Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dried Cadavers on Display in a "Terrible Example of Tyranny," Ferdinand I, Fifteenth Century Naples

In an interesting 15th century precursor to spectacular displays of human bodies such as Gunther von Hagen's Body Worlds:
Ferdinand I [of Naples (1423 – 1494)], Alfonso II's long-reigning father, had filled an exhibition hall of Castel Nuovo with the mummified remains of his enemies. Paolo Giovio, the sixteenth-century bishop, doctor, and biographer, writes in Historiarum sue temporis: "They say that these dried cadavers were displayed, pickled with herbs, a frightful sight, in the dress they wore when alive and with the same ornaments, so that by this terrible example of tyranny, those who did not wish to be similarly served might be properly afraid."
Just one of the fascinating revelations in the wonderful book Naples Declared: A Walk Around the Bay, by Benjamin Taylor. Another writer--Jacob Burckhardt, in his The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy of 1878 --described it thusly:
Besides hunting, which he practiced regardless of all rights of property, his pleasures were of two kinds: he liked to have his opponents near him, either alive in well-guarded prisons, or dead and embalmed, dressed in the costume which they wore in their lifetime. Fearing no one, he would take great pleasure in conducting his guests on a tour of his prized “museum of mummies.”
And wow; looks like this made an appearance on The Borgias as well; I guess I had better consider giving that show another chance.

Image source: Wikipedia

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