Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Internal Medical Examination of a Woman, Circa 1800

Lovely images for which I could locate no attributions--any ideas?

Found on the wonderful E-L-I-S-E blog. Click here to see original post.

Click on image to see larger version.

"Traité complet d'accouchemens", A.A.L.M. Velpeau (1835)

Found on the wonderful E-L-I-S-E blog. Click here to see original post.

Click on image to see much larger version.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Observatory Event: 3D Hysteria Double Feature Presented by Zoe Beloff, May 29th, 7 and 9 PM

You are cordially invited to a Hysteria-themed double feature presented by visual artist Zoe Beloff at Observatory, the new Brooklyn-based performance/exhibition/presentation space run by myself and 6 others.

Friday, May 29th, 7:00 and 9:00 PM
(2 showings to keep numbers low enough to optimize 3D viewing)
Wine and Snacks Served
Cost: Free, but please RSVP (specifying 7:00 or 9:00 show) to

Film 1: "Charming Augustine" (2004, 40 min., 3-D 16mm film, b/w) is an experimental narrative by Beloff inspired by one of Charcot's most famous patients at the Salpétrière in turn-of-the-century Paris. It explores connections between photographic documentation of hysteria and the prehistory of narrative film: Augustine captivates the doctors with her theatrical and photogenic hysterical attacks and in the process becomes a star-the "Sarah Bernhardt" of the asylum.

Film 2: "Case History of a Multiple Personality", a medical film from 1930 made by Doctor Cornelius C. Wholey, a neurologist turned psychoanalyst.

Enter Observatory via Proteus Gowanus Gallery
R or M train to Union Street in Brooklyn: Walk two long blocks on Union (towards the Gowanus Canal) to Nevins Street. 543 Union Street is the large red brick building on right. Go right on Nevins and left down alley through large black gates. Gallery is the second door on the left.

F or G train to Carroll Street: Walk one block to Union. Turn right, walk two long blocks on Union towards the Gowanus Canal, cross the bridge, take left on Nevins, go down the alley to the second door on the left.

More info on the Observatory website, which you can visit by clicking here.

Images: Top: Still from Beloff's "Charming Augustine."; Bottom: Still from "Case History of a Multiple Personality"

Monday, May 25, 2009

Review (In English!) of "Figures du Corps: Une Leçon d’Anatomie à l’École des Beaux-Arts" Catalog

I just stumbled upon a review--in English!--of the magnificent catalog Figures du Corps: Une Leçon d’Anatomie à l’École des Beaux-Arts, from an exhibition of the same name previously covered on this blog. The review parses the catalog nicely (for those of us, like myself, who have spent many hours gazing longingly at the images but are unable to read French):
The catalogue is an ode to the bewildering and wonderful arsenal of contraptions, tools, plaster casts, photographs, and any other useful aid created to assist artists in the study of human and animal figures.

Resembling part medical research facility and part life-science museum, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts gathered human and animal anatomical examples–ideal, real and atypical–for use in training.

For artists at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, academic training meant mastering the human figure. ...this training took place over a series of graduated steps, beginning with isolating parts of the human figure, to studying idealized forms in Greco-Roman statues, and, finally, working with live models.

The catalogue includes several examples of classical forms that have been worked over to reveal underlying skeletal and muscular structure. It is evidence of a startling lack of superficiality in their approach to their craft and art. There are numerous accounts of dissections of both humans and animals, and visits from surgeons to discuss recent medical discoveries....

One of the greatest costs in training was the hiring of live models. As a result, contraptions of all kinds–mannequins, photographs, stereoscope images–were made to substitute, or perhaps more accurately, supplement, models...

A great deal of the catalogue is dedicated to the anatomical models of animals, especially horses Just as in England, where George Stubbs (British , 1724-1806) led a generation of artists at the Royal Academy to explore and correctly understand the anatomy of horses, the French Academy invested a great deal in equine models.
You can see the full review--with more images--on the Bearded Roman website by clicking here. You can find out more about the catalog (highly, highly recommended!) by clicking here. Click on images to see larger, more detailed images; all images drawn from the Bearded Roman website.

