine wax hands with manicured nails, ghostly hands since they are not supported by arms but adorned only with white cuffs and with the ends of the sleeves of a black jacket, as though the whole ceremony was being held by people in evening dress.
-- Italo Calvino on Dr Spitzner’s life-sized wax model of a caesarean section (above), from his essay ‘The Museum of Wax Monsters’, in Collection of Sand (first published in Italy in 1984, translated into English 2013).
Learn more about--and see many more images of!-- this and many other amazing waxes in the upcoming Morbid Anatomy book The Anatomical Venus, more on which here.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Art and Anatomy of St. Bartholomew: Guest Post by Artist and Anatomist in Residence Emily Evans

Following is a guest post by Artist and Anatomist in Residence Emily Evans about flayed Saint Bartholomew and his curious afterlife in early anatomical illustration. You can find out more about Emily and her work here.
Tradition holds that the apostle Bartholomew was martyred by being flayed alive.
This brutal torture has been depicted in many different ways over the centuries. He is sometimes depicted holding the knife, which symbolizes his martyrdom. The artworks seem to evolve over time from showing him just before the blade strikes, to when flaying occurs and then in later works after the act, where he is draped in, or holding his own skin.

It can be difficult to view these artworks reflecting the act of being skinned alive without squirming thinking of the pain and blood. This is especially so in the early religious paintings of the saint.
Fine artists took the iconic portrayal of St. Bartholomew to use in their work. One of the most famous being Michelangelo who included Bartholomew holding a sheet of his own skin in his left hand and in his right hand is a knife in his famous Last judgment, in the Sistine chapel, The Vatican, Rome. The face on the skin is reputed to be a self-portrait of the artist.
For the anatomists among us, it’s possible to see past the grotesque barbaric act of flaying to reveal the beauty of the musculature beneath.

Medical illustrators took this concept and depicted a flayed anatomical man in a more anatomical context than religious one in the famous 16th century anatomical publications.

In 1543, Andreas Vesalius published De humani corporis fabrica (On the fabric of the human body). This groundbreaking anatomical tome consisted of engravings which many believe were created by Titian's pupil Jan Stephen van Calcar.

In 1560, Juan Valverde de Amusco published Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano of which all but 4 of its 42 engravings were taken almost directly from Vesalius’s Fabrica. The original illustrations are thought to be drawn by Gaspar Becerra who was a contemporary of Michelangelo, and the copperplate engravings executed by Nicolas Beatrizet.

This movement from the religious to the more artistic and anatomical depictions of Bartholomew continued with the sculpture by Marco D’Agrate who was a pupil of Leonardo da Vinci. It begins to become clear how d’Agrate was interested more in the relationship between art and science than in the one between art and religion.
The American writer Mark Twain certainly did not see this beauty when he saw Marco d’Agrate’s statue of St. Bartholomew in Milan where the saint is shown wearing his skin like a stole. He wrote in 1867:
‘The figure was that of a man without a skin; with every vein, artery, muscle, every fiber and tendon and tissue of the human frame represented in minute detail. It looked natural, because somehow it looked as if it were in pain. A skinned man would be likely to look that way unless his attention was occupied with some other matter.

‘It was a hideous thing, and yet there was a fascination about it somehow. I am very sorry I saw it, because I shall always see it now. I shall dream of it sometimes. I shall dream that it is resting its corded arms on the bed’s head and looking down on me with its dead eyes; I shall dream that it is stretched between the sheets with me and touching me with its exposed muscles and its stringy cold legs. It is hard to forget repulsive things’
In 2002, Gunther Von Hagen’s Bodyworlds came to London, and I saw ‘The Skin Man’ for the first time. Hagen’s plastination process enabled the first and only depiction of Bartholomew in actual human tissues.

Not long after, I saw Hirst’s ‘Exsquisite Pain’ at Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2009. This silver edition of the piece stands Bartholomew on a table covered in tools with a scalpel in one hand to reflect dissection traditions and in the other hand he is holding scissors (said to be inspired by Tim Burton’s film ‘Edward Scissorhands’ of 1990).

You can currently see an edition in gold at Great St Bartholomew church, London for the next few years.