Images top to bottom: Skulls of humans and various animals from the Galerie Huguier. École des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 2008; Paul Richer (Chartes, 1849-Paris, 1933) The Runner, phénakistiscope (1895) 70 by 45 by 15 cm. École des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Mannequin d'atelier articulé, fin du XCIII siècle. Signed, "Guillois." École des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Hermann Heid (Darmstadt, 1834-Vienna, 1891) Étude comparée de la forme d'un avant-bras en pronation et de son squelette (1880) 14 by 10.3; 13.8 by 10.3. École des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Fourteen hands, and seven human feet (Nineteenth Century) Éecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Bust of Decartes, with incorporated skull (1913) Plaster, in three parts. 44 by 27 by 28 cm. École des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Jean Bosq (1812-1830?.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Crime Broadsides of the Harvard Law Library

I found these wonderful crime broadsides on the Ephemera Assemblyman blog, which showcases a large number of excellent examples drawn from an online exhibition called "Dying Speeches and Bloody Murders: Crime Broadsides Collected by the Harvard Law School Library." More on the broadsides, from the digital exhibition's webpage:
Just as programs are sold at sporting events today, broadsides -- styled at the time as "Last Dying Speeches" or "Bloody Murders" -- were sold to the audiences that gathered to witness public executions in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. These ephemeral publications were intended for the middle or lower classes, and most sold for a penny or less. Published in British towns and cities by printers who specialized in this type of street literature, a typical example features an illustration (usually of the criminal, the crime scene, or the execution); an account of the crime and (sometimes) the trial; and the purported confession of the criminal, often cautioning the reader in doggerel verse to avoid the fate awaiting the perpetrator.

The Library's collection of more than 500 broadsides is one of the largest recorded and the first to be digitized in its entirety. The examples digitized here span the years 1707 to 1891 and include accounts of executions for such crimes as arson, assault, counterfeiting, horse stealing, murder, rape, robbery, and treason. Many of the broadsides vividly describe the results of sentences handed down at London's central criminal court, the Old Bailey, the proceedings of which are now available online at
You can see the Ephemera Assemblyman post by clicking here; you can browse the entire Harvard collection by clicking here. Click on images to see much larger versions.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Day and Night" Peepshow Views, 18th Century

Above are a few exquisite images of 18th Century "Day and Night" illuminated Peepshow Views from one my favorite websites of all time, "Early Visual Media," which is described by its author Thomas Weynants as a "Historical RAREE-SHOW to Early Vintage Visual Media." You can see the full collection, and find out more about them, by clicking here. You can check out the rest of Weynants' wonderful website by clicking here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

"Collecting and Gathering: Making Worlds and Staking Claims" Conference, Columbia University, Saturday May 23rd, 9-5

This Saturday May 23rd, from 9 AM to 5 PM, Columbia University's Center for Archaeology will be hosting a one-day interdisciplinary conference on the topic of collectors and collecting entitled "Collecting and Gathering: Making Worlds and Staking Claims." Organized by the Columbia graduate anthropology department and augmented by an exhibition curated by the museum anthropology department entitled "Out of the Box: Anthropology Collections Unpacked", this conference--full schedule following--is free and open to the public. If you attend the reception following the conference, you can catch a projection of photographs of public and private collectors--some drawn from Anatomical Theatre, some from the Private Cabinets Series, some from this blog, and some previously unshown--that I will be presenting for the occasion. More information on the above invitation; click to see larger version.

Here is the description, and full schedule:
Practices, institutions and ideas centered around collections and collecting offer a fruitful area for interdisciplinary inquiry in the humanities and social sciences. Whether in the processes through which collections come to be formed, or the ways in which existing collections are experienced by a variety of publics, the impulse to collect is often key to knowing a wider world, and also knowing oneself. This conference aims to bring a wide variety of critical perspectives to bear on this topic; including anthropological, historical and art historical, literary, architectural and museological.
9:00 AM Welcome and Introduction

9:15 AM Session 1: Power of collecting
Discussant: Severin Fowles, Barnard College

Savannah Fetterolf and Fran Ritchie, Columbia University
The Violence of Collecting: an Examination of the Museum

Jane Tippett, University of Delaware
Selling a Crown: Provenance and Collecting in the Age of the Royal Auction

Courtney Stewart, Bard Graduate Center
(R)evolutions in Display: The Mevlânâ Museum of Whirling Dervishes.
10:45 AM Coffee Break
11:00 AM Session 2: Collecting and haunting
Discussant: Angie Heo, Barnard College

Tom Jacobs, New York Institute of Technology
Herding Ghosts: History, Collecting, and the Anti-Collective Impulse in Pynchon and McCarthy

Oisin Wall, London Consortium
Futurist Art and the Crypt

James Wilkes, London Consortium
Peter Riley’s Excavations: Some Thoughts on the Poem as Space of Collection

12:30 PM Lunch

1:15 PM Session 3: The performance of collecting
Discussant: Terry D’Altroy, Columbia University

Catherine Howard, University of Oxford
Representing Performances, Performing Representations: The Photographs Collection of Darrell Posey

Lina Hakim, London Consortium
Collecting in art as system of thought. Looking at Susan Hiller’s From the Freud Museum (1991-6)

Brinda Kumar, Cornell University
Coomaraswamy and Collecting for Indian Art

2:45 PM Coffee Break

3:00 PM Session 4: The temporality of collecting
Discussant: Zoe Crossland, Columbia University

Victoria Ehrlich, Cornell University
From Death to New Breath: Marcantonio’s Judgment of Paris

Antonia P. Young, University of California, Berkeley
Picture Galleries and the Wall Paintings of the Villa Farnesina: Art and Artificiality in the Early Roman Empire

4:15 PM Conclusion
The conference will be held on the Columbia University Campus in Schmerhorn, room 612; click here to see where this building is located on the campus grounds. You can find out more information about the conference here and about the exhibition (scroll down a bit) here. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

St. Roch Cemetery and Chapel, New Orleans

New Orleans is famous for its cemeteries. St. Louis Cemetery #1 and #2 are big tourist draws, and rightfully so; they are elegant and fascinating, veritable cities of the dead. But it was not until I saw the work of one of the artists in the Morbid Anatomy Cabinet show (Amie Davis' silver gelatin print; click here to see the work) that I learned about New Orleans' St. Roch Cemetery and its wonderful chapel (see above images).

The St. Roch chapel--located in a Gothic revival chapel in a lonely, stark cemetery--is hushed and poignant, filled with an unsettling rotting smell; the walls are covered with a lavish, decaying collection of cast-off prosthetics, anatomical-themed votives, and crutches, accented by casually draped rosaries; the floor is littered with dozens of cockroach carcasses, which lie among the pennies, candles, crucifixes, hand-scribbled notes, and "thank-you" bricks (see above).

The chapel feels more like a forgotten museum than a chapel persay, a missing link between the worlds of medicine and religion in their shared appeals to the gods of health, using surprisingly similar objects as supplicants; To get a sense of what I mean, check out the Wellcome Collection's "Medicine Man" exhibit--displaying extremely similar objects in a very different context--by clicking here.

The cemetery and chapel also have a wonderful genesis myth all their own; as the Greater New Orleans website explains:
At the height of the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, a German priest named Rev. Peter Leonard Thevis arrived in New Orleans. Faced with the severity of the yellow fever epidemic, he turned to God invoking the intercession of St. Roch, the patron of good health. He promised that if no one in his parish should die from the fever, he would erect a chapel in honor of the Saint. Amazingly, not one member of Holy Trinity died from yellow fever, either in the epidemic of 1867 or 1878.

In thanks, Rev. Thevis’s conviction was to build not only a chapel as a shrine to St. Roch, but also a mortuary chapel in a last resting place for members of his flock. The cemetery was called the Campo Santo (resting place of the dead). Rev. Thevis traveled to Europe to study the architecture and construction of many beautiful shrines and chapels before building the chapel. The chapel, completed in 1876, was considered a beautiful example of Gothic architecture.
People came to the shrine in large numbers to ask St. Roch for help in cases of affliction, disease and deformities. At one time, the celebration of All Saints Day attracted thousands of people to the Shrine seeking guidance and help for themselves and others in distress. A small room on the side of the chapel holds a number of offerings left by visitors to the chapel. The tradition was to leave accouterments of the illness or disability (including, in the past, eyeballs, crutches, and false limbs!) in gratitude for recovery.
Another New Orleans tradition related to St Roch that took place for many years is that on Good Friday young girls made a pilgrimage to St. Roch’s chapel because of a local legend, which promised a husband before the year was out to the maiden who said a prayer and left a small sum at each of nine churches. It was considered doubly lucky if St. Roch’s chapel was the end of the pilgrimage.
The neighborhood got its current name in 1867 with the dedication of the St. Roch shrine and cemetery. St. Roch Chapel and Cemetery are a very important part of the history of the St. Roch neighborhood. At the height of the yellow fever epidemic of 1867, a German priest named Rev. Peter Leonard Thevis arrived in New Orleans. Faced with the severity of the yellow fever epidemic, he turned to God invoking the intercession of St. Roch, the patron of good health.
To see the full collection of photographs of the cemetery and chapel, click here. Click here to read the full story.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ken Arnold of London's Wellcome Collection at the Mütter Museum, 6:00 Tonight!