Oddly, St. Bartholomew is also the patron saint of tanners!
Images top to bottom:
Fig.1. Saint Bartholomew, Church of San Laureano, Boyacá, Colombia (year not known)
Fig.2. Martyrdom of St. Bartholomew, (1355-1360) Prato, Museo di Palazzo
Fig.3. The Apostle St Bartholomew, (1480) Matteo di Giovanni Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest Hungary.
Fig.4. St. Bartholomew displaying his flayed skin in Michelangelo's The Last Judgment. (1536-1541)
Fig.5. Juan Valverde de Amusco's Historia de la composicion del cuerpo humano (Rome, 1560)
Fig.6. Statue of St. Bartholomew, with his own skin, by Marco d'Agrate, 1562 (Duomo di Milano)
Fig.7. Statue of St. Bartholomew at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran by Pierre Le Gros the Younger. (1666-1719)
Fig.8. The Skin Man, Gunther von Hagens, Institute for Plastination, Heidelberg, Germany, (1993)
Fig.9. Damien Hirst, Saint Bartholomew, Exquisite Pain, 2007, Silver

Video Short about our Current Exhibition House of Wax!


Above is a wonderful short video piece on The Morbid Anatomy Museum and our current exhibition House of Wax, which features German anatomical models once on view at a 19th and early 20th century popular museum. The short was made by the folks at the Hofstra University produced For Your Island and includes interviews with our creative director Joanna Ebenstein and several visitors to the exhibition.

You can see House of Wax--which was curated by Ryan Matthew Cohn--any day but Tuesday, 12-6 through May 30; You can find out more about the exhibition here. You can learn even more about the show at a lecture on April 5th by Dr. Peter M. McIsaac, German and Museum Studies at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who wrote the exhibition text; more on that can be found here.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Anatomical Venus Book Release Party and Symposium Saturday June 4: SAVE THE DATE

On Saturday June 4, we hope you’ll join us at The Morbid Anatomy Museum to celebrate the release of The Anatomical Venus, a new Morbid Anatomy book coming out this May (by DAP in the US and Thames and Hudson elsewhere) which explores the strange and fascinating history of seductive female anatomical wax models which peaked in fashion in the 19th century. Packed with over 250 images--many never before published images--from around the world and documented in intricate detail, the book is the result of Morbid Anatomy founder Joanna Ebenstein's ten-year photographic quest.

The book's text explores the Anatomical Venus within her historical and cultural context in order to reveal the shifting attitudes toward death and the body that today render such spectacles strange. It reflects on connections between death and wax, the tradition of life-sized simulacra and preserved beautiful women, the phenomenon of women in glass boxes in fairground displays, and ideas of the ecstatic, the sublime and the uncanny.

To celebrate, we will host a symposium exploring the range of topics covered by The Anatomical Venus including (but certainly not limited to) anatomized women, wax, the ecstatic, agalmatophilia (people who fall in love with non-animate humans), Catholicism and the cult of the saints, the uncanny, and more.

Full lineup and details to come. You can sign up to attend the event on Facebook to be alerted to more information as it is released, or simply watch this space.
Image: Venerina (Little Venus), life-sized dissectible wax model created by the workshop of Clemente Susini at Florence’s La Specola for Museo di Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy, 1782. Photo by Joanna Ebenstein

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Remembering Willie Seabrook: Guest Post by Roger Luckhurst, author of "Zombies: A Cultural History"

On Tuesday, March 29th, Roger Luckhurst--professor at Birkbeck University and author of Zombies: A Cultural History--will be giving a talk for us entitled "The Strange Case of William Seabrook: Traveler, Pervert, Occultist, Drunk, and the man who brought the Zombie to America." Below is a guest post by Dr Luckhurst in which you will learn more about this fascinating man; you can find out more about the lecture--and buy tickets!--here. Hope very much to see you there!
Remembering Willie Seabrook
The extraordinary adventurer and travel writer William Seabrook managed to be a Greenwich Village bohemian in the 1910s, a Jazz Age primitivist who danced on the tables of Harlem and Paris clubs in the 1920s, and a wealthy Westchester celebrity by the late 1930s.

In between, Seabrook tramped through Europe as a bum for a year and was an early American volunteer in the Great War, invalided out as an ambulance driver by chlorine gas poisoning at Verdun. He travelled to exotic locales in Africa, Arabia and the Caribbean, and wrote famous books about each. He lived in Paris and on the French Rivera amongst Modernist exiles, next door to Thomas Mann and Aldous Huxley. Man Ray and Gertrude Stein talk about him in their autobiographies. He inspired the French Surrealists, Michel Leiris and Georges Bataille. He knew everyone.

And he has been largely forgotten by everyone since he died in 1945. He’s worth remembering, though, not just for his bizarre life, but for his enduring gift to American popular culture: the zombie.

Seabrook was notorious in his lifetime for his exotic features for the slick magazines, but also for his very public eccentricities. He was, for example, a sado-masochist with a habit for leading his hired ‘secretaries’ around in collar and chains at parties. In his autobiography, No Hiding Place (1942), he psychoanalysed his sexual ‘kinks’, his penchant for ‘putting chains on ladies’, without shame. To play out this fetishism, Seabrook even employed Man Ray to photograph Lee Miller in various masochistic positions. Seabrook’s perversities were examined by his exasperated second wife, the novelist Marjorie Worthington. Her funny memoir was called The Strange World of Willie Seabrook (1966). 
He was a spectacular alcoholic who eventually locked himself away in a mental hospital to break the habit. His book about this experience, Asylum, was a best-seller, and has just been reissued by Dover Press. 
Seabrook was also interested in the occult. In 1942, he published Witchcraft: Its Power in the World Today, which detailed his life-long obsession with collecting experiences of occult practice from around the world. This included a brief friendship with the Golden Dawn magus and self-declared Antichrist, Aleister Crowley, during Crowley’s time in Greenwich Village. In 1919, Crowley visited Seabrook for a week of ritual experiment at his farm, in which they decided to communicate solely by various inflections of the magic word ‘Wow’ (events retold in Seabrook’s story, unsurprisingly called ‘Wow’). On hearing of his suicide by overdose in 1945, Crowley wrote poisonously ‘the swine-dog W. B. Seabrook has killed himself at last, after months of agonized slavery to his final wife.’ 
Seabrook’s book on witchcraft was cast in the rhetoric of the sceptical researcher, but intrigued by the extent of belief in the modern Western world. London and its suburbs, he said ‘house more strange cults, secret societies, devil’s altars, professional “Sorcerers” and charlatans than any other metropolitan area on Earth.’ He repeated whispered stories of sympathetic magic and voodoo dolls at dinners in Paris and on the Riviera, and spoke of attending Black Masses in New York and London (‘rather a bore’). 
Seabrook remained fascinated by this sub-culture, which presumably crossed over with his sexual predilections. Weirdly enough, he featured in a photo-story in Life magazine at the start of the Second World War when he hosted a magical ceremony to issue a hex on Adolf Hitler. I suppose it worked. Sort of. 
But Seabrook was cynical about magic in the West exactly in proportion to his conviction that witchcraft still exercised power in ‘primitive’ societies. Indeed, his bohemianism frequently refused the niceties of civilisation and embraced ‘savage’ energies. In New York, he loved the Harlem clubs and was in Paris when a cult built around the black dancer Josephine Baker.  
A longing for release from his white identity explains Seabrook’s escapes into exotic worlds. In 1924, he travelled to the Middle East and wrote Adventures in Arabia, about joining a Bedouin tribe. In 1931, he was commissioned by Paul Morand to travel to the French colonies in West Africa with the explicit aim of joining a ‘cannibal’ cult. It turned out that the French colonial administration was so obsessed with stopping the natives from this enacting this ritual that it was impossible to eat human flesh in Africa.

Seabrook returned to Paris with some recipes and bribed the Paris morgue for a limb from a recent corpse that he then cooked and ate. It’s a lovely inversion: the most primitive act is found not in the ‘savage’ periphery but the ‘civilised’ metropolitan centre
But Seabrook will endure in the corners of cultural memory for his other exotic adventure, to Haiti. In 1929, he published The Magic Island, an account of his journey, to an island then occupied by American forces. He pursued his typical interests: seeking initiation into the native rituals of the vodou religion, and claiming to drink blood sacrifices and feel the authentic power of the vodou gods passing through him. Yet it is in a later chapter that Seabrook encounters another local aspect of witchery.
In the chapter ‘…Dead Men Working in Cane Fields’, Seabrook writes up local stories about zombies. The local Creole word zombi had appeared in some American writings since the 1880s, but Seabrook took the credit for Americanizing this term and popularizing it.
The zombie, they say, is a soulless human corpse, still dead, but taken from the grave and endowed by sorcery with a mechanical semblance of life – it is a dead body which is made to walk and move as if it were alive. People who have the power to do this go to a fresh grave, dig up the body before it has had time to rot, galvanize it into movement, and then make of it a servant or slave, occasionally for the commission of some crime, more often simply as a drudge around the habitation or the farm, setting it dull heavy tasks, and beating it like a dumb beast if it slackens.
The chapter is at first an accumulation of local accounts, but Seabrook is astounded when his informant tells him that there are zombies at work nearby in the plantations of the Haitian-American Sugar Corporation. Seabrook therefore comes face to face with actual zombies, and with exquisite hesitation, remarks: ‘I did see these “walking dead men”, and I did, in a sense, believe in them and pitied them, indeed, from the bottom of my heart.’ 
Finding three ‘dead’ Haitians at work, he experiences a moment of ‘mental panic’, only to decide that these are ‘nothing but poor ordinary demented human beings, idiots, forced to toil in the fields.’ 
The context of slavery provides the framework for the ‘undead’ shuffling slave, declared ‘dead’ by the social contract, and forced to work. In the eighteenth century, the French colony of Saint Domingue, before it became independent Haiti in 1804, had the highest death rates but the largest profits amongst slaves taken from West Africa. 
When Seabrook travelled to Haiti, the American occupiers were in the process of reinstating large-scale plantations and trying to stamp out native superstitions in the name of progress. No wonder the workers were locally called zombis
Seabrook’s book was a direct influence on White Zombie, the 1932 film that smuggled the zombie into the major horror cycle that began that year. The focus is on Lugosi’s menacing figure of the witch-doctor rather than the zombies he commands, but it was the beginning of the cinematic career of a category of the undead that has since come to dominate contemporary horror film. The memory of Seabrook is now returning often very sketchily in pre-histories of zombie culture, but his focus on the Haitian zombie is best understood in the matrix of his obsession with witchcraft, the occult and the vital energies of so-called primitive societies around the world.
Image: Voodoo performers captured by Seabrook in The Magic Island, via Literary007