I had the good fortune of hearing Ken Arnold, head of public programs at the wonderful Wellcome Collection in London, speak when we were co-panelists on the topic of medical museums in the 21st century at the European Association of Museums of the History of Medical Sciences conference in Edinburgh last year. Tonight, Dr. Arnold is giving a lecture on American shores, at the incomparable Mütter Museum in Philadelphia.

If you live within commuting distance of Philadelphia, I highly recommend you take whatever trip necessary to hear what he has to say; he is a thoroughly engaging speaker with innumerable thought-provoking things to say about collections, medical museums, and restoring the primacy of wonder to museums. The topic of tonight's lecture will be the ways in which wonder is inextricably entwined with medicine on show, and how the Wellcome's innovative approach to curation and display draws inspiration from the Wunderkammer (a topic on which Dr. Arnold has, in fact, written a book). The lecture is tonight--Monday, May 18th--at 6:00, with a reception with Hors d’oeuvres to follow. Here is more about the lecture, from the Mütter Museum website:
Medicine Show: Putting Science and Health on Display
Wellcome Collection opened its doors to the public just over 18 months ago. Since then it has welcomed close to 500,000 visits and has received lavish plaudits from all corners of the UK’s press and media, as well as internationally. It presents an uncompromisingly brainy approach to putting medicine on public display, but within a broad cultural context that seems to appeal to a wide grown-up audience.

In this talk, Dr Ken Arnold outlines the Wellcome’s inquisitive curatorial approach to exploring medical science (past and present) within the broad context of the whole human condition. He discusses the permanent display of Henry Wellcome’s museum collection Medicine Man, and a recent temporary exhibition Skeletons: London’s Buried Bones, one of seven shows to have been mounted since June 2007. Dr Arnold will argue that while the work of the Wellcome represents a refreshing and innovative approach to engaging the public with medicine and its history, the approach owes much to the incurably curious instincts that led to the setting up of Europe’s first museums in the Renaissance. His conclusion is that there is something timelessly full of wonder about putting medicine on show.
I will definitely be making a pilgrimage of my own from Brooklyn to see the lecture; hope to see you there!

Click here for more information about tonight's lecture. For more on the Wellcome Collection, click here. To find out more about Philadelphia's Mütter Museum, click here.

Photo: Medicine Man Exhibiton, Wellcome Collection; More here.

Friday, May 15, 2009

‘The Late Sarti's New Florentine Anatomical Model’, Notice, Lincolnshire, England, c. 1854

From today's guided perusing of the ever-astounding Science Museum's "Brought To Life" online exhibition. Full caption reads:
The exhibition of a female anatomical figure made from wax at Boston, Lincolnshire, England, was used to educate the general public. Admission cost 1 shilling. The model could be taken apart to show the internal organs and muscles. The organs were modelled to show different things; for instance the liver showed “the effects produced by Intemperance and Excesses in Eating”. The lectures aimed to help women take better care of the sick. “Know Thyself” was a common phrase associated with the exhibition of anatomical wax, again reinforcing the educational benefit. But there was some controversy over the display, especially as the models were shown naked. For this reason men and women had different viewing days. The wax model was created by Antonio Sarti (d. 1851), who opened a public anatomical wax museum in London in 1839.
Click here to peruse the site for yourself; click above image to see much larger copy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Morbid Anatomy Cabinet" Exhibition, New Orleans

My apologies for having been a bit of an absentee blogger of late; I have been very, very busy getting the "Morbid Anatomy Cabinet" exhibition up and running while also trying to finish all my work, master a new printer, and have a bit of fun in New Orleans. I have now put all of that behind me and so, back to blogging.