Friday, March 4, 2016

SPECIAL EVENT: Into the Panopticum: Spectacle and Education in Popular Museums of 19th Century Europe with Dr. Peter M. McIsaac, German and Museum Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

 
This April, we are beyond delighted to welcome Dr. Peter M. McIsaac, Associate Professor of German and Museum Studies at The University of Michigan, to Morbid Anatomy. McIssac wrote the introductory essay (read in this PDF) for our current House of Wax exhibition--on view through May 30 and curated by Ryan Matthew Cohn--which showcases rarely seen anatomical and ethnographic waxes from Castan's Berlin-based Panopticum which was open to the public from 1869-1922.

On April 5, McIssac will give an illustrated lecture on the history of panoptica, European museums popular from the 18th through the early 20th century that, like American Dime Museums, fall somewhere between aristocratic cabinets of curiosity and today's ideas of museums. Attendees will also be able to visit our current exhibition House of Wax at the end of the event.

Full details below; tickets can be purchased here. Hope very much to see you there!
Into the Panopticum: Spectacle and Education in Popular Museums of 19th Century Europe with Dr. Peter M. McIsaac, Associate Professor of German and Museum Studies at The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Tuesday, April 5
Time: 7 pm
Admission: $8
Location: Morbid Anatomy Museum, 424 Third Avenue, 11215 Brooklyn NY
NOTE: *** Admission includes a visit to the Museum--currently displaying rare wax models from Castan's Panopticum in Berlin--after the talk.

Panoptica were popular throughout Europe from the 18th through the early 20th century. Like dime museums such as Barnums American Museum, these largely forgotten spaces fall somewhere between aristocratic cabinets of curiosity and todays ideas of museums. They would display for a popular audience anatomical and pathological waxworks, real human specimens, death masks of celebrities and murderers, ethnographic busts, Anatomical Venuses, waxes showing the effects of syphilis (still a fatal disease at this time) along with assorted curiosities such as elephant tusks, mummies, stuffed alligators, and monkey skeletons. They also presented live acts such as singers, dancers, ventriloquists, hunger artists, and even living freaks and ethnic rarities. Its spectacle hovered between the exotic and scientific pretense.

Tonight, join Dr. Peter M. McIsaac for an illustrated lecture about the rise and fall of the little known phenomenon of the panopticon in cultural context. The Museum--which is currently displaying rare wax models from Castan's Panopticum in Berlin, with explanatory texts written by Dr. Mc Isaac--will also be open after the talk.