The exhibition I have been working on, "Morbid Anatomy Cabinet or Gallery as Wunderkammer," launched last Saturday at the wonderful Barrister's Gallery in New Orleans. The show features the work of over 30 artists--many of them previously featured on the Morbid Anatomy blog, many others locals to New Orleans--presented in a cabinet-inspired installation supplemented by oddities drawn from the astounding private collection of Andy Antippas, the gallery's owner (see bottom 5 images for some views of the installation; many more here.)

Also showcased in the exhibition are a number of my own photographs from an ongoing project (working title: "Private Cabinets") which seeks to photo-document extraordinary and unusual privately-held collections from around the world. You can see a very small selection of these above (top 5 images); you can view a much larger grouping--augmented by collector attributions--by clicking here.

The "Morbid Anatomy Cabinet" exhibition will be on show until June 6th; you can find out more about it by clicking here, preview much of the work in the show by clicking here, and see more images from the opening and get a sense of the installation itself by clicking here. And, as mentioned, you can view a larger selection of photographs of extraordinary private collections from my ongoing "Private Cabinets" series by clicking here. Most of the work you see is for sale; if you are interested in finding out more about a particular piece, you can email the gallery owner at

Thanks so much to all the artists who participated, and all the collectors who graciously allowed me into their homes with my camera. Also, as I mentioned, my series of photographs documenting private collectors is an ongoing work-in-progress; if anyone has or knows of some collections that might fit the bill (more on that here), please let me know by emailing me at

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Japanese "Pregnancy Dolls," 19th Century

Julia Solis just sent me a most fascinating link to a Pink Tentacle blog post detailing a chapter in Japanese popular anatomical display called the "Pregnancy Doll." In the words of the post, which was sourced from a July 2001 issue of Geijutsu Shincho magazine:
In the 18th and 19th centuries, sideshow carnivals known as misemono were a popular form of entertainment for the sophisticated residents of Edo (present-day Tokyo). The sideshows featured a myriad of educational and entertaining attractions designed to evoke a sense of wonder and satisfy a deep curiosity for the mysteries of life. One popular attraction was the pregnant doll. Although it is commonly believed that these dolls were created primarily to teach midwives how to deliver babies, evidence suggests they were also used for entertainment purposes. For example, records from 1864 describe a popular show in Tokyo’s Asakusa entertainment district that educated audiences about the human body. The show featured a pregnant doll whose abdomen could be opened to reveal fetal models depicting the various stages of prenatal development...
This is especially fascinating as I have read quite a bit about Western examples of popular anatomical display (see some examples here, here and here) but had been unaware of an Eastern equivalent. Most fascinating! If any readers have any more information on this topic or further links to suggest, I would love to hear about it.

You can read the full article and see larger copies of these images (highly suggested!) on Pink Tentacle by clicking here. For more on the fascinating topic of misemono, click here. Thanks so much, Julia, for sending this along!

All images from the original post. Top to bottom, per original post: 19th-century obstetric training doll - Wada Museum; “Light-skinned” pregnant doll - Edo-Tokyo Museum; “Dark-skinned” pregnant doll - Edo-Tokyo Museum; Baby doll - Edo-Tokyo Museum; Fetus model set (circa 1877) - Toyota Collection.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Morbid Anatomy Cabinet Exhibition and Opening, May 9th, Barrister's Gallery, New Orleans

I would like to cordially invite all MA readers to "The Morbid Anatomy Cabinet or Gallery as Wunderkammer" exhibition, which opens with a reception next Saturday night, May 9th, at Barrister's Gallery in New Orleans. The show will feature photographs from my ongoing series documenting extraordinary privately-held collections; these photos will be situated within an extraordinary collection of its own--a cabinet-style installation of artworks curated along the Morbid Anatomy theme, featuring the work of many artists you've read about on this blog. The opening party is sure to be a good time, and will run from 6-9 PM. Hope you can make it! Click on invitation above to view at full size and find out more details and many of the artists who will be participating. More, I am told, to come.

Also, special thanks to Naoe Suzuki for allowing me to use her lovely “Skeleton drawing of Ritta-Christina”--which will be featured in the exhibition--for the invitation, and also to all of the other artists who sent in their work and private collectors who opened their homes and offices to me.

More information on the Barrister's Gallery website, here.