Peter M. McIsaac is associate professor of German Studies and Museum Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His publications include Museums of the Mind: German Modernity and the Dynamics of Collecting and Exhibiting the German Past: Museums, Film, and Musealization. He is also currently writing a book-length manuscript on the "secret" German pre-history to Body Worlds, a contemporary exhibition of human corpses that has broken attendance records and generated controversy around the world. In 2005, he received the Richard K. Lublin Distinguished Teaching Award from Trinity College of Duke University. Before coming to Michigan, McIsaac served as the Director of the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies at York University.
Images, top to bottom:
  1. Im Panopticum, Albert Heise, 1892: A painting of a panopticum in Berlin, perhaps Castan's
  2. Installation shot of the Morbid Anatomy Museum current exhibition House of Wax
  3. The wax atelier of E. E. Hammer, Munich, late 19th century. Courtesy of Valentin-Karlstadt-Musäum, München
  4. Guidebook to Castan's Panopticum, 19th or early 20th century, sourced here

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

AutomataCon: A Convention for Automata Enthusiasts: The Morris Museum, Morristown, New Jersey, March 18-20, 2016

We at Morbid Anatomy are so excited about AutomataCon, an upcoming convention for makers, collectors and enthusiasts of Automata, moving mechanical toys popular in the 18th Century and 19th Centuries. AutomataCon will take place March 18-20, 2016 at The Morris Museum, who house one the finest collections of antique automata in the world.

The full schedule for the event follows; You can find out more--and get tickets--here. See previous posts on the Morris Museum here and here.
AutomataCon
A Convention for Automata Enthusiasts
March 18-20, 2016, Morris Museum, Morristown, New Jersey

AutomataCon is a convention of and for artists, collectors, historians, and enthusiasts of automatons and related kinetic art. It is a two day event being held March 18th and 19th, 2016 at and in conjunction with the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, home of the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata.

The goal of the convention is to gather people from around the world to share ideas, build relationships, and grow interest in automata new and old. The convention will include a variety of private and public programming, such as social gatherings, museum tours, panel discussions, live demonstrations, workshops, presentations, and an exhibition.

The idea for a convention stemmed from the fellowship shown on the Automata / Automaton Group and Mechanical Adventures group on Facebook. Like the Facebook groups, I feel that the true value of the convention will be the relationships built and knowledge shared when passionate people of common interest come together. As such, the success of the convention will depend on the attendees. It will be what we make of it. I am optimistic that great things will come. 

AutomataCon is a convention of and for artists, collectors, historians, and enthusiasts of automatons and related kinetic art. It is a two day event being held March 18th and 19th, 2016 at and in conjunction with the Morris Museum in Morristown, New Jersey, home of the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata.

The goal of the convention is to gather people from around the world to share ideas, build relationships, and grow interest in automata new and old. The convention will include a variety of private and public programming, such as social gatherings, museum tours, panel discussions, live demonstrations, workshops, presentations, and an exhibition.

The idea for a convention stemmed from the fellowship shown on the Automata / Automaton Group and Mechanical Adventures group on Facebook. Like the Facebook groups, I feel that the true value of the convention will be the relationships built and knowledge shared when passionate people of common interest come together. As such, the success of the convention will depend on the attendees. It will be what we make of it. I am optimistic that great things will come.  

SCHEDULE

Friday Night Reception
March 18, 6-9 PM

Join us for a private reception at the Morris Museum consisting of light refreshments and hors d'oeuvres, with private and behind-the-scenes tours of the Murtogh D. Guinness Collection of Mechanical Musical Instruments and Automata.
Saturday Programming
March 19, 11 am - 5 PM
Saturday programming will include a variety of panels and programming, covering topics such as
  • The History of Automatons
  • Techniques for Making Automatons
  • Automaton Collecting
  • Demonstrations and Meet-the-Artists
  • Hands-On Workshops
  • Table displays and sales (more info soon)
  • Special programming in the Bickford Theater
More details will be posted as panelists are finalized. Please volunteer to participate when you register, as AutomataCon's success depends on its attendees!

Premier showing of historic film, "Le Monde des Automates"
Saturday, March 19, Time TBD

We are pleased to announce that AutomataCon will host the premier showing of the extremely rare 1928 film, “Le Monde des Automates [the World of Automata],” in the museum’s Bickford Theatre, courtesy of Jere and Steve Ryder of AutaMusique, Ltd. This silent film was meant to accompany Alfred Chapuis’ & Eduard Gélis’ foundational 2 volume book by same name, and which has been effectively ‘lost’ from public view for 70+ years. Originally created as a typical period silent film using hand-driven cameras, an accompanying sound track was added shortly thereafter, making this one of the first Swiss-made sound films. About 25-30 minutes in length, it documents some extremely rare and unique automata and mechanical music, at a very early time. A fabulous historical document.
Sunday Programming
March 20, 11 am - 2 PM
Sunday programming will include additional, less formal panels and programming. Demonstrations of the Guinness Collection are also given at 2 PM.
Image: Suicide of Cleopatra automaton from The Morris Museum, about 1880-1890